Can Dementia Cause Difficulty in Swallowing?


Quick Answer

People with dementia sometimes have difficulty swallowing, according to National Institute on Deafness and Communicable Diseases. To meet the nutritional needs of these patients, a feeding system is sometimes required.

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Full Answer

In advanced dementia, the patient often loses control of the muscles responsible for swallowing, according to Mayo Clinic. He also has the potential to lose control of the muscles that facilitate chewing. Some patients forget that they have not had food or that they are hungry. The side effects of medication, constipation, depression, distractions, or changes in mealtime also affect the patient's desire and ability to eat. As a result, poor nutrition is often a complication of dementia.

The loss of the ability to swallow also leads to dehydration in dementia patients, according to the Alzheimer's Association. Dehydration further increases the patient's confusion. Providing small cups of water and encouraging the patient to take small sips helps to prevent dehydration. The difficulty with swallowing increases the chance of choking, so helpers should position the patient with the head slightly forward to reduce these issues.

While there are many types of dementia, the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association reports that Alzheimer's disease causes 70 percent of the cases. Dementia causes memory and cognitive loss. The effects are generally progressive and irreversible. Everyday activities eventually become more difficult to complete. Medication helps to slow the progress of the disease.

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