Why do Dementia Patients have Trouble Swallowing or Drinking?

As a caregiver or family member, you may notice a dementia patient having trouble when he or she swallows food. Even when taking in liquids, the same difficulty can be observed. Prabhdyal Singh Sodhi shares that as the brain disorder progresses, these issues can come up. The dementia specialist considers it important to understand why a patient cannot swallow in the normal way. This can help in understanding whether or not medical help is needed to assist the patient. Furthermore, Mr. Sodhi adds that through this knowledge, the factors preventing the patient from swallowing the food can be worked on.

Why can’t Dementia Patients Swallow Properly?

Dementia is a brain disorder. During this, the organ is majorly affected. The affected parts also include the ones that control processes such as swallowing food, drinking liquids, etc. When these parts are majorly hindered, Mr. Sodhi says that these processes are not managed well. Consequently, swallowing/drinking difficulties can arise.

Factors that can Increase Difficulties in Swallowing

The parts of the brain, when affected, cause issues swallowing food. The effect on these parts can be influenced by some factors. Among these, the primary factor is the stage of dementia, puts forth Mr. Sodhi.

When the later stage is reached, the dementia specialist, Prabhdyal Singh Sodhi informs that the signs of the disorder can worsen. The organ and its parts may also not work properly due to this stage. Consequently, a patient can experience more difficulties when eating or drinking.

There are 2 other factors as well that can increase issues in swallowing:

  1. Improper Management of Dementia

Not just during the later stage but sometimes prior to that, a person undergoing dementia can experience trouble when he/she swallows food or water. It is possible that the condition may not be well-managed during earlier stages. Hence, such mismanagement can worsen the problem and make it difficult to swallow.

  1. Pre-existing Medical Conditions

Difficulties to take in food can come up during dementia as well as other conditions. Given that a patient with this disorder also has other pre-existing medical challenges, swallowing food properly may not be possible because of the same.

What Happens When Dementia Patients don’t Swallow Food?

Any trouble experienced in swallowing meals or liquids can result in further challenges. A patient diagnosed with dementia may start spitting out the meals. Or, she/he may throw up liquids in some instances.

In either case, when this happens, proper nutrition would not be made available to the person. Moreover, when liquids are thrown out and this continues for a long time, the chances of dehydration can occur. The severe effect of this may be seen on his or her immunity and health.

At times, what is taken in the mouth may remain inside. According to Mr. Sodhi, this can result in dental problems as well, thus, increasing health challenges for patients.

When do Eating and Drinking Difficulties Occur in Dementia?

There are different stages of dementia. During any of these, difficulties in eating or drinking can arise. Usually, in the advanced or later stages of this condition, such difficulties tend to occur more frequently. Also, the severity of swallowing issues can vary as per the stage, says Prabhdyal Singh Sodhi.

Should You Get Help for Swallowing Problems during Dementia?

Since difficulties related to swallowing food and liquids can affect immunity, it is vital for dementia patients to seek help. The specialist, Mr. Sodhi suggests that doctors can help describe the ways to manage these difficulties. They can also suggest alternative practices to try to complete the nutritional requirements of a person.

When a doctor or dementia specialist’s aid is accessed on time, swallowing problems can be managed/controlled. Then the immunity of the person can be maintained. This can help, to some extent, in the management of the brain disorder too.

Bottom Line

Choking on food or not being able to gulp down liquids is common in some patients having dementia. Prabhdyal Singh Sodhi unfolds that caregivers can worry when such trouble comes up. With medical assistance, the difficulty can reduce. Otherwise, through the management of the condition, some help can be received.

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