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Problems with Eating, Drinking, and Chewing in Late Stage Alzheimer’s

Posted Nov 30 2010 8:15pm
It’s bad enough that Alzheimer’s disease robs the patient of their sense of smell, which can certainly impact the appetite; but it also affects people’s ability to realize they’re thirsty. The patient must be encouraged and reminded to drink plenty of liquids. Serving fruit and vegetable juices as well as water, soup, or yogurt at meal and snack times will certainly help. My Mom loved jello and it was a great way to keep her hydrated when she didn’t realize she was thirsty.

As the patient reaches later stages of Alzheimer’s disease, more issues arise regarding eating and swallowing their food. Often, in the final stages they may forget how to chew altogether and require tube feeding. Despite the fact that many people do remember how to chew and want to eat by themselves, there are still serious issues that can arise during the later stages of Alzheimer’s.

If the patient has difficulty chewing or swallowing, extra caution must be taken at mealtime. Agitation or rushing the patient while eating can cause them to breathe food or liquid into their airway and make them more susceptible to pneumonia. If they aren’t chewing long enough or correctly, it will be easier for them to get choked on a large piece of food.

If the patient still wears dentures, be sure the dentures are checked periodically and realigned if needed. If they require dentures but refuse to wear them, they should only eat soft or pureed foods, along with liquid or cream soups. My Mom needed a hearing aid because she was totally deaf, yet in the later stages of her disease she refused to wear the hearing aid and depended entirely on lip-reading for any conversation.

The best setting for mealtime is a simple table in a quiet area, with regular utensils that they are accustom to. Their concentration should be on feeding themselves rather than television,  loud music, conversation or a noisy room. They should sit upright while eating, rather than reclining. That will aid in swallowing and chewing. They should also remain seated and upright for a half hour or so after their meal to aid digestion.

As the patient’s disease progresses, mealtimes will last longer. They may need more encouragement and coaxing to chew and swallow and they will tire more easily. A little patience at mealtime will prevent frustration for the patient and the caregiver alike. If they are struggling to finish an entire meal at one setting, it may be advantageous to have smaller meals at closer intervals. Many caregivers prefer to change the feeding schedule during this later stage. Often, the patient may be switched from 3 meals a day– to 5 smaller meals.

The caregiver might also put more emphasis on easy-to-swallow, softer foods. The softer foods are easy to chew and swallow, such as pudding and mashed potatoes and decrease the fear of choking. Bite-size and finger foods, such as cubes of cheese with crackers, also work well. If the patient can no longer eat solid foods, try a food processor or blender . Many great tasting dishes are created with these gadgets. And with all the softer foods, you lower the risk of choking.

With good preventive measures, you should have no issues with choking. But–you never know when something might happen and– it’s better to stay prepared. Since late-stage Alzheimer’s often includes swallowing problems, coughing and choking are serious risks during meals. Learn how to do the and be prepared for choking emergencies by having a phone nearby.

During the very last stages of Alzheimer’s your loved one may not be able to feed them self at all. When this happens, you may want to confer with their physician, he may suggest a speech or swallowing therapist. By watching the patient, they can tell if they are able to swallow and what would be the best way to feed them.

While my Mom stayed with us I purchased a food processor, thinking it would help prepare food for her, but didn’t think I’d really use it for our family. That food processor is still on the counter-top and used many times during the week. Hubby and I love hash browns. And you don’t know how great they taste till you’ve shredded your own from fresh potatoes. Yummy! I make my own carrot cakes from scratch now that I can shred carrots without scraping off the tips of my fingers on the grater. And Salsa, it’s a constant around here.

The great thing I like about Food Processors is all the available sizes. You can have a small one to make baby food, or smoothies for the grand kids. Or, a big one for larger food preparation projects.

Color: Chrome
  • 9-cup work bowl and multipurpose stainless-steel blade
  • Durable sealed housing creates sound barrier for quiet operation; pulse control
  • Exclusive 4-cup mini bowl with blade; assortment of standard accessories included
  • Base wipes clean easily; dishwasher-safe bowls, blades, and discs
  • Measures 10-1/2 by 14-1/2 by 8-9/32 inches; 1-year replacement warranty [ LEARN MORE ]

Color: Black
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