Alzheimer’s Patients May Have Difficulty Swallowing — These Tips Can Help

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Even in the early stages, people with Alzheimer’s may start having trouble with everyday tasks like cooking and cleaning. However, as the disease progresses, they may struggle with the most basic activities, including chewing and swallowing their food and drinks. Fortunately, there are some ways to minimize the risks and help your loved one eat comfortably and safely.

Understanding the Problem


People with Alzheimer’s may struggle with swallowing for many reasons. Photo: Flickr/Jamie

Swallowing is a complex procedure that requires coordinated neurological signals to multiple muscle groups, and dementia can interfere with those signals. The muscles that control swallowing are prone to weakening over time as well. People with Alzheimer’s may become distracted and forget to chew their food. In addition, they may be unable to express discomfort caused by poorly fitting dentures, dry mouth caused by medications, or other physical issues.

The Dangers of Difficult Swallowing


Male doctor examining a senioe woman in hospital ward

Photo: Adobe Stock

The most common is simple malnutrition and dehydration. Many people with Alzheimer’s forget or are reluctant to eat and drink, which makes them more susceptible to illness and falls. Difficulty swallowing can also lead to choking or aspiration, which occurs when food or fluids enter the lungs. This can lead to pneumonia and death.

Recognize the Signs

As a caregiver, you may be in an ideal position to notice that your loved one is having trouble swallowing. Some common symptoms are a moist-sounding voice, frequent coughing and coughing immediately after drinking. Your loved one may also tend to hold food in his or her mouth without swallowing or simply be reluctant to eat and drink at all.

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