In the later stages of dementia, a person living with dementia can develop severe difficulties with swallowing.
Changes in parts of the brain that control swallowing may affect and weaken the muscles involved, affecting various parts of the eating process. As a result, the person living with dementia may not maintain sufficient fluid and nutritional intake for bodily sustenance. Difficulty in swallowing also increases the risk of food or drinks entering the lungs. This can lead to a serious lung infection.
Watch out for these signs and symptoms of difficulties with swallowing:
• Coughing during or after meals
• Frequently clearing the throat
• Feeling breathless while eating
• Holding food in the mouth and refusing to swallow
• Having difficulty swallowing
• Spitting lumps of food out
If a person living with dementia has any of the symptoms above, have an assessment with a speech therapist. They will provide advice on the safest dietary options, including changes in diet texture and liquid consistency where appropriate. They may also provide strategies on feeding the person safely. This may minimise their risk of aspiration.