Swallowing

We know that swallowing is one of the difficulties to expect in Boris’s decline.  In fact,  the inability to swallow and choking are sometimes the cause of death.  The brain simply forgets how to do it.

Although in many ways Bo seems to stay stable:  the same schedule,  the same eating habits, the same ability to get around the house,  the ability to still have a simple conversation,   to go up and down the stairs and get into and out of bed,  still, we feel as if we see small declines each day.  He doesn’t know whether to eat with his right or left hand or with his fingers.  Forgets how to shave and brush his teeth until shown.

Yesterday morning I found him chewing on a bar of soap in the bathroom.  Jon said he tried to put his glasses on one of his feet today while he put a sock on the other one.  When he said he was tired this afternoon,  I suggested he return to the living room where he had been just 5 minutes earlier, and he asked, “Where is it?  I don’t understand.”  He takes half an hour to eat his meal (not counting the ice cream) and just asked me what the Christmas tree is as he was staring at it here in the family room.  When I said what it is, he said, “Is that what it is?  I never heard of it before.”

And now, during the past couple of weeks, sadly,  we are seeing some swallowing issues.  He can still take his pills (had trouble a couple of months ago) and eat his meals, but he seems to forget what to do with his saliva sometimes.  He’ll purse his lips and point to them,  sometimes coming into the room  signaling that he wants to spit out saliva.   When I tell him to swallow,  even rub his neck the way I rub the cat’s neck to get him to swallow his pills, it doesn’t work.  He just doesn’t understand swallowing at that time.  So far, he hasn’t spit indiscriminately around the house.

And so we watch him daily, noting the small losses, the ups and downs,   knowing that this can only get worse.

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7 Responses to Swallowing

  1. croberts3637@comcast.net says:

    Dear Nancy, I am sending loving thoughts your way. Love, Cathy

  2. Arleen Mildred Stolzenberger says:

    Thinking of you and Bo. Prayers and hugs to you, Bo and Jon’s family. Hope to hear about Camp Nancy.

  3. Mary Smith says:

    I’m sorry, Nancy, the not-swallowing is a horrible phase. There is no knowing when it will happen. Dad could be happily eating his dinner and then we’d realise the last mouthful hadn’t gone down. He could keep a pill in his mouth for hours, thogh it must have tasted vile. We tried all the tricks we were taught – as you’ve been doing – stroking his cheek, his neck, Things which sometimes worked were yawning loudly so he could both see and hear us yawn. His responding yawn seemed to make the swallow reflex kick in again. He would agree he wanted to spit out what was in his mouth but couldn’t always do it. We kept a little glass dish which we grandly called his spittoon and held it to his mouth telling him to spit it out and that sometimes worked. Later, we had to crush his pills and add them to food, especially ice cream. That was another thing which worked, giving him something cold like ice cream. If we touched the cold spoon to his lips he would swallow before opening his mouth. We were told hot things and cold things both help the swallow reflex. Getting him to brush is teeth was sometimes difficult and he would have a mouthful of toothpaste and saliva which would neither come out nor go down. Sometimes we used a straw, slipping it in and sucking out the liquid. Of course, if he clenched his teeth shut that didn’t work.
    I didn’t mean to go on so much about this and you may have already tried everything but perhaps one of these idea might work. We also got the doctor to refer dad to the speech and language specialist. She came to visit him at home – he slept through most of her visit! She checked there was nothing physical, suggested the things we were already trying, recommended special shaped cups which make it easier to drink from and recommended thick, blended soups rather than broths with chopped veg in – and no crisps (potato chips).
    You are both often in my thoughts.

  4. MCI Alice says:

    I never know whether to “like” your posts because it is hard to like what is essentially sad truth. But I appreciate your straightforward facing of Bo’s situation, and your own. And I feel great affection for you both….

  5. frangipani says:

    We are seeing swallowing problems with Mom too. Hoping it will not progress so quickly.

  6. Paula Kaye says:

    I am so sorry to hear this Nancy! Sending you a big hug

  7. Hi Nancy, my thoughts are with you at this difficult time. Wishing you strength to accompany the amazing grace that you have on your journey.

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