One objective of this devotional is to share the knowledge I have picked up along my journey. It is possible, even likely, you will experience some of the same problems. For instance, I learned a high percentage of dementia patients develop dysphasia, which is difficulty swallowing. I wrote about this previously, but after taking my mother to several appointments with a speech therapist, I have more information to share.
My mother did not have symptoms of choking, which is called silent aspiration or asymptomatic. Food going down her trachea did not affect cause uncontrollable, involuntary coughing like a healthy person. This is not unusual with dementia patients. Once the part of the brain controlling swallowing is damaged various dysfunctions can occur.
Listed are some symptoms of aspirating food or fluids during a meal:
- Throat clearing
- Gurgling voice
- Holding food in the mouth
- Runny nose during meals
- Watery eyes
- Facial reddening
Listed below are medical symptoms that may indicate dysphagia:
- Fevers-especially 45 minutes to 4 hours after meals
- Increased white blood cell count
- Lung congestion heard through a stethoscope
- Chest X-ray shows infiltrate especially in the right lower lobe
To accurately diagnose aspiration, a medical doctor will order some tests. The Esophagram, also known as the Barium Swallow test will provide information primarily about disease or dysfunction of the esophagus. For instance, this test can locate a hiatal hernia which restricts food from entering the stomach. In this test, the patient will be asked to swallow some fluid which contains barium. A physician will examine the swallowing on a live monitor. Another test is the Modified Barium Swallow test.
The Modified Barium Swallow test is similar except the physician concentrates on the mouth, throat, and trachea. Foods and liquids of different texture are laced with barium and swallowed by the patient as the physician watches real time on a monitor. During this test, some of the fluids went down my mother’s trachea; she swallowed the pudding and solid food fine.
The speech therapist has been very helpful in training us in methods to prevent my mother from aspirating her food and fluids. In addition to the advice I’ve mentioned previously, she asked us to have Mom sit upright during meals and for 60 minutes after she eats. She also instructed us to encourage smaller bites of food and smaller sips of thin fluids. She informed us of equipment that may be helpful such as cups and straws designed to deliver smaller portions.
The therapist provided us with some useful information. I appreciate the education because we caregivers are always seeking knowledge. I believe if we ask for God’s assistance, he will give us understanding. Solomon wrote, “For the Lord gives wisdom: from his mouth come knowledge and understanding.” Proverbs 2:6 NASB
Our prayers for knowledge will lead us to the correct physician, therapist, or book. God may not speak to us as he spoke to Moses on Mt. Sanai, but He will guide to us.
© Copyright 2018 Ron Milburn