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Alzheimers related autonomic difficulties

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Old 12-13-2011, 11:05 AM   #1
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Question Alzheimers related autonomic difficulties

My spouse has had alzheimers disease for 10 years. She is still with us at home and we have had success meeting her minute to minute needs. She is fairly healthy but of late has suffered with coughing (almost choking) spells which appear to be progressing to more significant concern. There may be some degradation of her autonomic nervous system causing mixed signals from the brain to the esophogus. My limited medical contacts have resulted in equally limited advice. I am looking for methods or possible medications to combat this problem. I cannot stand by and just watch the deterioration. Anyone confronted this problem with an alzheimers patient?

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Old 12-15-2011, 09:11 PM   #2
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Re: Alzheimers related autonomic difficulties

It seems your wife is probably at a very late stage. It is natural that the patient has choking problem when eating in late stage. My father-in-law has severe stage now and he chokes on regular food except soft dessert. So he now has pureed food for regular meals. This helps prevent him from choking a lot on the food or water. He even chokes on water. There are some methods that can help the patient with swallowing problem including gently stroll on her throat and etc. Pureed food helps. Usually the cough is caused by choking on the water or food. In end stage, the person would not be able to eat and may die from aspirational pneumonia or stop-eating. So we cannot force my FIL to drink sometimes because he would choke on it.
Sorry there is no med. for this. Hospice can offer the person comfort care. Usually no feeding tube since it gives more pain and infections.

It is hard to see how she or he goes downhill. I think there is nothing we can do when it comes to end stage except for comfort care.
So sorry that your wife has suffered from Alzheimer's for 10 years. My FIL has had it for at least 9 years. He is 91.


Last edited by ninamarc; 12-15-2011 at 09:18 PM.

Old 12-15-2011, 09:35 PM   #3
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Re: Alzheimers related autonomic difficulties

Ichybon, I am sorry you are having to deal with this. It is not easy to keep a loved one at home and it sounds as if you have done well.

What you describe often happens in the late stages of Alzheimer's. Yes, the brain is misfiring related to the swallowing process. There is no medication that will prevent this or make it better. The only thing you can do is change the consistency of her food and drink. If not already she should be on puree food which is easier to swallow. It is also a good idea to thicken her liquids. Liquids the consistency of water are easy to choke on. There is a product called "Thick-it" that will do this for you. Work with consistencies until you get the right thickness for easy of swallowing.

Also watch for signs of Pneumonia. When choking they can aspirate food into their lungs which causes Aspiration Pneumonia so just be watchful.

It is difficult to watch but there is not much we can do except keep them comfortable and love them.

Love, deb

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