My Mom sometimes coughs and coughs. Maybe she is having trouble swallowing? - AgingCare.com

My Mom sometimes coughs and coughs. Maybe she is having trouble swallowing?

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Mom just turned 93, is healthy except her Anti depressant and stool softener and other Bowel issues. But this has happened twice now where she is eating and I don't know if it went down the wrong "tube", or what, but she coughs and coughs for about 15 minutes. Im wondering if this is something to worry about? She eats regular foods with the family, just nothing spicy. She doesn't always want to walk out to the kitchen, and both times this happened she was sitting in bed. I wonder if her position has anything to do with this?

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Does she eat crackers, bread, chocolate and/or nuts when this happens? They can cause coughing, especially foods that are crumbly like crackers.

Does she drink water inbetween bites? A speech therapist told us that older folks should be sure to drink water frequently, sometimes as much as after every mouthful of food, to help wash down the food.

She should also ensure that she swallows each mouthful completely before adding more food - more advice from a speech therapist.

It takes older folks longer to eat and chew, and sometimes eating at the same pace as younger folks means there's just too much food in the pipeline.

Also make sure there's proper support for her back when she's in bed, but the better time to eat would be when she can be at a table instead of in bed.
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Position can certainly have an effect. If she's not sitting upright, it's easy for the food to find its own way down her throat, instead of actual/intentional swallowing. And, as we age, what we think of as instinct (swallowing) turns out to be learned behavior. Keep an eye open and watch how she eats: is she actually chewing? or just moving it around in her mouth and then swallowing. Many elders 'pocket' food (like a chipmunk), and 'forget' to swallow. You may have to remind her.

Edna has had some issues with frequent choking and it turned out that her nasal and throat passages were dehydrated. She's on limited fluid intake, due to a congestive heart, so increasing her fluid intake wasn't an option. Her ENT specialist recommended using a simple saline nasal spray a few times a day. It's worked wonders and she doesn't choke as much.

We also usually give her what hospitals call, "mechanical soft" foods. Nothing too crunchy that can turn into tiny bits that can be accidentally inhaled (like crackers and potato chips).

Also, it helps to remember that our bodies are made up of muscles .. if she's already weak enough that she doesn't want to walk to the kitchen, other muscle groups may be failing as well. This can lead to all kinds of issues. In order to have good circulation we ~need~ to move, regularly.

Let us know how it goes ..
LadeeC
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If it only happens when she's in bed, it probably has to do with her position. Make sure she's sitting totally upright and only taking in small bites. And give her something to drink between swallows, so she can wash it down. That kind of uncontrolled coughing is really hard on older people.

I would think if she doesn't have dementia, she could tell you if it went down her windpipe. Most people can tell when that happens. I would think maybe her swallowing reflex is a bit sluggish and her food just kind of sits there and causes her to cough.
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Call the MD in the AM, because she could be losing her ability to swallow properly. It sounds like she is aspirating food or liquids. This can lead to pneumonia, and the MD can take a good listen to make sure her lungs are clear.
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