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My wife has Alzheimer's and is in stage six. She spends all her free time chewing on things when she is not eating, drinking or talking. She seems to be obsessed with the desire to chew on things and will chew on her finger, bib, table cloth, piece of her clothing, books, napkins and pictures. She has been taking Lexapro for several years and a month ago her doctor started her on Ativan and Trazodone to see if that would reduce her desire to chew on things. So far these two additional pills have not stopped her from chewing.

The dentist has checked her and found nothing wrong with her teeth. When I ask if her teeth or mouth hurts she says no. She just acts like a two year old child does when they are cutting teeth.

Has anyone had a situation like this, any idea how to stop her from doing it?

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ome to think of it--the granddaughter I have who "chews" on anything she can....if she's tired or stressed (very type A personality, even at age 8!) she will settle down and NOT chew or thumb suck if you rub her back, tickle her forearms or rub her feet. She must have a real need for touch...we had to wrap her very tightly when she was a baby to calm her. I think dementia patients ( and I include my sweet dad in this) who are losing the ability to eat find that they need stimulation of some other kind, that eating isn't providing. I'd rub dad's feet or shoulders. He said I was the only one strong enough to bruise him (he meant that as a compliment) but it calmed him a lot. Some people CRAVE physical touch, some hate it. You have to go with what your loved one wants/needs.
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The person who mentioned "Chewelry" was right on target. I am a retired occupational therapist. Chewing can be very calming to the nervous system. It is a form of sensory input that provides proprioception or a type of deep pressure input. I always encourage teachers to allow students to chew gum or to allow students to have a water bottle to provide hydration as well as to let them chew on the dense plastic straw or top. This can be calming, help with focus, and reduce anxiety. If you google Chewelry you will find that it is sold through therapy catalogs as well as Amazon, eBay, etc. It is non toxic. It comes in different densities to allow for different levels of input and to prevent a "hard" chewer from biting a piece off. It does need to be replaced when worn down. There are other products that also provide oral input. I would hate to think that anyone would try to stop this as it may be comforting and taking too many medications can have negative side effects. I strongly suggest you look up information on sensory strategies for the mouth. I would also recommend seeing if she likes massages (deep pressure, even if just to her arms and hands, can be calming, pleasurable, etc.), having lotion rubbed on her skin, etc. The rocking chair and doll are other great ideas. The rocking provides another type of sensory input that can be calming (vestibular stimulation). I have put into my own end of life plans (especially if I am in a nursing home) to provide me with a big soft teddy bear to hold and to be able to either have my own dog or to have animals within the facility. I myself have early stage Frontotemporal Dementia so I have thought quite a bit about this.
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My son has autism and went through a phase where he would chew on anything and everything. We were able to substitute plastic drinking straws for anything that was dangerous for him to chew on. His occupational therapist said that he did it because biting down on things was an oral input he needed. The OT also uses aquarium tubing for some of her clients. Don't know if it is the same for Alzheimer's patients.
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Your wife's behaviour is not uncommon in late stage dementia and there is very little that can be done to stop the behaviour unfortunately. Eating is usually the 'final pleasure' to disappear, so an oral fixation is like a final grasping at life's pleasure. I understand it is difficult for you to watch but it is sadly, part of the process for many sufferers. Are you caring for her at home I wonder? If so, is she still eating well? You could cut up fruit and cooked veges for her to munch on or get yourself some muslin, put a piece of apple or other fruit in the muslin and tie it off. She can then suck on the muslin wrap for age and have an enjoyable taste in her mouth. This worked for some of our residents, not for others. A moistened washer is good too. Its just getting used to the idea that is difficult for you. Good luck with it! Keep your chin up!
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It sounds to me like one of two things is likely going on:

She could have a mental or psychological problem

She could be malnourished or dehydrated, and I'll explain why from my own personal experience:

When I was growing up in an abusive home where I was always denied enough food and water to survive, I chewed on anything soft that would allow me to build up enough saliva to alleviate extreme thirst. Another thing I did during winter was to drink the dew that formed in my bedroom window and I also ate the ice that formed there. I did all of this before I was old enough to discover how bold I was to sneak out of my bedroom at night and into the nearby bathroom for water. Additionally, I regularly ate paper to alleviate extreme hunger.

Now, what you may want to do is take want to do is take her to the doctor and have some tests run such as blood test to see what she may be lacking. I would guess and even bet that she's most likely lacking something in her diet and that deficiency is causing her to chew on stuff. I used to do the same exact thing during childhood for the very same reasons, and this is why I bring this to your attention. If your love one has a history of being a picky eater and this goes on for long enough, it will start having very negative consequences at some point. Meanwhile, what you want to do is to take away anything that she has a tendency to chew on and lock it away until you can resolve the current issue. The problem starts with chewing until the person starts swallowing bits and pieces of whatever they're chewing on. You really don't want this to happen because it can lead to choking and even death. This is why it's best to start removing stuff that she is chewing on. When you remove something, offer a safe and healthy alternative. If she's going to chew on anything, make it something worth chewing on. Put out a healthy fruit bowl and even some veggies for her. Watch her closely, and when she starts to pick up something to chew, direct her towards the healthy alternatives. Instead of snacking on that tablecloth, have her snack on the fruit and veggies. When she starts to chew on something, take her over to where the fruits and veggies are and tell her to "snack on this instead." You can also keep a water pitcher and some other refreshments and beverages available for her. Yes, I'm saying to set up a refreshment table for her, because if she's going to snack on anything, she should snack on that instead. If she won't eat the fruits and veggies, you may get the blender out and make her some smoothies. Another trick would be to use a juicer and make her some juices. If she still continues having problems despite your best efforts to give her healthy alternatives, you may very well have to get her to a psychiatrist to see what kind of mental issues she may be experiencing.
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Garden Artist--her mom is a total health nut, so I am not too worried. I will call her today and ask. Thanks for looking out for me! (and actually, this beautiful g-daughter is still mostly sucking her thumb, as she falls asleep that way...and does it all night. The "chewelry" is for when she is out and about.
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Midkid, my heart skipped a beat when I read that your granddaughter is chewing on jewelry. I hope they're not from China? If so, get them tested for lead, ASAP.

Jewelry and other products, including baby products, from China have been found to be contaminated with lead.

I did a check google search and allegedly the "chewelry" is BPA and lead free, but if it's made in China, I'd double check it to be on the safe side.
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My granddaughter (don't laugh!) has an "oral fixation", and at age 8 still would take a pacifier in a heartbeat! She realizes that's not "age appropriate"--so she started sucking her thumb--her mom got her some "Chewelry" which is made with this kind of behavior in mind. She has bracelets and necklaces and they are darling. Also she could "chew" on them all day. Which she did. This might help your wife. I'd be hesitant to give her a real animal--but the soft babydoll might be a good idea. Honestly, I am sure this bothers you much more than it bothers her. If she's not biting people, and her teeth aren't suffering..try to find outlets that don't make you uncomfortable. She sounds like she's self-soothing, and the meds aren't making any difference. Hope you find something--doubtful the chewing on things will just magically get better.
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I don't know that you can stop this behavior unless your doctors can find a specific med to address it, and I'm not sure that's possible if it's a side effect of late stage Alz.

Perhaps the best you can do is take away the unhealthy things and provide something to chew on that's more healthy...good healthy food, for example.

My first thought though before reading that she has Alz was the Pica syndrome when people want to chew on strange things because of a nutritional deficiency.

See webmd.mental-health/mental-health-pica

for more information on this. It might be worth checking into; I'm thinking a neurologist or geriatrician might be a starting point for medical investigation.

In the meantime, make sure there's nothing with lead around that she could chew on.
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Give her a soft chew toy like we used to give babys for their teeth. tied to the bib
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PS my moms been doing it for 3 or more years. Although it appears its the corner of her lower lip, it seems ok. She is 94, doesnt walk or talk but loves to babble and laugh.
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My mom chews on nothing all the time, tried everything but nothing worked. Sometimes just talking to her or music does it, sometimes not. Tried frozen pacifiers, etc, nope, so nothing you can do that i know of.
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Has anyone checked if this is seizure activity?
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If the dentist says there is nothing wrong with her teeth, then let her chew safe objects (not her fingers). Dementia persons have a need to exhibit "pilling" which is the habit of rubbing one's fingers as if there were "pills" in them. This might be another form of that behavior. Maybe if you discontinue the meds (ask doctor what he/she thinks) because increasing medications does not seem to be helping. Her brain is telling her she needs to chew for some reason, and if she is not harming herself or objects she is chewing on, see if she stops when meds are stopped. It really is a detective game and watch to see when the chewing begins. Is she bored? Is she agitated? Does she want something to eat?
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Could be just stress and a way to deal with it is she on stress meds if so might need more hey we all do odd things to release our stress chew gum till our jawshurt you said talk eat and drink those are all stress relivers have you tryed to gether to pet a toy cat or dog so. Soft very relaxing she might not put it in her mouth or get her a baby doll and a rocking chair rocking is also great for stress hey get two chairs and rock with her i will guess she's in home care and not nursing home although nursing homes are great some times people don't get feed or hydated on time and they get food that give them bellypains you say no eggs no milk no spice and they feed them food that have it so out of pain she will chew can she make her selfe understood or is she just baballing if not they don't do much for her I know because nursing homes don't do one on one they mademy husband go with out water and food for days and only payed him attention when I visited he's home and better now but that may not help you so be alert
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No, no experience here. But I wonder if the things that are made for a teething child would help her, too. There are all kinds of items all designed to be safe to chew on in an baby aisle or even in the grocery store. Some of them are designed to be chilled.

Have you given her something like that? Seems better than chewing on a book, and also shows her that someone cares and notices what she wants. Can't hurt, can it?
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