Preventing Aspiration Pneumonia

April 6, 2017

Those with advanced and end-stage dementia are more prone to getting pneumonia. This kind of pneumonia you cannot get a vaccine against.

These people’s bodies do not reliably close off the esophagus to prevent inhalation of particles of food or drink. Food or liquid can slip into the lungs instead of the stomach, which can lead to aspiration pneumonia.

Below are some ways to prevent aspiration pneumonia:

  • Rest for 30 minutes beforehand
    Those who are active before eating have more trouble swallowing.
  • Sitting up to eat
    Sit your loved one up at 90° and preferably at the table.
  • Calm, leisurely meals
    When eating rushed people are more likely to get food down the wrong pipe.
  • Reduce distractions
    Give only one food at a time. Smile encouragingly, but try to minimize conversation. Talking can be distracting which increases the risk of aspiration.
  • Small bites and sips of water
    When food is cut into small pieces it goes down easier, especially if alternated with sips of water.
  • Tucked chin when swallowing
    Lowering your loved one’s chin toward the chest tends to line up the throat in a favorable angle.
  • Regular oral hygiene
    Brushing teeth twice a day will assist in removing food particles and bacteria. Using a nonalcohol mouthwash can also help.

Thickened liquids
Thickened juices typically cause fewer swallowing problems, but many people dislike the texture and as a result, may reject fluids altogether. Rejecting fluids can lead to dehydration, which brings on other problems like bladder infections. Instead of thickening, try high-liquid foods like jello, watermelon, and sorbet.