People who live with dementia patients experience the condition with the patients passively. Dementia caregivers are the ones who notice changes in the symptoms and behavior of dementia patients. One of the noticeable behaviors in dementia patients is chewing with nothing in their mouth.
The loud noises made by dementia patients when chewing with nothing in the mouth are unpleasant and could make you think that they are doing it to annoy you.
If you have noticed that your loved one persistently chews with nothing in their mouth, try and respond calmly to them. In this article, we have detailed information on what you should know about chewing with nothing in your mouth in dementia patients.
Dementia Patient Chewing with Nothing in Mouth
Dementia patients chew with nothing in their mouths, and this might happen continuously for a while. The term used for this behavior is perseveration. ‘Chewing cud’ in dementia patients exhibits in the late stages of dementia but can occur earlier.
What Is Perseveration in Dementia?
Perseveration is the repetition of a gesture, word, or phase with persistence. In dementia, perseveration can occur in many ways for instance:
- Dementia patient repeating a certain word persistently
- Dementia patient repeated clapping of hands
- The dementia patient repeated feet-tapping
- Dementia patient chewing with nothing in the mouth repeatedly
There is another form of perseveration in dementia known as graphic perseveration. Graphic perseveration is when a dementia patient draws the same shape repeatedly even when asked to draw a different shape or figure. This form of perseveration mostly occurs in patients with Lewy body dementia.
While perseveration might be associated with dementia, there are other conditions where patients have perseveration like traumatic brain injury and schizophrenia.
What to Do When Dementia Patient Is Chewing With Nothing in Mouth
If you are living with a dementia patient who can’t stop chewing even when they have nothing in their mouth, this is what you can do:
See a Doctor
Chewing with nothing in the mouth can cause harm to dementia patients. It is good to get help from a physician to know the best way to handle the perseveration without harming the dementia patient.
Work on Your Response
It might be irritating for someone to keep making chewing sounds around you, and it is easier to react by being harsh towards the dementia patient. However, understand that this is not voluntary and they can’t just stop. Work on how you react to perseveration and practice patience.
Try Distracting them
When a dementia patient can’t stop chewing with anything in their mouth, you can distract this repeated behavior by giving them something to suck on like a popsicle. If they can communicate clearly, you can distract them by asking a question or making a conversation.
Chewing Problems In Dementia Patients
Chewing with nothing in the mouth is not the only chewing issue dementia patients experience. As stages of dementia progress, chewing becomes more difficult, and so does swallowing. Some dementia patients can barely chew or swallow anything. They have to be fed via tubes.
Deteriorating oral health and discomfort in the mouth and gut are why dementia patients find it difficult to chew or swallow food.
When a dementia patient cannot chew or swallow, they should get checked by an oral health professional. Changes in diet might also be necessary to help the dementia patient feed.
Giving liquid foods or blending food also helps, but it should be done with a keen diet recommended by a diet expert. Some purees and liquid foods are stripped of nutrients which could lead to the deterioration of dementia patients or lead to malnutrition.
When a dementia patient chews persistently with nothing in their mouth, it is called perseveration. This behavior could be irritating if they make loud noises in these episodes. Remember that dementia patients are not in control of this continuous chewing and work on how you respond when it happens. You should also seek help from the physician to identify solutions to perseveration.
Is Refusal to Eat an End Stage Of Dementia?
Dementia patients eat less and less as their condition advances. Dementia patients in the last stages may not eat at all on their own. Although not eating is one of the symptoms of end-stage dementia, it can also occur during any other stage of dementia.
Why Do Dementia Patients Chew Without Swallowing?
If you have a loved one with dementia who keeps chewing food and refuses to swallow, this could be because they have trouble engaging the muscle responsible for swallowing. Dementia patients also forget to swallow food after chewing.
Should a Dementia Patient Be Left Alone?
It is risky to leave a dementia patient alone. Dementia patients may wander, allow strangers in their homes, experience extreme episodes of anxiety, have falling accidents, or harm themselves if left unsupervised.