Understanding Dysphagia in Dementia: The Present and the Future

Rogus-Pulia N, Malandraki GA, Johnson SC, Robbins JA

Current Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation Reports. March 2015, Volume 3, Issue 1, pp 86-97


Dysphagia is common in patients with dementia of varying types and often results in serious health consequences, including malnutrition, dehydration, aspiration pneumonia, and even death. Due to progressive cognitive and functional decline, patients with dementia experience difficulties throughout the eating process which encompasses all aspects of self-feeding and swallowing function. Variations in underlying neuropathology and disease severity may influence specific swallow disorders observed. New functional neuroimaging modalities offer exciting possibilities to increase understanding of neural control of swallowing that will lead to design of novel treatments. Current treatment approaches include a combination of compensatory strategies for swallowing, cueing from caregivers, and modifications to the dining experience that maximize independence during mealtime. A new focus on development of treatment regimens, possibly involving taste and smell receptor stimulation and rehabilitative exercise that may be implemented during the prodromal stages of dementia, is necessary to prevent or delay further swallowing decline.

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