Dysphagia (dis-fey-juh, -jee-uh) derives from the Greek root dys meaning disordered, and phagia meaning "to eat".
As I finished mowing my lawn Sunday afternoon I noticed my cell phone had a voice message from Patti’s care facility.
Checking in I learned that Patti had a near disastrous choking episode during lunch.
Patti’s level of MS progression changes the formula for the signs of choking, her physical and cognitive impairments from Multiple Sclerosis confound communication between brain and body to signal – HELP!
Cyanosis (turning blue) should be a warning sign you do not even want to see. Lack of oxygen in the blood is why the face is turning blue. Even MS cannot confound this biological last call for help.
Fortunately Patti was in the right place surrounded by professional medical help. A Heimlich maneuver was successful and she instantly began breathing on her own.
If anything she was probably over monitored for everything the next couple hours and continues to be monitored for aspiration pneumonia which can result if food or gastric particles were inhaled into the respitory tract.
In assisted dinning the ratio of staff to residents is at minimum 2 staff to 4 residents at every table. Additionally Patti’s food is literally ground up into tiny pieces.
Patti’s MS related dysphagia short circuits the brain’s communication to all the muscles involved in the physiology of swallowing. Because it is all about short circuiting she may eat just fine one moment and be choking the next.
Whether in a care facility or with family eating may be the most dangerous aspect of caregiving in Patti’s case. All the more challenging since meal time tends to be highly social and distractions compete with monitoring.
Picking Patti up later for an outing she was in fine spirits. MS memory loss and mental confusion I guess can have a silver lining when they serve to erase trauma.
Patti’s version … “My memory sucks, I just want a cigarette.”
Caregivingly Yours, J Patrick Leer
(also available in Blogger edition, Caregiver Blog: "Caregivingly Yours")