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  • Alexander Makhnevich, MD, Alexandra Perrin, BA, Dristi Talukder, BS

Thick Liquids and Clinical Outcomes in Hospitalized Patients with Alzheimer Disease and Related Dementias and Dysphagia

People with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia commonly develop swallowing problems as their illness progresses. In the past, when the person couldn’t or wouldn’t eat enough, a tube would be placed into the stomach. Then we discovered that these feeding tubes didn’t work to prevent complications like pressure sores or to extend life, so we stopped placing them.

It is still common practice to modify the diet of people with dementia. Thickener is commonly added to beverages to increase its consistency and make it easier to swallow. A new study looked at nearly 9000 people with Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias and difficulty swallowing.  

No difference in death rates was found between people that received thickened liquids vs those who received standard thin liquids. People receiving thick liquids were less likely to be intubated but more likely to have respiratory complications. People on thickened liquid diets typically dislike them. Now that we know that thickeners may not do as much for our loved ones as we thought, caregivers and clinicians should think carefully about the quality of a person’s life before requiring them.

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