He is unable to stand, even holding onto the walker, while
coughing and sputtering. I'm reluctant to whack between the
shoulder blades when things seem out of control because he IS
still managing to get air, but he is not able to stand, bend over,
or have me try to do the Heimlich maneuver. Eventually the
choking subsides, leaving him weak, exhausted. This doesn't happen too often, but it is, of course, awful when it does.
I hope some of you caregivers out there have reliable knowledge how to handle such a frightening situation.
Find the EXACT level of texture she will endure. She can no longer even do oatmeal, and there is no level of meat puree she'll tolerate, without adding so much fat to make it go down. I ended up with Yogurts, and I can whip in applesauce, strawberries, bananas. And I add soluble fiber, cause yogurt itself has none. I found that the Campbell CupInHand tomato cheesy soup was great, but better was to reuse the containers. Now I get tomato soups, the boxed kind, from Trader Joes, cause it doesn't contain HFCS sweetener. The top of this cup has two openings, for the drink and small one for air. Sometimes mom uses the air hole.
Find the EXACT size of glass or mug or yogurt cup that's handy to eat. I found that regular tspoons were too heavy and long, so always use plastic spoons. I use spoons, white or black, that best contrasts with the food. Save those cups/tops from iced lattes and smoothies...they are light, tight lids, and one uses a straw.
When mom was having more trouble, I used both a sports drink cup with spout, and a baby sippy cup with rubber "stop" valve so the drink really needed to be sucked. That stopped the drink from whooshing into her mouth and hitting the back of her throat. (She's back to drinking from regular mugs and cups now) I found that a children's translucent red plastic cup was too confusing, as she could not see the level of juice or milk in it. She had no visual clue when the liquid would reach her lips.
What else, I got some small spatulas so she can lick the yogurt, or better, scrape the container clean. A kid thing.
This is another approach to this, one seldom talked about on this forum. Traditional Chinese Medicine is known more for using acupuncture, though there are powerful treatments like acupressure or Jin Shin that won't stick. When I was assisting an author (coincidentally Jane Heimlich, or Ms. Maneuver as I teased her) on a pop medicine book, I interviewed many TCM doctors/practitioners. One had a clinic in SF just for the elderly. He said the first place a TMC doctor looked at was the digestion; often diagnosis is done by listening (feeling) the levels of pulse in the wrist. Not just rate of heartbeat, but the strength of pulse as it passes under two sets of four fingers...both deep and surface levels. They do things like "read the tongue" and even smell the urine. Anyway, a TMC doctor who specializes in the elderly might be worth checking out.
Another option one usually doesn't consider is chiropractic. Of course with brittle bones, one has to be careful. However there may be an adjustment in the neck vertebrae that may unlock a pinched nerve that has to do with swallowing or other problems. I used a chiropractor for years for breathing problems. 15 minutes and $25 bucks and I was ready to go.
Google "chiropractic and swallowing" and you'll find some posts.
Look up "TCM and swallowing" and you'll find references to the way they dx these problems.
The good thing about these modalities is that the doctors actually are hands on, not just in a prodding way, but in a healing way. The patient might feel more "listened to" and considered. I really wished for a visit by a TCM/MD combo while mom was in Kaiser.
You all know how quickly they can choke; and you know how even reading this can seem as if it were a long length of time but it was only a matter of four minutes or so but it was long enough and I'll never forget 'that cold wet washcloth' ever again.
mariannette, I agree with cutting the food into small bits. Sometimes mashed, or pureed foods help, and I always have flexi-straws for any liquids. Cut back on noise and distractions if any, and make meal times as serene as possible, always reassuring the elder. There is no such thing as foolproof for the symptom you have described, just better management and heightened awareness.
Madison, how does the wet, cold towel help, and at what point do you introduce the towel? I have never heard of that one. Am interested in better understanding the principle at work.
I continue to learn new things every day that can happen to the elderly. As bad as we see it all to be, I pray for God to bless them each one for they are the ones who are living in the state they are in. God bless you.