Elderly patient is choking and being assisted by another individual.

Coughing While Eating In Elderly Adults: Signs Of Choking And Prevention

It can be distressing to watch an elderly loved one coughing while eating, but it is a common occurrence as
we age. As swallowing becomes more difficult for elderly adults, they may experience coughing and
choking while eating. In this article, we will discuss why elderly people cough so much while eating, the
signs of choking, what to do when an elderly person is choking, and ways to prevent choking in elderly

Why Do The Elderly Cough So Much?

Coughing while eating in elderly people is a sign of difficulty swallowing. Swallowing becomes more
challenging as we age due to dental problems, loss of muscle strength in the mouth and throat, and dry
mouth. These factors can make it difficult for elderly adults to chew their food completely, leading to larger
pieces of food that are harder to swallow.

Signs Of Choking In Elderly Adults

Choking in elderly adults is a serious issue that can lead to life-threatening complications. It is important to
know the signs of choking in order to take quick action to help. Allow the elderly person to cough
aggressively if they appear to be choking and the object may come out naturally as a result. However, if the
elderly person is experiencing any of the following signs, they may require immediate assistance:
Hands-on the throat
A look of panic or confusion
Inability to speak or cough
Squeaking sounds when trying to breathe

What To Do When An Elderly Person Is Choking

If an elderly person is choking and unable to cough up the stuck object, they may require abdominal
thrusts, also known as the Heimlich maneuver. This is a technique used to dislodge a blockage from the
airway. To perform abdominal thrusts, stand behind the person and make a fist with one hand. Place the
fist just above the person’s navel and grasp it with your other hand. Quickly and forcefully press the fist into
the stomach, giving five thrusts and checking if the blockage has cleared.

Ways To Prevent Choking In Elderly Adults

While it may not always be possible to prevent coughing and choking in elderly adults, there are ways to
reduce the risk. Here are some tips to help prevent choking:
During eating and for 45 minutes following, sit upright.
Especially if the individual having trouble swallowing also has dementia or another cognitive disorder, try to
keep the conversation at a minimum when eating.
Food should be cut into small bits.
Swallow often, at least twice or three times per bite of food or liquid.