Question: I am taking care of a lady who is 82 years old. She has dry mouth and is always coughing. She has dementia, wears pampers, cannot walk anymore, and she is wet all night long until I get to her house at 8:00 a.m. Is that a reason for her coughing? She does not have allergies and does not have trouble swallowing.
Dr. Amy: Dry mouth and a persistent cough can be caused by a number of things, some simple and some more complex. I encourage you to take this woman to her doctor to see if there is something medically that can be done. This should include a review of her medication. The doctor can also suggest non-medical tips to make her more comfortable. A vaporizer may be a good idea, for example. A medical doctor is always the right person to consult when it comes to medical matters.
Keeping someone who wears pampers warm and dry at night can be a challenge. These days, there are diapers designed to keep a person dry overnight. If you feel there is a problem, I encourage you to discuss this with her doctor. But I am not sure I understand this woman’s living arrangements. Is she all by herself overnight? This sounds risky given that she cannot walk and has dementia. If this is the situation, it needs to be reviewed with the family, caregiving agency, or Adult Protective Services. Your letter prompts me to touch on an important point: as people's level of functioning changes, care plans need to be revisited too. While some people may be safe staying on their own in the early stages of dementia, as the condition progresses this may no longer be the case.
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