Swallowing and vascular dementia


Registered User
Jan 24, 2012
Mum has vascular dementia, short term memory is down to a few mins, so she may ask constantly if the cat is in for instance, or has the pets been fed etc. She has problems with her hand and her arm for about a year and fingers adn hands go bluey grey a lot. She also has a number of wee falls, although not too frequent.

I have noticed a change again in last few weeks, since a small fall she had and there is a greater vaguness etc. Carer does say she is having more problems with co-ordination etc.

She has a craving for chocolate and anything sweet and will almost do anything to get it, so christmas has been a bit dofficult trying to hide the sweet stuff.

However, over the last week or two, I notice that she has more and more problems with two things (1) heartburn during the night (2) incresaed problems when eating of food , as she puts it, going down the wrong way....so she is often choking a wee bit when this happens.

On looking into this , it appears to be a problem with late dementia ..so I am not too sure what is going on.

Any sugegstions os similar experiences


Registered User
Aug 20, 2006
Craving for sweet foods is common, even in people who didn't like it beforehand.

Certainly problems with swallowing often appear, usually in the later stages (because it's a learned process, and can be forgotten, as with all else).

However, that said, a combination of persistent heartburn and difficulties swallowing warrants examination by a doctor. Dificulty swallowing is called dysphagia and the NHS has a page on it here


The cause could be simple acid reflux which can lead to both the heartburn (which, of course, has absolutely no relation to the heart except the sensation is in roughly that area) and the problems swallowing. Reflux is often worse at night when people lay down because the stomach acids aren't kept at the bottom the way they are when we stand or sit upright. Acid reflux is medically called GORD (Gastro-Oesophageal Reflux Disease) and there is information on it here


The causes are poorly understood but thought to involve the muscular "valve" between the food-pipe and the stomach. This valve is usually one-way, it allows food to enter the stomach but keeps stomach acids from flowing the other way into the food pipe. If the acid does move up, it causes "heartburn" because the food-pipe is literally burnt - unlike the stomach, which itself has an acid-proof lining )otherwise it would literally digest itself!). GORD can be effectively treated but should not be ignored - first, because the symptoms can have other (and serious) causes, but secondly, the ongoing irritation and damage to the food-pipe can lead to complications in the longer term.

In any case, persistent "indigestion" or difficulties swallowing should never be ignored, but always referred to a doctor. Serious causes are rare but as always they are more easily treated if caught early. Usually, the older the patient the more likely it is that further tests would be conducted because the risks of other serious causes rise with age: persistent indigestion in a twenty year old is less of a 'red flag' than it is in a seventy year old, for example. In the risk assessment other factors, such as family history of disease, alcohol consumption and smoking would be taken into account.

Big Effort

Account Closed
Jul 8, 2012
Hi Chakras,
I am surprised you haven't had any responses yet..... so I am bumping your post back up to the top, so the afternoon shift can strut their stuff (knowledge).

Regarding the sweet cravings, a family member who specialises in geriatrics told me that older people have a poor sense of taste, so sweet and salty things taste better and better. Mum (85) was never one for gateau and desserts, but since her Alzheimers loves anything sweet. I have a whole jar of licquorice (her favorite) on her kitchen table so she can eat it when she sees it. Sometimes she eats lots, and other times she 'forgets' it is there. I don't limit her intake as she gets real pleasure out of it.

Regarding the consumption of sweet things, I manage this by just giving her one biscuit with her coffee, and a small dessert after dinner. As I prepare all the meals, this is easy.

No experience with vascular dementia, so can't risk a comment. Sorry. Note that you say she has had a slip downhill after a fall....... was this a vascular related fall, did she have a small black out?

Indigestion, acidity. Mum takes Gaviscon quite a bit. When I ask her why she says "It does her good", but I believe the battery of meds she is on are noted for their effect on digestion.

Hope you get better responses soon. Take care, BE


Registered User
Apr 22, 2010
East Hunsbury Northamptonshire
Has your mum had any mini strokes? these are common in Vas D and I had one that effected my swallowing but I can now swallow again but when I went for a camera down my throat they said it definately was a mini stroke it can get worse if I am tired
its worth keeping a diary and jotting things down it really helps the doctors and is a good aid for you too

Hope this helps a bit much support