Eating impairment is well documented in the late stage of Alzheimer's disease (AD) but when these eating changes actually begin in the disease process is not known. Eating was defined as consisting of two components, self-feeding and swallowing. Self-feeding and swallowing of healthy elderly were compared with a group of individuals with mild AD. AD subjects received significantly more partner-initiated cues or direct assistance than controls. In addition, subject-initiated cued behaviors occurred more frequently in the AD group. AD subjects demonstrated significantly prolonged swallow durations for the oral transit duration (cookie), pharyngeal response duration (liquid), and total swallow duration (liquid). This pilot study suggests that self-feeding and swallowing changes may occur early in the course of AD.
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