Alzheimer’s: Spitting Problem

Dementia – Alzheimer’s: A Unique Spitting Problem

By Twinty Karat

This spitting problem may be unique to Mr. Q; however, we have had another male resident with similar problems that used to hold and spit saliva almost as often as Mr. Q.

The problem with Mr. Q is whenever he goes into the bathroom he will automatically walk over to the sink and spit. He sometimes spits even if there is no reason, nothing to spit out.

Unfortunately he is not careful and often it gets on the floor, on the sink counter and on the toilet seat. Besides the clean-up required, it attracts ants, someone could slip on it (we have a tile floor) and it requires us to be constantly on alert to clean it up.

There is another problem with him spitting. He will grab a cup, any cup (plastic cups are used to rinse a resident’s mouth) and use it to rinse out his mouth. The cup could belong to someone else who forgot to put it up where Mr. Q can’t see it.

Along with grabbing something belonging to another resident he will leave the water running. This is a real problem for us because we have a septic tank and if water is uncontrolled it may flood the tank causing sewerage to back up into the house.

It’s a nasty, expensive procedure to drain the tank, plus it is quite expensive. It doesn’t seem like a little running water would cause a problem, but when it happens dozens of times a day unnecessarily and there are a lot of people using water each day, it’s a problem waiting to happen. Using less water is great for conservation, but not good in our particular case.

Alzheimer's Spitting Problem

According to his doctor the medicines contribute to the problem of saliva buildup in Mr. Q. We have tried several things and medicines that the doctor prescribed, but all have had had bad side effects for him and the constant spitting still occurs.

As an aside, yesterday we took Mr. Q to the doctor to learn the results of a CAT scan; nothing unusual there. On the way home, however, he would hold the spit in his mouth and not swallow it. Twice it got so bad he was starting to choke on his mouth full of saliva and I had to quickly maneuver to the side of the road, stop, and get him out of the car so he could spit it out.

One of those times I really had to struggle with him, which was not easy to do while driving. Fortunately my wife, his major caretaker was in the car with me, and was able to control him, along with me holding his arm so he would not open the door, which he was trying desperately to do. The last few days he has frequently been refusing to swallow and that has made his spitting problem worse.

The problem with Mr. Q’s saliva buildup is it varies from only a minor problem to one where he is spitting it out sometimes every few minutes. It is very inconsistent, but always omnipresent.

This particular problem may not be related to dementia / Alzheimer’s. His doctor said it is not uncommon for older people to have overactive salivary glands. I am including it here because we have two Alzheimer’s residents with the same problem and neither had the problem before.

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  1. It’s interesting to read of other dementia sufferers with this problem. My father was diagnosed with Parkinson’s and dementia and he is an incessant spitter. My mother, sister, and I care for him at home, so one can imagine the problem there is with him spitting on every surface he comes by. Like you wrote, we have to always be after him to wipe or mop his spit off of the walls, counters, doors, floors, the car, etc.

    While we do notice a pattern in his spitting, for example:when he needs/wants something; If he’s bored and anxious; or if he forgets how to say something, we have no idea if those really are the reasons why he does it. Our uncertainty lies in that he’ll spit no matter what. Sometimes he does it for a whole hour straight, and by then he certainly has no more saliva left, in which case he’ll wring his mouth out real hard..At first we thought maybe he did it only with us, but when he started spitting at our lady neighbor, whom he adores, we realized that it was part of the illness.

    His doctors have told us that many Parkinson’s patients, particularly ones with dementia, have the tendency to drool. Mainly because they progressively lose the ability to swallow and that in my father’s case, he spits. But, after reading this I think we should ask his doctors about the saliva buildup on his next visit.

    *I’d like to mention a nasty little detail about the intensity of my father’s spitting. He also suffers from COPD. One would think that a weakness in the lungs would disable a person to spit very hard or far at all, but when he gets in one of his terrible moods, it’s best for everyone if they don’t stand closer than a couple yards in front of him. At home we get the feeling that this spitting has lots to do with the disease and the patient’s moods.

  2. my dad does the same thing. I notice it when he is being cared for and becomes agitated. He is blind and bedridden. He developed bad ulcers so we had to bring him to the hospital. The spitting continued, and uncaring, insensitive care professionals who react ( and I can’t blame them the first time) unprofessionally add to the problem. When I help my mom to take care of him, I speak to him and let him know everything we are going to do. I let him know when I don’t appreciate his behavior when it gets bad and he most time than not he calms down. I find that maybe they sense agitation from us and in a strange way might be a sense of exercising their indipendance. The spitting and defiance when we try to help. But I am not a clinician. I hope one answers.

  3. Rachelle Santiago

    My dad is diagnosed with vascular dementia. The spitting had become so bad that he started doing it on the carpet of all places! He also does it everywhere else outside, the concrete is actually stained from it! I got so disgusted that I offered him a plastic cup to carry in the walker tray so he has it wherever he goes. It’s still disgusting but it’s better than all over the floor. I didn’t understand why this was happening all of a sudden. I guess he’s always spit, like you see other men do in a bush or somewhere more acceptable but not all the time. So I started looking online and found that this is very common for dementia patients. Breaks my heart but I can’t handle much more of the constant pools of spit…

  4. Rachelle, every Dementia or Alzheimer’s disease person is a little different. What you’re experiencing with your dad is irritating, but some people are MUCH, MUCH worse that that. If you were in the U.S. the normal thing many people would do is put him in an RCFE or assisted living place. But it is costly. Many people here cannot afford to do that, so it can be an extreme burden on the family. Sorry to hear of your problems. Good Luck.

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