Elders in severe stage dementia often have a need to chew or suck on objects. Objects such as clothing, wood, leather, other people even, which can all seem inappropriate and disturbing to carers. The drive behind the behaviour is a need for comfort. Just as infants like to suck or bite, so do elderly in the severe stage of a dementia journey. It brings sensory stimulation, a rhythmic movement and a sense of security. As we want to fill this need and bring that much needed security and comfort to the person, we should assist in finding the right, safe, items to use for the purpose.
I would recommend Chew’lery! Yes, chewable jewellery. Originally designed for autistic children, these products can be used with elders with dementia. [Often products for the autistic spectrum work well with dementia elders.] The designs are bright bracelets and necklaces, especially suitable for ladies. Another is a ‘grabber’ or ‘chew kit’ from Ark. Theses are non toxic, strong, with a built in handle, and work great for gentlemen with strong jaw action.
Remember that chewing and sucking are human traits that we all do daily, not just with our food. We bite on the top of pen, some people suck on a cigarette, many adults suck their thumb under duress, we also like to kiss! The need to suck and bite is primal and is part of human life, if an elder with dementia shows a need to do these things, it is not abnormal! It is a basic reflex and need, one in which we can offer assistance by finding the right object for use.