According to Webster’s Dictionary, a mission is a specific task a person (or group) to execute an approach for a particular outcome. Many of you have read I was responsible for the care of my mother. My book, From the Lens of Daughter, Nurse, and Caregiver: A Journey of Duty and Honor, shares many stories. Some tasks were known, like bathing, dressing, feeding, medications, potty time, and bedtime shenanigans. These tasks were essential parts of the care of another. One of the essential tasks in the world of proactive caregiving is oral health awareness. Have you taken the dental health of your loved one seriously? Oral health problems can be discovered by looking into the mouth. If your loved one can say Ahhhh, that’s great.
Caregivers inspect the food reservoir cavity daily — report unusual findings to your health care practitioner. Suppose your loved one is considered high-risk due to chronic medical conditions. For those who suffer from illnesses such as immunocompromise(hard-to-fight infections), arthritis, jaw joint diseases, smokers, heart disease, stroke, diabetes, emphysema, hepatitis, liver conditions, and obesity, oral care is fundamental. You may ask what kinds of findings should you mention to the healthcare team.
Let’s begin with nutritional concerns. Loved ones with poor dietary intake need immediate attention. One of the first signs of loved ones’ eating behaviors changing or not wanting to eat could be due to teeth, tongue, and gum discomfort and pain. If your loved one wears dentures, remove them after every meal to ensure food particles are not hiding in the frame of the dentures. Also, ill-fitting dentures can cause pain. As our loved ones age, weight loss is common. If the face and jaw shape changes, dentures may not fit. This can create nutritional health issues. Simple but profound steps can help avoid oral health problems.
Proactive Measures for Oral Health
A daily mouth inspection, both outside and inside, is required. Brushing teeth may seem a no-brainer, but it is only sometimes done, especially in nursing homes. For loved ones with Alzheimer’s or dementia, oral care can be a daunting undertaking(always keep trying). Mouth care, at least twice each day, is necessary. If your loved one is in a nursing facility, please ensure oral care occurs after each meal. Flossing for loved ones with their teeth is a helpful way to see gums and inspect teeth. Nutrition should always be a consideration — more fruits and vegetables over sugary snacks and drinks.
As Your Proactive Caregiver Advocate, meet with the dentist provider to ensure any underlying problems or diseases are controlled and not create poor oral health consequences. Be safe! Be well!
Dr. Cynthia J. Hickman is a retired registered nurse and case manager, CEO of Your Proactive Caregiver Advocate and author of From the Lens of Daughter, Nurse, and Caregiver: A Journey of Duty and Honor, and The Black Book of Important Information for Caregivers.