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My mother has started "chewing" and making this clicking noise with her mouth.

Answered by David Troxel

October 23, 2013

My mother has started “chewing” and making this clicking noise with her mouth.

She looks like she has a mouthful of food but her mouth is empty, this is not a denture issue. Her tongue is darting in and out of her mouth. If she keeps her lips together none of this happens. She is 96 years old and lives with my husband and I. This is her only “bad” habit, why does she do this, it is extremely irritating to hear this while watching TV or sitting quietly. She does not want to sit in another room and doesn’t want us to. Please help.

This behavior can happen with dementia. Called perseveration, it’s defined as uncontrollable repetition of a particular response, such as a word, phrase, or gesture that can happen without a cause usually caused by a brain injury or disorder like Alzheimer’s disease.

I’d recommend checking with her doctor and/or dentist to be sure there isn’t a medical cause. Some medications can cause the mouth to be dry or there could be other problems.

Assuming that this is not the problem, would a piece of hard candy or popsicle help change the behavior? Other finger foods?

You write that this is her only “bad habit.” Do your best to accept that this isn’t a “bad habit” per se but more a byproduct of her dementia. You may have to accept the situation and work on your own response. With any luck, sometimes behaviors like this eventually go away.

Thoughts and stories from others

  1. October 30, 2016 at 02:19 pm
    Posted by Maria

    RE: Linda - it has been beneficial for me to have read that there are two "flows" of information for a person - what comes in, and what goes out - meaning: a person can understand information that comes in (i.e. other people talking to you), but may not be able to formulate words on their own, so they sound as though they are speaking "gibberish" - it's frustrating for them to try to respond, but meanwhile, they understand what you are saying to them! I have long talks with my Mom, and i know she understands me. I help her respond, with suggested words, to which she nods.
  2. March 10, 2016 at 09:34 am
    Posted by Lauren

    My grandmother passed already a few years ago. I witnessed the loss is tough on a family. I never did speak with her about her experiences with the dementia. I felt closer to her in some ways, was it formalities were lowered we connected more simply as humans who loved one another. Was I more aware to cherish time & moments with her. When I would visit sometimes it took a while, she would be sitting dully, but then a shift in her energy - did she recognise my energy it felt like. I felt listened to by my Nan, reducing me to tears with a one-word sentence.
  3. February 21, 2015 at 07:44 pm
    Posted by Linda

    My mother is in the last stage of dementia. She can only say a few statements, but is unable to have a conversation. She has to be fed soft food and drink with a straw. She has to be changed and bathed from bed. She sleeps most of the time in a chair or in bed. We use a lifter to transport her from the bedroom to the living room. She seems to recognize our faces and voices but doesn't know our names anymore. She cries sometimes and tries to talk but the words aren't clear to us---more like jibberish. She is in another world and it makes me feel so sad. What is she thinking

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