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Interventions for People with Alzheimer's Disease and Dysphagia (Swallowing Problems)


Dysphagia (swallowing problems) frequently develops in patients with Alzheimer's disease and leads to decreased quality of life as well as serious health consequences, including malnutrition, pneumonia, and death. This pilot randomized clinical trial will determine the effectiveness of two interventions to improve swallowing. The trial will also evaluate which subgroups of patients would most likely benefit from the interventions.

Minimum Age Maximum Age Gender Healthy Volunteers
18 Years 99 Years All No
June 1, 2019
February 1, 2023


  • Non-hospice inpatient or outpatient seen at the University of Wisconsin Hospital and clinics
  • English-speaking
  • Documented pre-hospitalization diagnosis of mild to moderate dementia
  • Videofluoroscopic swallow study ordered by their clinician as part of their clinical care
  • Diagnosis of oropharyngeal dysphagia based on the videofluoroscopic swallow study (Penetration-Aspiration scale score of 3 or higher and/or moderate oropharyngeal residue in any location in the oral cavity or pharynx)
  • Actively involved caregiver
  • Residing at home


  • English speaking
  • Contact with patient at least 3 times a week
  • Access to a working telephone


  • Living in an institutional setting (e.g., other hospital, skilled nursing facility, long-term care center)
  • In hospice
  • Current/active stroke diagnosis
  • History of head and neck cancer or other structural deformity that can affect swallowing
  • Allergy to barium
  • Currently pregnant or planning to become pregnant

Two interventions that have been shown in preliminary studies to positively influence swallowing function in older adults are lingual (tongue area) strengthening exercises and use of a saliva substitute. In this pilot randomized clinical trial, patient-caregiver pairs will be randomized to training in lingual strengthening exercises, use of a saliva substitute (Biotene), a combination of the two, or usual care. The study will last for 9 weeks, and the data will be used in designing a larger multi-site study.

Name City State Zip Status Primary Contact
University of Wisconsin-Madison
Madison Wisconsin 53705 Recruiting Vanessa Cannaday, MS

University of Wisconsin, Madison

Name Role Affiliation
Nicole Pulia, PhD Principal Investigator University of Wisconsin-Madison

Name Phone Email
Nicole Pulia, PhD 608-256-1901


Development of Novel Therapeutic Interventions for Patients With Alzheimer's Disease and Comorbid Dysphagia