Gott: Swallowing pills can be a real pain

Q. My mother is 87 years old and has great difficulty swallowing pills. They get stuck in her throat, and she is so afraid of choking she would prefer not to take them at all, which is not an option because of her many medical conditions. Can you offer any guidance? Her entire family is terribly concerned.

A. I do have a few recommendations that might get her back on track. Your mother should take her pills at a time when she doesn't feel she is under stress. She should be relaxed and assisted by a single family member or appropriate person with whom she feels comfortable. Don't perform the task if everyone is gathered around, coaxing her on. Furthermore, it helps the swallowing process if the mouth is moist. You might begin the process by setting out her pills and having her sip some water prior to even taking her first dose. Lubricate the tract, so to speak. Then she can place a pill in her mouth, take another sip, and the pill should glide down.

Placing some types of pills in a small plastic resealable bag and crushing them within the bag using the back of a spoon will break them up. Then empty the contents into a spoonful of applesauce, yogurt or other appealing food. Should she take capsules, simply open the medication and pour its contents into a spoonful of food. Another option is to purchase a pill crusher. If the medication is coated or has a delayed release action, the pills should never been crushed, broken or chewed. Check with your pharmacist before crushing any medications.

My next recommendation, and perhaps the easiest, is an over-the-counter product known as Pill Glide, a water-based lubricating gel. A flavored, metered dose is squirted into the mouth. It is free of sugar, dyes, gluten and casein, has no active ingredients, and is non-allergenic. It is available in several flavors through Walgreens, CVS and Publix, and is also available via the Internet through Amazon. It has been a revolutionary breakthrough for children who had previously been on oral medications only because they couldn't swallow a pill, as well as for adults with a history of Parkinson's, Alzheimer's, cancer, stroke or those who simply can't swallow a pill of any size.

As an aside, three of the most commonly flavored liquid prescription medications on the market are amoxicillin, Tamiflu and Azithromycin. Many pharmacies now incorporate this innovative option by crushing pills and adding flavors, making taking any pill more desirable. And you can request your flavor!

Incorporate one or more of my recommendations into your mother's daily medication routine, and alleviate her stress. Good luck.

Q. A few weeks ago, you said putting nail hardener on skin tags helps to dry them and consequently they fall off. Would it be possible to do the same with seborrheic keratosis spots? I have many. Thank you for your consideration. I am an 80-year-old healthy female.

A. Oddly enough, I just received a letter from a reader who indicated that she used it for that very purpose on an unsightly lesion. She applied it once daily, peeled it off after her daily shower, and then reapplied a new coat. The lesion was totally gone after several weeks. My guess is that the polish worked as a barrier, keeping the lesion dry and without vital oxygen for nourishment. She believed clear nail polish might have worked as well but did experience excellent results with the nail hardener.

Another option is to use hydrogen peroxide. Simply apply it daily with a cotton swab. Some sources recommend against using it undiluted, so try mixing with an equal amount of water.

© 2011, United Feature Syndicate, Inc.