There’s nothing better than a tall, cold drink on a hot summer day, but for a person with dysphagia, this simple pleasure can be dangerous. Dysphagia – or difficulty with swallowing – impacts millions of seniors, because of weakened mouth and/or throat muscles. Cancer, Alzheimer’s, MS and stroke are typical causes as well.
Symptoms of dysphagia include:
- Coughing, choking or gagging when drinking, eating, or taking medication
- A gurgling sound in the senior’s voice after eating/drinking
Additionally, if you suspect dysphagia in an older family member, ask him or her the following questions – and check with the medical practitioner right away for additional guidance:
- Have you been coughing or choking when trying to eat or drink?
- Are you experiencing regular issues with food “going down the wrong pipe?”
- Is food getting caught in your throat?
- Is it taking you longer to eat than it used to?
- Are you losing weight?
If you’re taking care of a senior loved one with dysphagia, keep these strategies in mind:
- Pay attention to posture. Ensure that the older adult is sitting fully upright, at a 90-degree angle, before trying to drink or eat.
- Bypass the straw. Straws speed up the rate at which the liquid goes into the mouth, which can cause choking or aspiration.
- Thicken liquids. Most pharmacies sell thickening gels or powders that should be added to all fluids for anyone with dysphagia. However, avoid serving ice cream and jello, which change from their thickened form to a liquid in the mouth.
- Keep nutritional needs in mind. Good options for dysphagia-friendly foods include yogurt, pureed fruits, pureed veggies, pureed beans, and pureed lentils, avocado, soft cheese, and creamy nut butters. Discover some simple, dysphagia-friendly recipes.
- Consider prescription drug administration. Washing down pills with thickened liquid can be difficult. Speak with the prescribing doctor and/or pharmacist to see if prescription drugs can be crushed and mixed with pudding or applesauce to help them go down easier.
- Timing is everything. The tiredness that accompanies a chronic medical condition that creates dysphagia may make it tough to eat or drink for more than fifteen minutes at any given time. Try to plan meals around times when your loved one is least tired, and have thickened drinks available throughout the day to ensure hydration.
Generations at Home can help plan and prepare healthy meals and thickened beverages for a loved one with dysphagia, and we’ll even pick up all of the ingredients, too! Learn more about our home care services by contacting us for a free consultation at 727-940-3414.