On a hot summer day, there is nothing more satisfying than a tall, cold drink, but for a senior trying to manage dysphagia, this simple pleasure could 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 all causes as well. Luckily, there are ways to manage dysphagia at home.
Indications of dysphagia include:
- Coughing, choking or gagging when eating, drinking, or taking medicine
- A gurgling sound in the older adult’s voice after drinking/eating
Additionally, if you suspect dysphagia in an older family member, ask him or her the following questions – and consult with the physician immediately for additional assistance:
- Are you coughing or choking when trying to eat or drink?
- Are you having frequent difficulties 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?
- Have you been losing weight?
If you’re helping a senior loved one manage dysphagia, keep the following tips in mind:
- Pay attention to posture. Ensure that the senior is sitting completely upright, at a 90-degree angle, before trying to eat or drink.
- Bypass the straw. Straws speed up the rate at which the liquid enters into the mouth, which can cause choking or aspiration.
- Thicken liquids. Most pharmacies sell thickening powders or gels that should be added to all fluids for those with dysphagia. However, abstain from serving jello and ice cream, which change from their thickened form to a liquid in the mouth.
- Keep nutritional needs in mind. Good choices for dysphagia-friendly foods include yogurt, pureed fruits, pureed veggies, pureed beans, and pureed lentils, soft cheese, avocado, and creamy nut butters. Discover some simple, dysphagia-friendly recipes here.
- Consider medication administration. Washing down pills with thickened liquid can be difficult. Talk with the prescribing doctor and/or pharmacist to see if medications can be crushed and mixed with pudding or applesauce to help them go down easier.
- Timing is everything. The exhaustion that accompanies a chronic medical condition that causes dysphagia may make it tough to eat or drink for longer than a quarter-hour at any given time. Try to plan meals around times when the senior is least tired, and have thickened beverages available throughout the day to ensure hydration.
Home Sweet Home In-Home Care caregivers are available to help plan and prepare healthy meals and thickened beverages for a senior with dysphagia, and we’ll even pick up all the ingredients, too! Contact us for a free consultation at (866) 229-2505, or (269) 373-5444 in Kalamazoo, (269) 763-5350 in Paw Paw, (269) 849-9252 in St. Joseph, and (269) 963-9888 in Battle Creek. We’re happy to share more about why we’re the top-rated provider of home care in Mattawan and nearby Michigan communities. For a full list of the communities we serve, please visit our Locations page.