How to Best Manage Dysphagia: A Guide for Care

How to Best Manage Dysphagia: A Guide for Care

There’s nothing better than a tall, cold drink on a hot summer day, but for a person with dysphagia, this simple pleasure could be dangerous. Dysphagia – or trouble with swallowing – impacts millions of seniors because of weakened mouth and/or throat muscles. Cancer, Alzheimer's, MS and stroke are all root causes as well. Learn more about how to best manage dysphagia in our informative guide.

Symptoms of dysphagia include:

  • Drooling
  • Coughing, choking or gagging when drinking, eating, or taking medications
  • A gurgling sound in the older adult's voice after drinking/eating

In addition, if you suspect dysphagia in a senior member of the family, ask him or her these questions – and consult with the medical practitioner right away for further guidance:

  • Are you choking or coughing 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 with dysphagia, keep these tips in mind:

  1. Pay attention to posture. Ensure that the older adult is sitting fully upright, at a 90-degree angle, before trying to eat or drink.
  2. Bypass the straw. Straws speed up the rate at which the liquid goes into the mouth, which can cause aspiration or choking.
  3. Thicken liquids. Most pharmacies sell thickening powders or gels that should be added to all fluids for anyone with dysphagia. However, abstain from serving jello and ice cream, which change from their thickened form to a liquid in the mouth.
  4. Keep nutritional needs in mind. Good choices for dysphagia-friendly foods include yogurt, pureed fruits, pureed veggies, pureed lentils, and pureed beans, avocado, soft cheese, and creamy nut butters. Discover some easy dysphagia-friendly recipes here.
  5. Think through medication administration. Washing down pills with thickened liquid can be difficult. Consult with the prescribing doctor and/or pharmacist to see if meds can be crushed and mixed with applesauce or pudding to help them go down easier.
  6. Timing is everything. The tiredness that accompanies a chronic health condition that causes dysphagia may make it tough to drink or eat for longer than a quarter-hour at a time. Make an effort to plan meals around instances when the senior is least tired, and have thickened drinks available throughout the day to ensure hydration.

Amy's Helping Hands can help plan and prepare healthy meals and thickened drinks for a loved one with dysphagia, and we’ll even pick up all of the ingredients, too! Contact us for a free consultation at 519-915-4370 and to learn more about our home care in Leamington, Ontario and surrounding areas.