4 Tips For Managing Dysphagia In Seniors

Difficulty swallowing, or dysphagia, is unfortunately common in seniors. As the name implies, it presents as a difficulty with swallowing solids and liquids and can lead to dehydration, malnutrition, weight loss, aspiration pneumonia, and other health complications if not dealt with promptly. Fortunately, there are several ways of managing dysphagia in seniors in home and healthcare settings.

Make Postural Adjustments

Our posture determines how well and easily we can swallow. Postural adjustments are crucial for seniors with dysphagia, and they entail changing the head and body posture to aid swallowing, reduce residue in the mouth that can cause choking, and minimize the risk of aspiration.

These adjustments work so well because they change the speed and direction of swallowed foods and beverages. By doing so, they protect the airway and prevent aspiration.

While they are a great option, postural adjustments are not long-term treatments and do not work for all seniors. You may need to try different adjustments such as chin tucks, head rotations, head tilts, holding the head back, and having the loved one lie on their side to see which option works best.

Thicken Liquids

Long-term care facilities and hospitals regularly use different thickeners to make liquids easier to swallow. By increasing the viscosity of liquids, these thickeners slow the liquid’s speed, thereby making it easier to control its direction and duration in the mouth and ease of clearing chewed food.

The liquid’s viscosity determines the situation it can be used in, with less viscous liquids best for milder presentation, while thicker fluids are best for more severe forms of dysphagia.

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You can find various thickeners that can help a loved one with dysphagia. Instead of going with unappetizing options, you can choose the tasty Simply Thick mix-in powder or gel that you can use to thicken numerous liquids and foods for easier swallowing.

Modifying The Diet

Thickening is only one of the ways of modifying foods to help a loved one with dysphagia. Others include changing the food’s texture, puréeing it, or chopping it. The pieces should be small enough to swallow, but not so small that they increase the risk of aspiration.

Another adjustment to consider is serving smaller, more frequent meals. Remember that seniors with dysphagia eat slowly, so each meal might take a long time. They might get bored with the food and eat too little of it, which increases the risk of malnutrition and other health challenges. Smaller, more frequent meals can help deal with this issue.

Avoiding Straws

Most people do not think about what happens when they use a straw. Using a straw requires different muscles and actions and can be as complex or more complex than swallowing. Speech pathologists advise that seniors with dysphagia should never use straws.

It may seem like a straw would help, but it can increase a liquid’s flow rate and put already weakened muscles at additional stress to swallow it all. The result is likely to be choking and aspiration.

Conclusion

Dysphagia or swallowing difficulty is a serious condition that affects many seniors. It presents as regurgitation, coughing, gagging, and pain while swallowing. It can cause malnutrition, dehydration, and other serious health issues, so loved ones should find ways to help seniors with dysphagia manage the condition.

Disclaimer: This article is not medical advice. When in doubt, always consult your medical doctor.

Featured image by wayhomestudio on Freepik.