Tips to Manage Swallowing Issues in Seniors

On a hot summer day, there is nothing more satisfying than a tall, cold drink; however, for a senior with swallowing issues, or dysphagia, this simple pleasure could be downright dangerous. Dysphagia affects millions of seniors, as a result of weakened mouth and/or throat muscles. Cancer, Alzheimer’s, MS and stroke are all root causes as well.

Signs of dysphagia include:

  • Drooling
  • Coughing, choking or gagging when drinking, eating, or taking medication
  • A gurgling sound in the senior’s voice after eating/drinking

In the event that you suspect dysphagia in an older member of the family, ask him or her the following questions – and check with the physician right away for additional assistance:

  • Have you been choking or coughing when trying to eat or drink?
  • Are you experiencing frequent difficulties with food “going down the wrong pipe?”
  • Is food getting caught in your throat?
  • Is it taking you longer to eat food than it used to?
  • Have you been losing weight?

If you are taking care of a loved one with dysphagia, keep the following tips[KR3]  in mind:

  • Pay attention to posture. Ensure that the older adult is sitting fully upright, at a 90-degree angle, before attempting to eat or drink.
  • Skip the straw. Straws speed up the rate at which the liquid enters the mouth, which can cause aspiration or choking.
  • 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 options for dysphagia-friendly foods include yogurt, pureed veggies, pureed fruits, pureed lentils, and pureed beans, soft cheese, avocado, and creamy nut butters. Discover some easy dysphagia-friendly recipes.
  • Think through medication administration. Washing down pills with thickened liquid can be challenging. Seek the advice of the prescribing doctor and/or pharmacist to see if medications can be crushed and combined with applesauce or pudding to help them go down easier.
  • Timing is everything. The fatigue that accompanies a chronic health issue that creates dysphagia may make it hard to eat or drink for more than 15 minutes at any given time. Try to plan meals around instances when your loved one is least tired, and have thickened beverages available throughout the day to ensure hydration.

Seniorcorp is available to help plan and prepare healthy meals and thickened beverages for a senior with dysphagia, and we will even pick up all of the ingredients, too! Contact us to learn more about our top-rated home care in Norfolk and the surrounding areas, and to schedule a free consultation at 757-640-0557. For a full list of all of the communities where we provide care, please visit our Service Area page.