How to Help Seniors Experiencing Signs of Dysphagia
On those scorching summer days, there is nothing more refreshing than a tall, cold drink; however, for seniors with dysphagia, this simple pleasure could be very dangerous. Dysphagia – or difficulty with swallowing – affects millions of seniors due to weakened mouth and/or throat muscles. Cancer, Alzheimer’s, MS and stroke are all causes as well.
Signs of dysphagia include:
- A gurgling sound in the senior’s voice after drinking/eating
- Coughing, choking, or gagging when drinking, eating, or taking medications
In addition, in the event that you suspect dysphagia in an older member of the family, ask them the following questions – and consult with the physician immediately for additional assistance:
- Is food getting caught in your throat?
- Have you been coughing or choking when trying to eat or drink?
- Is it taking you longer to eat food than it used to?
- Have you been losing weight?
- Are you experiencing regular problems with food “going down the wrong pipe?”
If you are caring for a senior loved one with signs of dysphagia, keep these tips in mind:
- Skip the straw. Straws raise the rate at which the liquid goes into the mouth, which can cause aspiration or choking.
- Thicken liquids. Most pharmacies sell thickening gels or powders 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.
- Make note of posture. Be sure the senior is sitting completely upright, at a 90-degree angle, before trying to drink or eat.
- Timing is everything. The exhaustion that accompanies a chronic health condition that creates dysphagia can make it hard 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 during the day to ensure hydration.
- Keep nutritional needs in mind. Good choices for dysphagia-friendly foods include yogurt, pureed veggies, pureed fruits, pureed lentils, and pureed beans, avocado, soft cheese, and creamy nut butters. Find some simple, dysphagia-friendly recipes here.
- Think through medication administration. Washing down pills with thickened liquid can be difficult. Seek advice from the prescribing doctor and/or pharmacist to see if meds can be crushed and combined with applesauce or pudding to help them go down easier.
Endeavor, a Phoenix senior in home care provider for the surrounding areas, can help with planning and preparing healthy meals and thickened beverages for a loved one with dysphagia, and we will even pick up all the ingredients, too! Reach out to us online or at (480) 498-2324 to schedule a complimentary consultation today.