There’s nothing better than a tall, cold drink on a hot summer day; however, dysphagia in seniors can make this simple pleasure downright dangerous. Dysphagia – or trouble with swallowing – impacts millions of seniors, as a result of weakened mouth and/or throat muscles. Alzheimer’s, MS, cancer, and stroke are typical causes as well.
Indications of dysphagia in seniors include:
- Coughing, gagging or choking when eating, drinking, or taking medication
- A gurgling sound in the senior’s voice after drinking/eating
In addition, if you suspect dysphagia in a senior member of the family, ask him or her the following questions – and check with the medical practitioner immediately for further guidance:
- Have you been choking or coughing when trying to eat or drink?
- Are you having regular 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’re taking care of a senior with dysphagia, keep these strategies in mind:
- Make note of posture. Be sure the older adult is sitting completely upright, at a 90-degree angle, before attempting to eat or drink.
- Forget the straw. Straws raise the rate at which the liquid enters 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, avoid 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 here.
- Think through prescription drug administration. Washing down pills with thickened liquid could be difficult. Seek advice from 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 tiredness that accompanies a chronic health condition that causes dysphagia may make it difficult to drink or eat for longer than 15 minutes at a time. Make an effort to plan meals around times when your loved one is least tired, and have thickened beverages available during the day to ensure hydration.
Atlanta Home Care Partners is available to help plan and prepare healthy meals and thickened drinks for a senior loved one with dysphagia, and we will even pick up all of the ingredients, too! Contact us online or call us at 404-228-0103 to learn why Atlanta Home Care Partners is the preferred choice of home care agencies in Atlanta, GA, and the surrounding communities.