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Dysphagia Management for the Elderly: How You Can Help



Dysphagia Management for the Elderly: How You Can Help

Dysphagia Management

As we age, our bodies naturally begin to struggle, and performing tasks that were once easy can now seem quite difficult. For some people, this can sometimes mean developing dysphagia or difficulty in swallowing. This condition can lead to a range of potential problems, ranging from aspiration pneumonia to dehydration and malnutrition. Thankfully, there are ways that you can help manage dysphagia in old age and we’ll take a look at some of them in the article.

Making Diet Changes

When it comes to managing dysphagia, changes to diet are often the first step. Your doctor will likely recommend thickening liquids with specialized thickeners, which can make them easier for your loved one to swallow. You can find out more details about this by clicking the link. Additionally, soft foods such as mashed potatoes, applesauce, and scrambled eggs can be helpful. You may also want to experiment with different textures or heat levels that could make the food easier to swallow.

Avoid Straws

Following on from the above, it’s also important to avoid encouraging the use of straws when drinking.  While a straw may seem like it could be a helpful device, it could actually lead to your elderly loved one receiving an increased flow of liquid to their mouth. This can make it difficult for already weakened muscles to direct the liquid to the “right pipe” and can lead to asphyxiation or choking.

Encouraging Exercise

Exercise is an important part of managing dysphagia. Strengthening the muscles involved in swallowing can help your loved one stay safe while they eat and drink. This includes activities like pursing their lips, sticking their tongue out, and doing gentle head nods. It’s recommended to do these exercises for 10 minutes twice a day in order to see a difference.

Seeking Professional Assistance

Your doctor will likely refer you to a speech-language pathologist (SLP) for further assistance with managing dysphagia. The SLP will be able to provide an individualized plan for your loved one that could include exercises, diet modifications, and more. In addition, the SLP can also train your loved one on how to help themselves with swallowing exercises that will make sure they are safe when eating and drinking.

Staying Calm

When managing dysphagia, it’s important to stay calm and patient. Eating can be a stressful time for anyone, but especially for those who are experiencing difficulty swallowing. Remember to take breaks if needed, encourage your loved one with positive reinforcement, and provide support throughout the meal. Remaining relaxed during meals can make all the difference in helping manage dysphagia successfully.

Dysphagia can be a challenging condition to manage, but with the right tools and techniques, you’ll soon have your loved one feeling more confident about eating and drinking. Making changes to diet, exercising regularly, seeking professional help, and staying calm are all important steps in managing dysphagia for the elderly. With these tips, you’ll be able to keep your loved one safe when it comes to swallowing.