Dysphagia in the Elderly: Advice & Tips
Eating and drinking is not only a necessity; it also brings so much pleasure and the opportunity of social interactions, especially if you’d describe yourself as a foodie.
However, if you care for an elderly person with dysphagia, eating and drinking can be difficult, and mealtimes can become more challenging.
So, we want to share some practical advice and tips on how to manage the symptoms of dysphagia and help those with swallowing difficulties enjoy their food to the fullest.
How to recognise dysphagia in the elderly.
Other common symptoms of dysphagia include:
- Shortness of breath or changes in breathing after swallowing
- Dry mouth
- ‘Gurgly’ or wet voice when eating or drinking
- Feeling like food is stuck in your throat
Dysphagia is a common consequence of many types of illnesses resulting in neurological impairments, such as following stroke or dementia, or functional disruption of the swallowing process, such as head and neck cancers and gastro-oesophageal reflux disease (GORD).
Other common causes of dysphagia can be psychological, such as anxiety and depression. Head over to our page for more in depth information about the common causes of dysphagia.
Depending on the severity of dysphagia, some may struggle with specific types of food and drinks, especially food with chewy texture such as bread, whilst others can’t swallow at all.
Advice for Dysphagia.
Depending on the cause and the severity of dysphagia, there may be some things you can do to help manage the symptoms.
The advice of health care professionals is very important for any instance of dysphagia in the elderly. We recommend making an appointment with a Speech and Language Therapist or seeking the assistance of a medical professional, such as a GP, to discuss the best course of action. You can visit the NHS website for more general information on dysphagia.
1. Have an upright posture
Maintaining a good posture when eating and drinking is something that we should all do, regardless of whether we have dysphagia.
Ensure that your loved one is sat up right with their back straight and knees level with their hips not slumped forward or reclined back. The correct posture can aid breathing and swallowing, as well as minimise the risk of choking, getting heartburn and bloating.
2. Try slow and relaxed eating
We know it can be tricky when you’re hungry, but encourage them to resist the temptation to eat and drink fast. Instead, ask them to relax, take a deep breath and eat slowly and methodically. This can ensure food is chewed properly and ease swallowing safely.
3. Chop up their food into smaller mouthfuls
Encourage them to take smaller mouthfuls of food and chew slowly and thoroughly before they swallow to help food and drink go down more easily. Eating small manageable meals little and often is also a great way to help them to get in their recommended dietary requirements throughout the day and minimise trouble swallowing.
4. Practice chin tuck swallow
A Speech a Language Therapist may recommend to swallow with your chin tucked as close to the chest as possible. This is to ease swallowing safely and decrease the risk of food going down the wrong way into the windpipe. This should be used as directed by your Speech and Language Therapist.
5. Opt for naturally softer foods
Another way to ease the discomfort of dysphagia in your loved ones is to opt for foods with a softer texture that require less chewing and are easier to swallow. Think foods with a softer texture, such as soup, rice pudding, mashed potatoes, soft cheese, avocado and yoghurt. Speak to a healthcare professional about what might be the most suitable for an individual swallow.
6. Help them to mash, blend or purée their favourite food
Your Speech and Language Therapist may recommend a texture modified diet that can include Level 4 Pureed, Level 5 Minced, Level 6 Soft & Bite-Sized. If this is the case, you can support your loved one to mash, blend or purée their food to get the same flavour and nutrition in a smooth and easy-to-swallow texture. However, blending meals so they are suitable and safe to eat for someone with swallowing difficulties can be very challenging. Head over to our page about Home Blending to read more about what you can do at home.
How our meals can help.
Don’t fancy puréeing meals at home? That’s where our Softer Foods range comes in. We offer 85 delicious and nutritious dishes for breakfast, lunch and dinner, available in three different textures or IDDSI levels ranging from:
Our award winning Softer Foods range is full of delicious dishes that are safe to eat for people with swallowing difficulties and are fortified to help you get the right nutrients you need.
All you have to do is pop them in the microwave or oven from frozen and tuck in. And just when you thought it couldn’t get any more convenient, we can deliver them straight to your door. Browse our Softer Foods range online request a brochure for FREE.