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Caring for Aging Adults with Dysphagia, The Dangers of Swallowing Difficulties

The suckling & swallowing reflex is one of the few reflexes that every human is born with, and for most, this reflex of swallowing gets easier and better as they age. But sometimes, children and adults alike may experience difficulty in swallowing. In medical terminology, the condition of being unable to swallow easily is known as Dysphagia.

Dangers with Swallowing Difficulties Why do people experience difficulty in swallowing?

People may experience problems in swallowing due to a number of reasons including:

  • Allergic reactions to dust, food, medication, etc
  • Heartburn
  • Goiter
  • Herpes
  • Acid reflux and gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
  • Infectious mono caused by the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV)
  • Inflammation in the epiglottis tissue
  • Nodule or cancerous growth on the thyroid gland
  • Stomach cancer
  • Esophageal cancer
  • Sjogren’s syndrome, where there is a very limited production of saliva, leading to dry mouth
  • Insect or snake bites

When swallowing becomes an almost impossible task, and the person is unable to swallow foods and beverages of any kind, the condition is officially classified as dysphagia.

Dysphagia can occur in both aged adults and children. When it does, it can become a life-threatening condition that will significantly reduce the quality of life of the sufferer.

Dangers of Dysphagia

Before and during the onset of dysphagia, the body showcases certain signs and symptoms, which indicate that there may be a problem involving the person’s ability to swallow solid and liquid foods. These signs and symptoms include:

  • Odynophagia or extreme pain during swallowing
  • Sticking of food in the throat, esophagus, and chest
  • Excessive drooling
  • Hoarseness in the voice
  • Frequent vomiting and regurgitation of meals
  • Acidity and heartburn
  • Gagging when swallowing
  • Sudden and unexpected weight loss

It’s best to consult the physician if these signs are noticed.

Dangers of Dsyphagia Dysphagia in the elderly

Swallowing becomes a challenge for the elderly for four specific reasons, apart from those listed above:

  • Laxity in the throat and esophageal muscles
  • Parkinson's disease
  • Stroke
  • Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, which is a nervous system disorder that weakens muscles and impacts muscle movement, contraction and relaxation.

When the elderly are affected by Dysphagia, there is a greater choking hazard which can prove to be fatal if care isn’t taken. This is why medical professionals recommend specific types of food, beverages and feeding equipment which elderly dysphagia patients need to use to protect themselves from harm. 

Dietary restrictions and requirements of Dysphagia patients

Elderly patients suffering from Dysphagia are kept on a very unique and restrictive diet. There are many eatables that they can’t consume, including:

  • Non-pureed soups, bread, vegetables and meat
  • Lumpy cereal
  • Cookies & candy
  • Hard pastries, pies, and cakes
  • Eggs (in all forms)
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Whole fruit
  • Pure liquids (juices, soda, water)

The reason for this is the inability of the Dysphagia patients to swallow solid food and pure liquids. To help patients consume the required amount of nutrients and remain hydrated, doctors recommend thickened foods and beverages that are neither too watery nor too solidified.

A few good dietary options to consider for patients with Dysphagia are:

Thick & Easy Instant Coffee Thickener

Most people’s morning starts with a strong cup of coffee. But patients with dysphagia are discouraged from drinking coffee since the liquid drink may pose a choking hazard for them.

But the Thick & Easy Instant Coffee Thickener comes pre-thickened and produces a mugful of delicious and aromatic decaffeinated coffee. The pack comes with six packets of 12 grams each and can be used and disposed-off with ease.

The coffee thickener has a shelf life of 3 years and can be refrigerated.

Shop Smoothe Food Pureed Meals

Seasoned Chicken Patty Puree

Whole meats in the form of braised, fried and boiled chicken, lamb, pork, beef, and seafood are strictly banned for people suffering from Dysphagia. But if pureed and cooked correctly, meat can become a part of the regular diet for patients.

The Thick-It Purees range of seasoned meat patties and stews with its flavorful creation of meat mixes is the perfect addition to a person's daily meal. The seasoned chicken patty puree is delicately flavored with garlic, onion, spices, and paprika. The consistency is light and smooth, allowing Dysphagia patients to eat without worry.

Thick & Easy Pureed Bread Mix

Traditional bread can be too hard and rough for people with Dysphagia. But the special bread puree by Thick & Easy is an excellent option for patients who enjoy having a home-baked toast for breakfast.

The bread puree is extremely easy to bake and can be scooped, shaped and layered as desired. Patients can even use this product with other flavored thickeners to cook pies, cakes, and French toast.

The texture of the bread is extremely consistent, making it very safe for consumption by Dysphagia sufferers. The serving size is one loaf.

Thick & Easy Thickened Apple Juice

Fresh juices, sodas, and whole fruits are a few other foods and beverages that people with Dysphagia cannot have. The watery beverages can cause the patient to gasp and choke on the drink, leading to multiple health problems.

The Thick & Easy Thickened Apple Juice is a pre-made carton of thickened apple juice that contains natural-apple flavors to give users the freshest and most authentic taste. The juice is available in honey and nectar consistencies allowing patients with various degrees of Dysphagia to indulge in a cup of delicious apple juice without concern.

Smoothe Foods Pureed  Pancakes with Blueberries and Ricotta Cheese

Many doctors recommend patients avoid foods like pancakes when they are diagnosed with Dysphagia. But, this soft and easily eatable pancake batter by Smoothe Foods is designed to go down easily, without causing any distress to the patient.

Flavored with pureed blueberries and ricotta cream cheese, the pancake batter offers delectable taste and excellent consistency, which are perfect for a healthy and fulfilling breakfast. 

There are packs of 12 and 24 available of 6oz quantity each.

Caring for patients with Dysphagia Caring for elderly patients with Dysphagia

Looking after a loved one with Dysphagia can be a challenging task. But doctors recommend a few steps which families can take to help give their loved one a better quality of life:

Take medication with a thickened juice or smoothie

Patients consuming oral medication need to bear in mind that Dysphagia makes swallowing tablets and pills a big challenge. If the pill can be crushed , powder it and mix it with a thickened juice or smoothie and consume.

If it can’t be crushed, request the physician to prescribe oral suspensions (liquid medication) instead.

Choose a dispenser equipment to feed the patient

Dysphagia in older patients can result in severe motor loss in the mouth and throat. Elderly patients may be unable to open their mouths big enough to swallow food. A food dispenser is a great solution for hassle-free feeding.

Thicken water with xanthan gum

Water in its natural liquid form can be difficult to consume due to the extreme weakness of muscles in the throat due to Dysphagia. Caregivers can thicken water with the xanthan gum thickeners and give patients their daily dose of hydration without problem.

Get the patient to the right posture before each activity

The ideal posture for Dysphagia patients during eating or drinking is the upright position. Its important for caregivers to keep the patient's heads straight when feeding. If the patient is bed-ridden or cannot sit upright, a pillow or bed wedge or the care giver's hand can be used to prop the head straight.

Spend time on feeding and care

Dysphagia patients who are afflicted by conditions like Parkinson's may take more time than most Dysphagia patients to eat. They may also get tired very easily and may end up being unable to chew or swallow food. It's important to break up the meals into 5-6 times across the day and spend at least 15-30 minutes on feeding the patient during each session.



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