If an elderly relative used to enjoy sharing their favorite meal with you in the past but now cannot stand the foods they used to love, the issue could revolve around their ability to swallow. As you get older, the body takes longer to function, and this can affect the way you eat, drink, and swallow. Unfortunately, this can lead to aspiration pneumonia, choking, malnutrition, and dehydration. Here is a short guide to help you look after a loved one with dysphagia.
What is Dysphagia?
People with dysphagia have issues with swallowing. This could include not being able to swallow anything at all or having difficulty with swallowing certain fluids or foods. Statistics reveal that 1 in 25 people will experience dysphagia at some point in their lifetime, but it is especially common in older people.
Dysphagia in the Elderly
Studies show that 10 to 33 percent of older adults are affected by dysphagia, and it is often seen in stroke survivors and people with neurodegenerative diseases. These can include Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease. Dysphagia can also be an issue for older people due to a change in the esophageal and throat muscles and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). Not to mention, it can cause choking, which can lead to fatality, and aspiration pneumonia, which is when food accidentally enters the lungs.
Take Medicine with a Thickened Substance
Medication can be difficult to swallow, and this is especially true for people with dysphagia. If a pill or tablet doesn’t have to be taken whole, try crushing it up and mixing it into a thicker substance, such as apple sauce. The packaging should indicate whether you can crush the pill up or not. Alternatively, consult a pharmacist or your relative’s doctor before giving the pill to your loved one in this form.
Dysphagia can have a negative impact on overall health, but it can particularly affect hydration levels. In their original form, water and other liquids can be difficult for dysphagia sufferers to safely and efficiently keep down. Encourage your loved one to consume more fluids by thickening liquids and making sure they drink them throughout the day. Simply Thick is a food thickener that comes in an easy-to-mix gel form. Once mixed, this flavorless gel thickens liquid to a desired texture without creating any hard-to-swallow lumps.
It isn’t easy for people with dysphagia to get all of the nutrition they need without eating solid food. Nutritional drinks and shakes can be used to supplement a diet while pureeing an array of food can help you get your five a day.
Optimum Eating Position
If you take it upon yourself to assist your elderly relative directly with eating and drinking, make sure they are in the right position first. The best posture for patients to be in during drinking and eating is upright. Make sure your loved one’s head is straight while you feed them, and try not to feed them while they are reclined. Always try to prop them up with a pillow before you help them eat.