Did you know that in addition to helping people communicate, speech-language pathologists can help people who have trouble swallowing too? Dysphagia, or trouble swallowing, is a common problem that can be the result of a range of problems, from stroke, to dementia, to neurological diseases like cerebral palsy. The way in which a person’s swallow is affected can vary widely from person to person: some people have trouble chewing food or moving it around in their mouth, others have difficulty triggering a swallow, and others may have trouble with food and liquid going into their lungs instead of their stomach. Although the specifics may change from person to person, there are some general strategies you can use to help make swallowing safer for a person with dysphagia. Check out these five tips:
- Often dysphagia can worsen with fatigue. It may help to eat more challenging foods earlier in the day. Having more frequent, smaller meals can also make swallowing easier for a person with dysphagia.
- Slow down. Eating at a slow, relaxed pace can make swallowing safer and more manageable. Small sips and bites will also make swallowing safer by making it easier to prevent food from entering the airway, and making it less dangerous if it does.
- Many people with dysphagia need to eat food with an altered texture (e.g., pureed or softened food or thickened liquids), but this doesn’t mean flavor has to suffer. Experiment with herbs, spices, and different combinations of ingredients to all food textures. Use butter, gravy, or sauce to soften and moisten favorite foods. Presentation can also help make altered foods more palatable: try using different garnishes and scoop sizes and serving styles.
- Alternate sips of liquids (thickened if necessary; follow your doctor’s recommendation) between bites to help clear food residue and help food to go down more easily.
- If you are feeding someone with dysphagia, always sit down and feed them at eye level. Feeding them while standing will cause the head to naturally tilt back, making it more likely that food will enter the lungs.
Want to learn more? If you have any questions or would like to know more about speech-language therapy, give me a call at (212) 308-7725 or send an e-mail to email@example.com. I’d be happy to chat and answer any questions you may have.
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