Dysphagia is a medical term for a symptom that occurs in many diseases. Simply explained, it means having difficulty swallowing. Here we look at how to feed an elderly person with dysphagia.
The Effects of Dysphagia
It is important to understand what an elderly person with dysphagia experiences. Of this population that lives in care homes or some form of institution, roughly 50% show signs of dysphagia. When the condition is poorly grasped, it can result in caregivers labeling the person as difficult when they struggle to eat or take too long.
When an elderly person with dysphagia eats, food may spill from the mouth. Many elderly people find this embarrassing and are reluctant to take their meals in a group. They may also have dentures that are not correctly fitted or be missing teeth and have no dentures.
Some causes of dysphagia in the elderly are illnesses that result in confusion, or a stroke that has paralyzed one side of the face.
Foods That Can Be Given to Elderly Patients with Dysphagia
When dysphagia is accompanied by a lack of appetite or the person is not fed correctly, it can lead to malnutrition in the elderly. The right foods are needed for optimal health. High-fat food sources are soft cheeses, cream, butter, Greek yogurt, and avocado. These options can be mixed into meals to boost the diet.
Some foods should be avoided altogether. These include pastry of any kind and many unpureed foods – pieces of bread, beans, meat, potatoes, cheese, soup, rice, and pasta. Eggs must be excluded; this includes boiled, fried, or scrambled. No whole fruits should be given.
Feeding a senior is simplified by the SimplyThick thickener added to beverages. When taking medication, this must be swallowed with a thickened drink of water or juice. It is essential to keep the person well hydrated.
Often, seniors have no appetite. Try sticking to a regular schedule for meals and snacks so that the person anticipates eating. Provide small portions of quality food. Smoothies may be easier and tastier to consume.
During feeding, sit a bit below the person’s eye level which enables them to have their head in the best position. They must be seated upright. Portions should be small and of the right consistency.
Don’t try to feed someone who is sleepy. Supervise meals if they are feeding themselves, reminding them to chew and swallow. Only provide soft or pureed items and nothing dry like crackers. Foods should be thickened – avoid thin drinks.
If you are feeding a person who has had a stroke, give them food on the side of the face that hasn’t been affected. Allow time for them to finish each mouthful properly and don’t overload the mouth.
Limit conversation so that the elderly person can focus on eating. Prevent distractions as much as possible.
After the meal, make sure that no food remains in the mouth, which should be cleaned. The person should remain upright for an hour after eating so that no food enters the lungs. This can cause aspiration pneumonia.
If you have any concerns about an elderly person’s ability to eat without difficulties or notice that they battle to swallow, get the advice of a speech and language therapist. These professionals are trained to identify and deal with dysphagia.
Barry Lachey is a Professional Editor at Zobuz. Previously He has also worked for Moxly Sports and Network Resources “Joe Joe.” he is a graduate of the Kings College at the University of Thames Valley London. You can reach Barry via email or by phone.