Tips For Feeding People With Dysphagia
Have you ever cared for someone with dysphagia? Are you caring for someone now whom you think may have dysphagia?
What is dysphagia?
Dysphagia means difficulty swallowing. It occurs more often in the elderly. 40-60% of older adults in institutions have signs of dysphagia. Such clients have been called “difficult” or “uncooperative” because they were not eating quickly.
Dysphagia can cause food to leak or spill out of the mouth. It can lead to poor nutrition and weight loss. People can get pneumonia if food goes into the lungs. Feelings of shame are possible and a person with dysphagia may not want to eat with other people around.
Dysphagia can be caused by confusion. Some illnesses, such as strokes, that can lead to weakness and paralysis of the face can also cause it. Some medications can cause it. Having many teeth missing and no dentures or poorly fitting dentures can also lead to dysphagia.
What are the signs of dysphagia?
The following are general tips that may help when feeding older people with dysphagia:
• Supervise during mealtime.
• Sit the person upright.
• Only feed when he or she is wide awake.
• Ensure dentures fit well.
• Encourage the person to chew food well.
• Offer only small bites of food.
• Place food on the unaffected side of the face.
• Allow the person plenty of time to eat.
• Remind the person to chew and swallow.
• Serve soft foods if he or she has difficulty chewing.
• Serve thick liquids. Thick liquids are easier to swallow. Thin liquids, such as water and tea, should be avoided.
• Don’t use straws.
• Avoid dry foods such as crackers.
• Provide pleasant surroundings that are free from distractions.
• Avoid asking questions during the meal. People with swallowing difficulties need to concentrate at mealtime.
• Check the person’s mouth after meals to ensure all food has been swallowed.
• Provide mouth care after the meal.
• Keep the person sitting up for at least 30-60 minutes after the meal to prevent food from going into the lungs.
• Let your supervisor or health care professional know if you notice that anyone in your care is having swallowing problems. A health care professional should assess the person.
Remember that every person is an individual. Some of the tips mentioned above may not be suitable depending upon the cause of the dysphagia and how serious the person’s condition is. As well, you may have to follow guidelines that are not mentioned above for other people. Follow the care plan and doctor’s orders for the person in your care.
All About Feeding Older People
Whether they’re living at home or in a long term care residence, older people frequently require assistance with their meals. They may be unable to feed themselves because of overall weakness, paralysis, or confusion. Or they may be able to feed themselves, but will need help preparing their meal trays. You can have a major impact on an older person’s nutrition by knowing how to provide assistance and encouragement at mealtime.