Having difficulty swallowing foods and liquids is a serious concern for seniors. In many cases, the reason for this is dysphagia, which is a condition that can cause dehydration, malnutrition, and even aspiration pneumonia. It’s estimated that 15% of seniors suffer from this condition, so if you have been recently diagnosed, here are some expert tips on how to manage it.
If you have been diagnosed with dysphagia and you normally would take oral medication with water, you will now need a thickened beverage to swallow them with. There are thickening agents like SimplyThick you can use which can be added to your beverages. You can also crush the pills and blend them with thicker foods like applesauce, but check with a doctor or pharmacist before doing this. If the pills cannot be crushed, make sure to mask the taste with something sweet.
For those with a dysphagia diagnosis, it’s more important than ever to keep hydrated. However, any drinks you consume (including water) must now be thickened. Naturally, drinking a thickened liquid will take longer when compared to non-thickened, so to keep your hydration levels up, this will require lots of patience and attention.
Get Enough Nutrition
A lot of dysphagia patients have great difficulty getting enough minerals, vitamins, and calories in their body. There are lots of ways you can incorporate nutritional ingredients and whole foods into your diet, including high-fat foods like peanut butter, avocado, and Greek yogurt. You can also eat easily pureed food such as refined beans, winter squash, and spinach. If you speak to a nutritionist, you may find they advise you to add therapeutic drink mixes or protein mixes to your diet to help you maintain your weight.
Use the Correct Posture
If you have dysphagia, when eating and drinking, you must be sat completely upright. The reason for this is so food and beverages can go down with ease. If you’re a senior and are struggling with your mobility, you may need a wheelchair or spend more time in a recliner chair. If this is the case, your backrest may need to be adjusted to hold your head up as you eat and drink.
Know What to Avoid
Once you have a general idea of the foods you can eat as part of a dysphagia-friendly diet, there are a handful of foods that must be avoided at all costs. Unfortunately, for those who love to eat ice cream and jello, this isn’t a good mix for those with dysphagia. Instead, you should blend ice cream with ingredients like peanut butter or bananas to create a thicker substance. When eating fruits and vegetables, you must ensure that the skin is removed first. If you have any concerns, don’t hesitate to speak to your doctor.
Dysphagia affects over 5 million seniors across the United States, meaning you aren’t alone. The tips above can help you manage your condition effectively, and ensure you enjoy your senior years without worrying about the complications.