Care Tips for Seniors With Dysphagia

Care Tips for Seniors With Dysphagia

Seniors who have trouble swallowing can benefit from a variety of easy-to-implement care tips.

There’s nothing better than a tall, cold drink on a warm summer day, but for someone with dysphagia, this simple pleasure can be downright dangerous. There are millions of seniors with dysphagia – or trouble swallowing – due to weakened mouth and/or throat muscles. Alzheimer’s, MS, cancer, and stroke are all culprits as well. 

Signs of dysphagia include:

  • Drooling
  • Coughing, gagging or choking when eating, drinking, or taking medication
  • A gurgling sound in the senior’s voice after eating/drinking

Additionally, if you suspect dysphagia in an older family member, ask him or her the following questions – and check with the doctor right away for further guidance:

  • Are you coughing or choking when trying to eat or drink?
  • Are you having frequent problems with food “going down the wrong pipe?”
  • Is food getting caught in your throat? 
  • Is it taking you longer to eat than it used to?
  • Are you losing weight?

If you’re caring for seniors with dysphagia, keep these tips in mind:

  1. Pay attention to posture. Make sure the senior is sitting fully upright, at a 90-degree angle, before attempting to eat or drink.
  2. Skip the straw. Straws increase the rate at which the liquid goes into the mouth, which can cause choking or aspiration. 
  3. Thicken liquids. Most pharmacies sell thickening powders or gels that should be added to all fluids for those with dysphagia. However, avoid serving jello and ice cream, which change from their thickened form to a liquid in the mouth.
  4. Keep nutritional needs in mind. Good choices for dysphagia-friendly foods include yogurt, pureed fruits, pureed veggies, pureed beans, and pureed lentils, avocado, soft cheese, and creamy nut butters. Find some simple, dysphagia-friendly recipes here. 
  5. Think through medication administration. Washing down pills with thickened liquid can be difficult. Check with the prescribing doctor and/or pharmacist to see if meds can be crushed and mixed with applesauce or pudding to help them go down easier.
  6. Timing is everything. The fatigue that accompanies a chronic health condition that causes dysphagia can make it difficult to eat or drink for more than 15 minutes at a time. Try to plan meals around times when the senior is least tired, and have thickened drinks available throughout the day to ensure hydration.

Hired Hands Home Care can help plan and prepare healthy meals and thickened drinks for a senior with dysphagia, and we’ll even pick up all of the ingredients, too! Contact us for a free consultation at (866) 940-4343 and to learn more about our award-winning at-home caregivers in Marin and surrounding communities. Visit our Service Area page to learn about all the communities where we provide care. 

One thought on “Care Tips for Seniors With Dysphagia

  1. Those are some really helpful tips, Mark! Difficulty in swallowing can be extremely troubling. Another helpful tip would be to offer them sugar-free gum or candies between meals. It helps induce the glands to produce saliva and keep the mouth moist.

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