A Medical Look at Dysphagia /
By Valeri Thelen, Staff Writer
Another thing to monitor is food with mixed
consistency, meaning both liquid and solid elements.
An example is cereal with milk. The milk can get to
the throat sooner and cause swallowing issues. Mushy
cereal may be a good fix.
Salad is another big no-no for those with swallowing
concerns. Lettuce is very difficult to make
manageable. The dressing is the other concern, as
with the milk and cereal scenario. It can get to the
throat sooner and be swallowed before the person is
Fruit is many times a mixed consistency food,
with skin and juices blending, as may be ice cream
and gelatins that start out as solids and melt to a
thin liquid in the mouth.
While lifestyle changes are likely, many people
with swallowing issues find ways to manage the
concern and live full, social lives. A caregiver can
help with the embarrassment factor, especially in
public settings, by planning ahead, whether itís
calling the restaurant or talking to the party host.
ONGOING TREATMENT & EVALUATION
Even if treatment is going well, caregivers must
not let themselves or a loved one feel that the
dysphagia has been completely overcome and get
comfortable. Itís still a very dangerous,
life-threatening condition if not monitored properly
Here are some tips for living with chronic
- Watch for respiratory difficulties such as
coughing, rapid breathing, wheezing, chest pain
or changes in voice.
- Continue with the therapist-approved
swallowing exercises that involve breathing,
coughing and chewing.
- Continue to work on overall fitness, muscle
strength, balance and posture.
- Keep the mind and body active with reading,
games and word puzzles, etc.
- At bedtime, keep a loved oneís head elevated
to 30 degrees to minimize aspiration and reflux.
Part of a caregiverís challenge is to help a
loved one find support. A counselor, therapist and
even support group can help those involved find
encouragement, support, and even information on the
Prevention of dysphagia is not usually possible.
While some of the symptoms cannot completely be
erased, especially if neurological, early detection
and treatment can help minimize the lasting effects.
Eating and chewing slowly is an important technique
for those already diagnosed, and a lesson in
patience for loved ones, albeit a lesson well worth
Treatment of swallowing problems is ongoing, and
a caregiver and loved one must understand that the
initial plan is likely not the final one. The
swallowing specialist will cater the treatment to a
personís progress and also changes in health if
necessary. A caregiver must always keep a health
care provider in the loop of a loved oneís advance
directives, and changes in condition, in case the
treatment is no longer necessary or pertinent.