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Social Aspects of Dysphagia

By Jennifer Bradley, Staff Writer

(Page 1 of 3)  

On average, a person swallows 600 times a day. Every swallow requires four stages, 25 different muscles and five nerves. Drinking water or eating is something most people take for granted, while others struggle with these basic abilities on a daily basis.

Swallowing disorders (dysphagia) can be caused by a variety of issues including medical, neurological, structural, or complications with medication.  Because of this, each loved one has individual needs and concerns, especially when in social settings.

Embarrassment from loss of control or gazing onlookers may cause a loved one to become unwilling to be in a public venue, or even at a family gathering. As a caregiver, itís important to keep instilling a sense of self and independence for a loved one, yet help them deal with swallowing concerns as they arise.

Quality of Life

Thereís no denying that eating is a social activity. Changes to a personís ability to eat will surely have a large impact on the enjoyment of dining with others. Dysphagia can cause poor nutrition, dehydration, risk of aspiration and overall isolation.

Symptoms include:

  • coughing during or right after eating or drinking;
  • wet or gurgling sounding voice during or after eating or drinking;
  • extra effort or time needed to chew or swallow;
  • food or liquid leaking from or getting stuck in the mouth;
  • recurring pneumonia or chest congestion after eating; and
  • weight loss or dehydration from not being able to eat enough.

Anxiety about these symptoms becoming noticeable causes a loved one to worry and have fears of swallowing, especially in social settings. 

Quality of life is something a caregiver can maintain for a loved one by understanding, changing positioning, making proper food choices and helping with safe swallowing strategies as well as diet modification.

Foods which are stringy, floppy, or coarse and those that require a controlled movement are hard for someone with dysphagia to consume. Some examples include bacon, lettuce, peanuts, raw foods and peanut butter.


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