ARTICLES / General /
Social Aspects of Dysphagia /
By Jennifer Bradley, Staff Writer
It’s easier to take medications in a liquid
form, or crushed and mixed with pureed fruits.
Cooking, mashing, liquidizing and thickening
foods as necessary are ways to make them easily
swallowed by a loved one with dysphagia.
While eating out or at a social gathering,
a caregiver should plan ahead. Call the host or
restaurant and explain the situation, so it’s not a
big deal in front of a loved one. This eliminates
extra stress on both parties, and makes the outing
as smooth as possible, and even “normal.” Without
planning, it could be a major upset if the host is
While these tips may seem simple, they are also
time-consuming and overwhelming for someone with
dysphagia. A caregiver can help by involving a loved
one in the process of food preparation, or just
picking where to eat and what to eat on an outing.
It helps build self-esteem, but also promotes saliva
flow, which will help in swallowing when it’s time.
A big strategy is patience, and taking enough
time when eating with a loved one. Rushing through a
meal is an open invitation for aspiration or
choking. Encourage a loved one to eat small amounts
and if possible, smaller, more frequent meals.
Sometimes fatigue and weakness reduce swallowing
ability and causes distress in a loved one.
The posture a loved one has during eating and
drinking is extremely important if they suffer from
dysphagia. Sitting upright will help both breathing
and swallowing, as will having both feet flat on the
floor. After meals, it’s necessary for a caregiver
to help a loved one remain upright for 30 to 45
minutes, to reduce the chances of reflux issues
A therapist may recommend simple fixes such as
before swallowing, having a loved one lower their
chin toward the chest to reduce the chance of food
going down the “wrong tube.” Also, small mouthfuls
will give more control over the chewing and
swallowing, to reduce the possibility of the food
slipping to the back of the throat before it’s
Sometimes a variety of “tools” may help as well,
such as a special straw that prevents liquids from
falling to the bottom once sucked up. Therapeutic
cups are available to take along which will aid in a
loved one only receiving a small, measured amount of
the drink during each swallow.
While social conversation is a big part of a
meal-time gathering, it can be dangerous for a loved
one with dysphagia. Talking is connected with
breathing, and if a person is excited to share
something, it’s easy for them to forget about the
food or drink they need to swallow at the same time.