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Social Aspects of Dysphagia

By Jennifer Bradley, Staff Writer

(Page 2 of 3)  

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 not aware.


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 occurring.

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 properly chewed.

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.


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