ARTICLES / General / Thanksgiving with Dysphagia
By Bobbi Carducci
Thanksgiving is the holiday most focused on
gathering around the table with family and
friends to share a sumptuous feast. My
father-in-law, Rodger, was never one to miss a
meal. He ate breakfast, lunch, and supper at
precisely the same time every day. He grew up on
a farm in Italy. Like most Italians he had a
very healthy appetite.
When advancing Parkinson’s disease and dementia
triggered severe swallowing problems I knew I
had to be creative. Everything he ate had to be
pureed and any liquids had to be thickened to
the consistency of honey. I bought a food
processor and experimented with ways prepare him
tasty versions of the things he loved to eat. I
showed him that the mushy stuff he insisted
wasn’t food was the same thing he used to eat. I
had him watch me mash the potatoes, prepare the
vegetables, and put them in the food processor.
“This is real food,” he finally admitted.
“But it’s not as good. I need the real, real
I wanted to serve him roast chicken, a baked
potato and fresh green beans with a slice of
apple pie with ice cream for dessert. He
should have been able to eat anything he wanted.
But the danger was too great.
I made a lot of thick soups and stews full of
vegetables and beans. Flavor and nutrition were
my main focus and when the peas turned the
pureed chicken stew green I told him it was one
of my Irish specialties. He ate it all.
When Thanksgiving came and the house filled with
wonderful of aroma of roasting turkey and baking
pies I made sure he was able to enjoy as many of
his favorite dishes as possible.
Here is my recipe for A Dysphagia Thanksgiving:
Turkey – I tried pureeing both dark and white
meat turkey and found it too grainy so I used a
well-known brand of junior baby food and pureed
it further to remove all lumps.
1 cup homemade stuffing – Place in food
processor with 2 tablespoons of homemade gravy.
Puree until smooth, making sure all the lumps
are removed. (Add gravy one teaspoon at a time
½ cup mashed potatoes – mash or puree to remove
all lumps. Add gravy to the potatoes for
½ cup creamed spinach – puree until very smooth
For dessert – remove crust from one slice of
pumpkin pie, top with whipped cream.
At the end of the meal he said, “This is just
like my wife used to make.” I knew it wasn’t
true but as long as he enjoyed it there was
reason to be truly thankful.
An estimated 15 million people in the United
States have the current diagnosis of
Dysphagia. Patients with Dysphagia are at
high risk for aspiration pneumonia, which
weakens them and can lead to death. Nearly
60,000 people die each year from complications
associated with swallowing disorders.
Carducci is a caregiver advocate, blogger, and
author. Her book, Confessions of an Imperfect
Caregiver, was written for caregivers, those who
may become caregivers, and the families of
caregivers who want to understand what it’s
really like to be a caregiver. The Imperfect
Caregiver blog is found at