No matter how hard you try, everyone eventually succumbs to the effects of getting older. Although it is a fact you get to grips with as you age, it can be difficult watching your loved ones grow older and develop various health conditions as they do so. Dysphagia is the medical term for swallowing difficulties, and it is a condition that can impact the quality of life of older people. It makes consuming food and drink difficult for seniors, and it can lead to dehydration, malnutrition, and other serious health complications. Whether your loved one lives with you, or you visit their home regularly, if they are experiencing swallowing difficulties, it is important to understand how to offer them support in managing their condition properly. Here are a few top tips to help your elderly relative cope with dysphagia.
- Speak to a Professional
First things first, if your elderly relative is showing symptoms of dysphagia, you need to encourage them to speak to their healthcare provider. Dysphagia can manifest due to several reasons, and only a healthcare professional can help identify the root cause and the type of dysphagia they have. Seeking professional assistance will ensure they receive a proper diagnosis and are given a treatment plan that is tailored to their needs.
For those who may require more intensive care after a diagnosis, considering options like senior rehabilitation can be beneficial. These programs often provide specialized therapies and support, ensuring that your loved ones regain their health and confidence in a supportive environment.
- Promote Small, Frequent Meals
People suffering from dysphagia may find it difficult to eat large meals. If this is the case for your relative, then encourage them to eat smaller meals more frequently throughout the day. This reduces the quantity of food they need to consume in one sitting and can minimize fatigue. It will also ensure they consume a steady supply of nutrients all day long too.
- Modify Textures to Suit Their Tastes
If your loved one has difficulty swallowing certain textures, you can help them consume their meals more easily by modifying their food using thickening products. SimplyThick for difficulty swallowing plays a vital role in making food and drinks more palatable. By creating an easier-to-swallow consistency, it can reduce the risk of your relative choking on their food. When using these types of products, it is important to consult with a healthcare professional first. Not to mention, everyone has different preferences and your relative may that a bit of trial and error is needed to find the best viscosity for them.
- Make Mealtimes More Enjoyable
Having swallowing difficulties can make mealtimes a challenge and can suck the joy out of eating. To help your relative cope with these difficulties, try to create a relaxed and pleasant atmosphere during mealtimes. Get rid of distractions, such as excess noise, and incorporate their favorite ingredients whenever possible. Providing variety in their meals in terms of flavors, cuisines, and presentation, can whet the appetite and spike their interest in food.
- Encourage Proper Positioning at Mealtimes
Encouraging proper positioning during mealtimes can have a positive effect on their ability to swallow safely. When they’re eating or drinking, make sure they are in an upright position and their head is tilted slightly forward. This helps facilitate the movement of food from the mouth through to the esophagus and down to the stomach. You can offer your relative added support by using cushions or pillows.