Life-Saving Tips to Care for a Senior with Dysphagia

Family caregiver handing a glass of water to senior loved one
Use these tips to help care for a senior with dysphagia.

On those warm summer days, there’s nothing better than a tall, cold drink. However, this simple pleasure may be downright dangerous for an aging adult with dysphagia. Dysphagia – or difficulty with swallowing – impacts millions of seniors, due to weakened mouth and/or throat muscles. Cancer, Alzheimer’s, MS and stroke are typical culprits as well. To care for a senior with dysphagia is not an easy feat, but Heaven at Home Senior Care can help!

Indications of dysphagia include:

  • Coughing, choking, or gagging when drinking, eating, or taking medications
  • Drooling
  • A gurgling sound in the senior’s voice after eating/drinking

If you notice signs of dysphagia in an aging loved one, ask them the following questions, and then consult the physician as soon as possible for further help:

  • Are you having regular issues with food “going down the wrong pipe?”
  • Have you been coughing or choking when attempting to eat or drink?
  • Is it taking you longer to eat than it used to?
  • Is food getting caught in your throat?
  • Have you been losing weight?

If you’re providing care for a senior with dysphagia, keep these strategies in mind:

  1. Avoid straws. Straws speed up the rate at which the liquid enters into the mouth, which can cause choking or aspiration.
  2. Pay attention to posture. Ensure that the older adult is sitting fully upright, at a 90-degree angle, before trying to eat or drink.
  3. Mind their nutrition. Good options for dysphagia-friendly foods include yogurt, pureed fruits, pureed veggies, pureed lentils, and pureed beans, soft cheese, avocado, and creamy nut butters. Find some easy dysphagia-friendly recipes here.
  4. Thicken liquids. Most pharmacies sell thickening gels or powders that should be added to all fluids for anyone with dysphagia. However, avoid serving jello and ice cream, which change from their thickened form to a liquid in the mouth.
  5. Timing is everything. The fatigue that accompanies a chronic medical condition that creates dysphagia can make it tough to drink or eat for more than a quarter-hour at any given time. Make an effort to plan meals around times when the senior is least tired, and have thickened beverages available during the day to ensure hydration.
  6. Consider prescription drug administration. Washing down pills with thickened liquid can be challenging. Speak with the prescribing doctor and/or pharmacist to see if prescription drugs can be crushed and mixed with applesauce or pudding to help them go down easier.

Heaven at Home Senior Care is available to help plan and prepare healthy meals and thickened beverages for a loved one with dysphagia, and we will even pick up all of the ingredients, too! To learn more about our Frisco in-home care and care throughout the nearby areas, reach out to us online or at (940) 380-0500 to schedule a complimentary consultation today.