If an elder under your care has complained about swallowing difficulties, pain, and/or choking in recent past, they may have dysphagia. Dysphagia is a cluster term for several different kinds of swallowing difficulties and disorders but none of the variants can be diagnosed without adequate medical testing. Therefore, no one can tell for sure whether someone has dysphagia, without seeing the actual test results.
However, caregivers should be able to detect the signs and symptoms that accompany dysphagia and report their suspicions. Most experienced caregivers are able to tell if someone under their care has developed the symptoms, but medical confirmation would still be necessary to formulate a structured, multifaceted management plan. Go through the following to gain a clear outlook on how to suspect the early signs of dysphagia and what actions can be taken to remedy the situation.
Note the Complaints
If a senior under your care is complaining about any one or multiple of the following, contact the physician in charge for further advice. They will likely order a barium test or an endoscopy to investigate the problem.
- Difficulty and/or pain while trying to chew, breakdown and swallow food.
- Choking and coughing while eating and drinking.
- Complaining about food getting stuck in their throat and/or food pipe (esophagus).
- Voluntary and involuntary vomiting to alleviate the above sensation.
- Sore throat, often accompanied by consistently hoarse voice.
- Very frequent heartburn, acidity, and indigestion (symptoms of GERD).
- Visibly salivating without awareness or feeling hungry.
Look for Weight Loss and Dehydration
Patients suffering from Alzheimer’s disease will often develop symptoms of malnutrition and dehydration because of their forgetfulness. Unfortunately, it’s often a result of both amnesia and dysphagia. In seniors without a definite neurodegenerative condition such as vascular dementia or Alzheimer’s, weight loss and dehydration can be a more reliable indicator of chronic dysphagia. They may actively avoid eating and drinking as much as they can to avoid choking, discomfort, and pain. Fortunately, there are faster remedies which can bring immediate relief to suffering elders.
Thicken the Drinks to Negate Choking Hazard and Pain
Ensuring hydration used to be a more challenging task since drinking water without choking is nearly an impossible task for seniors suffering from severe oropharyngeal dysphagia. Drinking two to three liters of water every day while going through constant pain and choking sensations at every gulp is, in fact, an unreasonable expectation.
Insertion of a permanent hydration tube used to be the only reliable solution against dehydration in extreme cases before specialized thickeners came along. Thanks to xanthan gum based beverage thickeners, even diabetics can now raise the consistency of their daily beverages without raising their blood sugar. Follow SimplyThick, LLC on Twitter to know more about 0-calorie beverage thickeners and to stay updated with the latest news around dysphagia management.
Make Eating Easy and Pain-Free Again
Blend the food into thick and easy to swallow slurries first. Next, pay close attention during mealtimes to ensure they are eating the blended food properly. Help them with the feeding part as much as necessary. Plan their meals by selecting naturally nutritious food options and prepare dishes that do not clash with their swallowing difficulties. Avocado, squash, tofu, yogurt, and mashed potatoes are all good examples but you can turn most foods into dysphagia friendly meals with a blender. See this diet plan if you want to develop a more structured method for planning their daily diet.