Coping with a loved one with dysphagia (swallowing difficulty) is a frightening and frustrating experience. Caring for someone involves nourishing and nurturing them, but this becomes harder to accomplish when food and its pleasure doesn’t have the effect it used to have.

This might seem illogical, but it doesn’t feel good when your best efforts to feed your loved one results in them either gagging or coughing. There is a need to understand, though, that this isn’t a fault of ours. A lot of factors and diseases can cause swallowing difficulty. While battling with this, all we can really do is educate ourselves about dysphagia and learn how to care for loved ones with it.

1. Medicine

If your loved one used to take their oral medicine with water, they will likely now have to use a thickened beverage to swallow them. A great choice of thickener is SimplyThick Easy Mix as it will help them to enjoy their drinks without losing its taste. The pills can also be crushed and mixed in with thicker foods like applesauce or pudding.

Pills normally don’t taste great, especially when they’re coated. Making use of vanilla or chocolate pudding to reduce the bad taste is a great idea. This way, your loved one will be able to take their medication without issues.

You should take note that there are pills that shouldn’t be crushed, so make sure that you talk to the pharmacist about these pills. You could ask them if there’s a liquid version of this pill. This will be easier to swallow since it can be thickened.

2. Avoid straws

Even though it depends on their condition, speech pathologists will likely tell you that it’s not a good idea for people battling with dysphagia to make use of straws. It might seem helpful to use a straw – especially if you have swallowing difficulty – but with straws, liquid flow rate in the mouth is increased. This will make it harder for the weakened muscles to direct the liquid to the right pipe. That’s why aspiration and choking may occur.

3. Stay hydrated

Hydration is important for everyone, although for people with dysphagia, water and drinks need to be thickened. It takes longer to drink thickened liquids than non-thickened ones, meaning you will need patience and proper attention for this process.

4. Skip ice cream and jello

Jello and ice cream may feel like staple deserts, but if you’re trying to prevent aspiration, they are not ideal choices. This is because both jello and ice cream can melt and turn into thin liquid inside the mouth. This could lead to aspiration when swallowed.

For people with swallowing difficulties, it takes their jaw and tongue a longer time to take foods to the base of the throat. This means that foods like jello and ice cream will likely melt before they’re swallowed.

5. Get enough nutrition

It can be a challenge for most dysphagia patients to get the right amount of calories and vitamins they need. Foods that are high in fat like avocado, Greek yogurt, soft cheeses and peanut butter can be mixed with dishes so that the calorie content is increased. Easily pureed foods such as beans, steamed vegetables and fruits can be added to thickened soups. This will provide vital nutrients.