Guest blogger Kelly Fortune, a nutritionist with Wiltshire Farm Foods, dishes up some dining advice for people with swallowing difficulties.
The ability to eat and drink safely is something that many people take for granted, but for people with dysphagia (swallowing difficulties), eating meals can be an arduous and even dangerous process.
There are many reasons why someone might suffer from dysphagia, but it is most commonly brought on by another serious condition such as stroke, Parkinson’s disease, dementia, head or neck cancers or a learning disability. Dysphagia can cause malnutrition and dehydration, as people may avoid eating or they simply cannot eat or drink enough. As well as the health issues, dysphagia can really make mealtimes a difficult process and struggling to eat can take all the pleasure out of good food. So, what can be done?
There are certain issues to consider when treating or living with dysphagia, which can often be easily overlooked, but can make a real difference to the wellbeing and happiness of those with dysphagia.
Allow those with dysphagia to dine independently, for more dignified mealtimes. By making small changes like using adapted plates or cutlery, or placing crockery on a non-slip mat, it can be much easier for people to feed themselves and go at their own pace. There’s nothing worse than trying to rush a meal because you fear you’re eating too slowly – and it can be hazardous as chances of choking are higher.
Always try to make sure food is presented in an appetising way. No one likes being served a plate of mush, especially with a lessened appetite. By asking, ‘Would I be happy with this meal?’ it’s easy to gauge whether someone with dysphagia would like it too! If food needs to be texture modified, then try blending the different parts of the meal, for example meat and vegetables, separately so they look more appealing.
Remember, it’s not just the texture of food that sometimes needs to be modified when people are on a dysphagia diet, but also liquids and medicines. For people with dysphagia swallowing tablets can be difficult or dangerous, so speak to your healthcare provider and speech and language therapist if their medication is required in a liquid form. Liquids may also need to be modified to a certain consistency to ensure the person is getting plenty of fluids, in a safe way but always seek advice from a speech and language therapist.
Try, where possible, to make sure you are catering to people’s individual tastes and preferences. Likes and dislikes remain the same, even if the person has trouble swallowing! There are great options out there for people on a dysphagia diet, from home-blending solutions to pre-prepared meals to pop in the microwave, so do some research and see which suits the person best.
Dining independently and safely, with appetising food can really make a person’s day and could mean the risk of malnutrition and dehydration is greatly reduced. So, by using these tips you can help people with dysphagia experience safe and enjoyable mealtimes, which can really boost a person’s quality of life.
About Wiltshire Farm Foods
Wiltshire Farm Foods are the UK’s leading frozen meals home delivery service, delivering nutritious meals made with customers’ needs in mind. Find out more at www.wiltshirefarmfoods.com