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Dysphagia, or difficulty in swallowing food or drinking, is a cause of concern in seniors. Due to dysphagia, they may suffer from malnutrition, aspiration pneumonia and dehydration. It affects almost 15% of the older adults.

Dysphagia has various causes, one of them being age. It can also be caused by cancer, multiple sclerosis or stroke. The muscles in the mouth and throat weaken and cause difficulty in swallowing.

If you have a loved one who is suffering from dysphagia, the following tips can help you in easing their discomfort and taking better care of them:

Medicines: If they have discomfort swallowing food, they will also face an issue swallowing medicines. You can crush their pills into something sweet since medicine tastes bitter. If it’s a liquid medication they are on, you may need to mix it with a thicker beverage like a milkshake. There are some pills that are not supposed to be crushed, and in that case, always take the doctor’s suggestion on what to do.

Avoid straws: Straws may seem ideal for your loved one, but they are not recommended for people with dysphagia. When they drink without a straw, they can control the amount of liquid they are drinking. A straw increases the flow of liquid, and since their throat muscles are already weak, they can’t swallow everything and this may lead to choking.

Hydration: People with dysphagia need to be given thickened liquids to control bolus prevent aspiration. Staying hydrated is very important in dysphagia, therefore, you should ensure you thicken their food and drinks. You can use naturally thickeners, like curd, fruit pulp or mashed vegetables instead of buying thickeners from stores.

Getting enough nutrition: Mal-nourishment is one of the biggest problems in patients of dysphagia and ensuring they get all the minerals and vitamins is important. High fat foods like peanut butter, coconut cream, cheeses and nuts can be blended and added to savory food to increase the calorie count so that they can maintain a healthy weight. You can also mix fruits like bananas, mangoes and cream to milk to make thick shakes for them. You can make thick soups by using paalak, mushroom, peas, cauliflower and other vegetables for them. This will ensure they get all the fruits and vegetables they need and their nourishment is on point.

Avoid ice-creams and jellies: Ice creams and jellies melt and become liquid in the mouth, causing aspiration. If you must, add them into milk and make a thick shake instead of giving them cold desserts directly.

Posture: It is important for them to sit upright when eating and drinking to avoid choking. Sitting upright makes the food go down successfully. They also get tired when eating and cannot eat for more than 15 minutes as swallowing is a task. So ensure you practice patience and love with them.

With your love, care and a patient approach, you can take care of a loved one with dysphagia in a better way. It is also important that you follow up on all their doctor’s appointments.

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