There are many challenges in caregiving dealing with activities of daily living. One that is frequently seen is difficulty swallowing.
We often see this in people having difficulty with speech since those muscles are the same ones used to swallow. Patients may develop issues with eating or drinking. Here are tips to best manage this condition.
Alzheimer's, dementia, Parkinson's, a stroke, breathing problems, or general weakness this may cause this complication.
If you notice this, change the type of meat to a softer ground meat or change to a softer bread without a hard crust or eliminate bread if they cannot chew any alternative. You may try to massage their throat from the jaw down the front of their throat and say swallow to try to encourage their swallow reflex
Do inform the doctor of this immediately before the next doctor's appointment. The doctor might want to have some tests done to assess this, such as a swallow screening test or a video swallowing test. Once these tests are done, referral to speech therapy can assist in what diet and tips would be better to promote safe eating such as a soft or pureed diet. Exercises may be taught to strengthen their swallowing muscles.
If the person with difficulty swallowing resulting in choking, shows signs of distress, respiratory wise or changes blue colored. becomes weak or develops fever after a episode of coughing or choking while eating or drinking, seek immediate help by calling 9-1-1 or go to the nearest emergency room. Aspiration -- which means the food or liquid they drink might go into the lung instead of the esophagus -- may occur and can cause pneumonia.
To help reduce aspiration, encourage eating sitting up 45 or 90 degrees and remain sitting after a meal for 30 minutes. Cut food into small pieces and portions and encourage pacing the meal .Do not leave them unattended while eating or drinking.
Suzanne Holguin, RN, BSN, is assessment nurse and caregiver support group facilitator at the Friendship Centers of Emmet County. Send questions and comments to Caregiving Column, Attn. Suzanne Holguin RN, BSN, c/o Friendship Centers of Emmet County, 1322 Anderson Road, Petoskey, Mich. 49770; email@example.com; or 347-3211, ext. 15. The Caregiving column runs on the third Monday of every month.