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How to Cope With Swallowing Issues - Dysphagia

Dysphagia can occur at any age, but it is more common in older adults and people who have problems of the brain or nervous system. The causes of swallowing issues vary, and the treatment depends on the cause. Helping a loved one's struggle to swallow is frightening and heartbreaking.

Signs & symptoms associated with dysphagia can include:

  • Difficulty of inability to swallow

  • Experiencing pain when swallowing

  • Liquids or food leaking from the mouth

  • Drooling

  • Coughing or gagging when swallowing

  • The sensation of food being stuck in the throat or chest

  • Regurgitation or vomiting

  • Extended time spent at meal time

  • Frequent heartburn

  • Weight loss

  • Aspiration pneumonia

When these signs appear it is important to further explore the cause by a visit to the doctor for an official assessment. If an obstruction interferes with breathing, call for emergency assistance immediately.

What you can do to cope:

  • Puree foods or utilize a soft, mashed diet

  • Liquid diets may be recommended by your doctor

  • Thicken liquids with a thickener or pureed fruit

  • Allow adequate time for chewing and swallowing

  • Tilt the chin down towards the chest when swallowing

  • Sit upright not slumped or reclining

  • Eat smaller more frequent meals

  • Eat more slowly and remove any distractions to allow for concentration

  • Avoid foods that can cause trouble such as peanut butter

  • In severe cases a feeding tube may be necessary

Possible causes and risk factors:

  • Muscular dystrophy, multiple sclerosis and Parkinson's

  • Certain cancers and cancer treatment

  • Stroke, brain or spinal cord injury

  • A pouch that forms and collects food particles in your throat right above the esophagus

Swallowing difficulties can't be prevented but you can reduce your risk by eating slowly and chewing all food well before swallowing. Early detection and effective treatment are the key to successfully managing the illness. For family members assisting a loved one, it can require a lot of patience. Give the person all the time they need to finish their meal, use eye contact and encourage them with visual cues.

Consult Atlanta's most trusted source for quality Home Care assistance, Easy Living Services. We have supported Atlanta families in their efforts to keep loved ones fulfilled and safe at home since 1994. Offering flexible care plans designed to assure, comfort, companionship and personal attention to your loved one.

Call us for a complimentary consultation. 770-442-8664

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