Difficulty swallowing, known as dysphagia, is a condition that affects eating and drinking. While some changes may be necessary, adapting and embracing change is the best way to feel more at ease and in control.
Encourage Good Eating Habits
To make swallowing easier, as well as safer, good posture is important. Eating and swallowing should always be done sitting upright, never when slouching or lying down. It is also important to take smaller mouthfuls and eat slowly, chewing food up as much as possible before swallowing.
Straws might seem useful, but they may cause larger amounts of liquid to be taken in very quickly. The main risk with thin liquids is aspiration, and aspiration pneumonia. This is why they should be avoided, instead opting for small sips.
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Depending on the individual’s needs, thin liquids may be ruled out altogether. This also includes foods such as ice-cream which melt into thin liquids while they are eaten. Ice-cream can be blended with banana for example, to make a better consistency. Thickeners can be added to drinks, both hot and cold, to make them the desired consistency. For example, SimplyThick is a product which can be added to most drinks, including beer and wine. This is a great way to make favorite beverages available again.
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If the texture and consistency of foods is more limited, it is important that meals are made more enjoyable with great flavor and variety. Taking the time to use a variety of ingredients and put together meals can seem intimidating, but even simple combos such as mango and coconut milk can create great flavor. There are also time-saving methods such as batch-cooking and using slow-cookers, which can help free up time on busier days.
Plan and Prep
To ensure that meals are nutritional and provide enough calories and hydration each day, it can be helpful to create meal planners. Planning meals and keeping track of calories can be done via a variety of apps, or through pen and paper journaling if that’s your preference. Stationery stores are often stocked up on planners too.
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Gadgets and Utensils
You don’t necessarily need lots of new equipment for cooking, but a few items can help speed things up and make cooking simpler. It can be useful to invest in something if it is going to make a big positive difference and improvement to cooking. There are lots of great gadgets out there, so reading reviews and figuring out what would work best is well worth the time. From slow cookers and instant pots to blenders and food processors, there is a lot of choice in the kitchen department.
Learning more about dysphagia is also a good way to support someone with the condition. Having more knowledge means you have a better perspective on things, even if it is not a condition you have yourself. You should also learn more about safety and potential risks, such as choking and aspiration, so that you can recognize and react quicker in times of danger.
Patience and compassion are also key to supporting anyone through their condition or circumstances. Hopefully the advice in this article can help you to provide great support to someone with dysphagia.