Eating for better health: What is dysphagia?
In simple terms, dysphagia is difficulty swallowing. It doesn't sound like much of a problem unless you or someone you love suffers from this common senior issue. Then you know that it's much more than that. Consider that the average adult swallows around 600 times a day. If there is pain from swallowing, that is a lot of pain to deal with. Also, because this simple bodily function directly affects eating, the calories needed for good health end up not being ingested. This can set off a host of other issues. Dysphagia in older adults affects approximately 15 million Americans. Therefore, it is a huge concern in any care center, as it can directly influence a patient's health status. It can also lead to aspiration, choking, dehydration, malnutrition, and pneumonia. Clearly, food intake is crucial to residents' health and quality of life.
Patients with dysphagia often require a custom-prepared diet, such as thickened liquids or pureed foods. Also, nurses must assist with feeding. This can include placing food on one side of the mouth, limiting the use of straws, or helping with the use of feeding tools. In the dining room, our nursing staff who provide help to, monitor, or feed residents follow the techniques for safety and nutrition.
What Else Can We Do to Help Patients?
A speech-language therapist can help many patients learn methods to compensate for difficulty swallowing. At Arbors, all of our staff are trained to help support these vital goals and learn the necessary methods to safely assist our patients.
How Do We Train Our Staff to Assist Those with Dysphagia?
As part of their training, nursing staff receive instruction on helpful mealtime strategies. Additionally, staff discuss nutrition basics and how to plan a balanced diet menu, feed residents, and identify a choking victim in depth during training.
It is clearly in our resident's best interest that our staff be knowledgeable about the phases of swallowing. You can be confident that those involved with your loved one's care at Arbors understand the vital necessity of eating well and eating safely to our residents.