Understanding Dysphagia in Seniors—What to Know and How to Help

Providing care for elderly. Doctor visiting elderly patient at home.

If you live with your parents or grandparents and watch over their health, once you notice them having difficulty swallowing food or liquid, they’re likely experiencing dysphagia. Unfortunately, the condition can worsen over time, especially if a person faces a stroke, dementia, or other illnesses related to old age.

Often, dysphagia happens because of a health condition originating from one’s brain or nervous system. Failure to address swallowing problems could result in worse cases, such as brain injury, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, head or neck cancer, and more. 

Ways to assist an older adult experiencing dysphagia include watching over prominent signs of their swallowing problems and seeking home health care to come to their aid. For more information, keep reading below to find out about dysphagia and how to prevent it. 

What is Dysphagia? 

Dysphagia is a health condition you must pay better attention to if your loved one is experiencing trouble swallowing because they require food and water to live comfortably daily. Since they can only acquire adequate nutrients and minerals from what they consume, if they cannot have food or water, their health could be on the line. 

The elderly have become at risk of dysphagia through the years. Since it affects their good health, it could lead to pneumonia or other lung or breathing concerns if it isn’t treated ASAP. If one isn’t careful, swallowing food or water could lead to the lungs than the stomach. 

If your loved one’s swallowing concern gets worse, they might end up requiring eating or drinking from a tube so that they can receive the proper nutrition to keep their body strong. Facing dysphagia can impact their well-being unless you seek hospice care for assistance. 

Symptoms of Dysphagia

Dysphagia isn’t permanent, so you can detect it and find out if your loved one has it just by watching them struggle to swallow the food they’re eating or the liquids they’re drinking. If they cough every time they consume something, tend to have a wet voice or gurgle when eating or drinking, or exert more effort to chew or swallow their food, they have dysphagia. 

Other signs are drinking and resulting in liquid leaking from their mouth or getting stuck in their throat, chest congestion after their meals, or experiencing pneumonia. It’s also possible to lose weight or get dehydrated because they cannot enjoy their food and drinks. 

You must watch over your loved ones if they have dysphagia. If your schedule will not allow it, the best thing you can do to help is call for home nursing care to come to their aid. Appointing someone to watch over them prevents unwanted incidents from happening that could put your loved one’s health at risk.  

How to Treat Dysphagia 

The most reliable solution for treating your loved one’s dysphagia is to consult with a doctor or healthcare provider. They could suggest that your parents or grandparents work with a speech therapist or speech-language pathologist (SLP) to manage their swallowing issues. 

After your loved one undergoes an evaluation with a specialist, they will receive personalized plans that are dedicated to helping them keep their throat muscles firm. They may also provide diet recommendations to help your loved one swallow easier and practice positions or techniques to let them swallow safely and normally again. 

Dysphagia differs for each person because other factors are involved, such as how old your loved one is, their current health condition, and the cause of their swallowing problems. The important thing is to seek a doctor’s help while it’s still early. 

Conclusion

When the elderly face swallowing problems, it’s difficult for them to live comfortably because they cannot fulfill their basic needs to receive proper nutrition from food and water. If you aren’t always available to be there for them, you should call for 24/7 home care for your parents or grandparents to ensure someone keeps a watchful eye on them all the time. 

Are you looking for in-home health care in Denver, CO, for your parents? Gateway Home Health Hospice strives to deliver high-quality home-based patient care for our clients in need. Our clinicians and therapists dedicate themselves to providing the proper care our patients require to live a longer and healthier life. Get in touch with us today to request our services!

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