Advice for Caregivers: Supporting Dysphagia
Whether you’re a trained caregiver or your loved one has recently been diagnosed with dysphagia, you may feel a little confused and unsure of how to best help them. It’s totally natural to feel this way. Read on as we cover some of the basics to have you feeling more confident and able to care for those around you as best you can.
You’ll need more time to prepare meals.
Caregiving for someone with dysphagia likely means that you’ll need more time to prepare meals. They’ll need texture-modified meals that are easier to swallow and safer to eat. This may mean they can no longer eat certain foods, so you may need to get creative in the kitchen. Pureeing, mincing, and blending are all good ways to make food easier to swallow.
Prepare for meal times.
As well as getting the food ready, meal times with someone with dysphagia may also look slightly different. You’ll need to make certain preparations depending on their needs. A person with dysphagia will likely need to sit as upright as possible and have napkins on hand, in addition to a glass of water, which may need to be thickened.
Caregivers and people with dysphagia should focus on the meal at hand and try not to get distracted. If you choose to eat out, you may want to call the restaurant ahead to see if they can alter the texture of any of their dishes. In addition to this, it’s always a good idea to have a few sachets of Simply Thick on hand, so thicken any drinks to a thicker consistency, even while on the go.
Be patient and non-judgemental.
While supporting someone with dysphagia,being patient and not judging is important. Dealing with dysphagia is extremely challenging for many people and can leave them feeling anxious about meal times. Eating alongside a carer who is patient and kind is sure to bring back some of the joy of meal times.
Understand their energy levels.
Having dysphagia can change the amount of nutrients a person can intake. This could leave them feeling low and energy and may even result in weight loss. The best thing you can do is support the person with low energy and encourage them to eat a healthy diet.
Take the time to talk.
Being diagnosed with dysphagia can make some people feel extremely lonely and overwhelmed. As a carer or loved one, try to check in each day and give them a safe place to vent, share their feelings, and talk about any concerns they may have. Even fifteen minutes a day can go a long way to making someone feel heard and deepening your relationship.
Lastly, as a caregiver, trying to gain a deeper understanding of dysphagia is a good idea. This will put you in a better position to offer advice and support. If you feel out of your depth, it’s important to speak with a healthcare professional or a speech-language pathologist who can give you advice on your situation and relieve any worries you may have.