Swallowing and Nutrition Prevention

How can I help prevent dehydration, choking & malnutrition?

The following are food safety tips that might be helpful to address swallowing problems and avoid dehydration, poor nutrition, or the risk of aspiration pneumonia. The goal is to help your loved one get the most nutrition and pleasure from food and drink while keeping discomfort to a minimum.

  • The best position for eating is sitting.
  • Avoid having the head tilted backwards.
  • For those using wheeled mobility, consider a water bottle called a drink-aide that allows wheelchair users to drink independently, even if they have limited or no upper body movement.
  • Consider beginning a meal with something icy and thick—a sherbet shake, or a fruit or vegetable smoothie. The cool temperature will improve crucial nerve conduction.
  • Take one small bite or sip at a time. Never try consecutive swallowing. 
  • Never wash food down with a liquid. Instead, add moisture to the solid food. Use sauces, broth, soup, water, or milk.
  • Think about spoon size and what works best.
  • Choose soft, moist foods first, as they are easier to swallow. Dry solids and thin liquids are more difficult, and require closer attention for safe swallowing.
  • Avoid thin liquids altogether when fatigued. Consider consuming thin liquids in the morning and thicker liquids in the late afternoon or evening.
  • Identify and then avoid foods that cause choking or coughing, such as potato chips.
  • Experiment with a kitchen blender. Some favourite dishes can be pureed without losing their familiar flavour.
  • Check with a speech and language therapist if your loved one starts to slow down during a meal, pause and switch to something icy.
  • Make mealtimes a calm and social part of the day and save discussion of “hot” topics for times when no one is trying to eat.
  • Offer mouth care frequently.
  • If you have concerns about diet n general you can seek advice from the Irish Dietetic Institute 

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