Dysphagia – What is it and how do we manage it?

The term ‘dysphagia’ is used to when a disruption is the swallowing process is identified.

Age-related changes in swallowing physiology as well as age-related diseases are predisposing factors for dysphagia in the elderly, which if not managed correctly can result in a variety of negative health issues including an aspirated pneumonia.

As we age, our ability to swallow effectively declines – this is due to a decline in both muscle mass and connective tissue elasticity, which results in a loss of strength and range of motion… put simply, we lose our ability to swallow properly. Collectively, these age-related changes can influence the effective and efficient flow of swallowed materials through the aero-digestive tract, resulting in swallowed material entering the airway.

So how do we manage this?

Management of dysphagia is a multidisciplinary approach due to its complexity, and potential negative outcomes including declining nutritional status, aspiration and choking. In order to minimise the risk of adverse outcomes, we as a team:

  1. Review residents on a regular basis and obtain specialist assistance (TMO, speech pathologist and dietician) where needed
  2. Monitor nutritional intake on a daily basis
  3. Ensure appropriate posture during meals
  4. Diet modification – soft, minced and moist, puree and thickened fluids Collectively, these compensatory interventions assist to improve the safety and/or ease of oral consumption for those with impaired/dysfunctional swallowing capacity.

If you require any further information, please do not hesitate to come and see me.

Jodie Parkes

Care Services Manager – Lundie House

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