Managing Meals for Dysphagia
Patients with dysphagia need help with nutrition. When managing meals for dysphagia changes are made in the texture, size and portions of the foods to protect against aspiration. If the pureed food and thickened liquid presented to the patient makes the food unappetizing and funny-tasting, the patient is going to refuse it. Then the patient may develop dehydration, weight loss and malnutrition. This is a situation that is going to occur three times a day or more frequently, so, the caregiver must be armed with information and knowledge of products to assist the patient.
Fortunately, you are not alone. See the website of the National Foundation of Swallowing Disorders for excellent, authoritative information for patients and caregivers. The Foundation has a list of support groups across the nation; see if there is one near you. The Foundation also has a Facebook page which is for members only where you can participate for support and information.
Here are some basics to get started managing meals for dysphagia:
- Talk to the dietician and a speech pathologist at the hospital to get written recommendations and do’s and don’ts for at-home meal preparation for the dysphagia patient.
- At your pharmacy, ask for xanthan gum-based thickeners that are “clear” to add to liquids and foods. Familiar brands are SimplyThick, ThickenUp Clear, Thick & Easy Clear and ThickIt Clear Advantage. You can order these online.
- For the caregiver or patient who would prefer prepared meal kits to make meal preparation very easy, the THICK & EASY™ pureed meal kits from Hormel Health Labs are great The pureed meal kits can be ordered online and shipped directly to your home from www.HomeCareNutrition.com, or ordered through your pharmacy. Patients can set up automatic, regular deliveries to the home also.
- If you have time to spend in meal preparation and can follow recipes, there are recipes and cookbooks for patients with dysphagia that you can find free online. See the free online recipes from the MDA, the Muscular Dystrophy Association, or the recipes from the NYU Steinhardt’s Speech Department. Nutritionist Laura Michaels even offers cooking lessons about pureed food on a DVD that comes with the purchase of her manual “Making Every Bite Count”. This lady can make tasty magic happen with liquid thickener, so check out her website.
Managing meals for dysphagia can mean more than baby food and pudding. Caregivers and patients can find support, advice, products, demonstrations, and ideas to make swallowing and eating safe and enjoyable for the patient with dysphagia.
Stay safe and healthy at home!