Dysphagia means difficulty swallowing. Dysphagia is a condition that usually manifests as a result of another condition such as stroke, throat/ mouth cancer or gastro-oesophageal reflux disease. People with dysphagia are at risk of dehydration and starvation. There is also the added complication that small bits of food can get into the lungs. This can be very serious and lead to a fatal lung infection. Treatments and aids include surgery, feeding tubes, physiotherapy and a modified diet.
Rubber Spoons, Forks & Knives
Rubber utensils can help if there is a tendency to bite down too hard on conventional cutlery. You can also find forks, knives and spoons with a fatter rubber handle easier to grip. Weighted cutlery and spoons designed to make food transfer to the mouth easier with an angled head are helpful. Rubber tubing can also be purchased to adapt the cutlery that you already have.
Straws are an essential item for people with dysphagia, as it allows the person to drink with her chin down. This helps to stop aspiration or choking on liquids. There are special clear straws available from hospitals that have a water diameter opening which are easier to use and require less effort and allow the person to drink more. To obtain these straws speak to your hospital or doctor about ordering them for you.
Plastic Plates & Food Guards
Plastic plates with raised edges make it easier for the patient to eat. Being able to press food to the side of the plate enable a the person to get food onto the spoon or fork easier. Buy food bumpers or guards to use on any type of plate.
Many people with dysphagia cannot swallow liquids or very runny food. A food thickener can be bought to add to liquids and food making them easier to swallow.
Bolster pillows are useful for keeping the head in an upright position during mealtimes. Bolster pillows can be placed on either or both sides of the body if the person has a tendency to lean. You could also use v-shaped pillows to help support the head and neck.
There are many types of cups that can help those with dysphagia. A plastic cup with a spouted lid can be helpful. A "sports" drink container is a good option; these can be taken anywhere and reduce spillage. A weighted cup could also help, weight is placed in the base of the cup aiding those who may also suffer from hand tremors. A plastic mug with handles either side will help the person to take the drink more steadily to her mouth.