Dysphagia is the medical term used to describe when a person has difficulty swallowing. Most people have trouble swallowing once in a while because of eating too fast or trying to swallow pieces that are too large. However, when swallowing problems are persistent, it is considered dysphagia. Although dysphagia can happen in people of any age, older adults are more likely to develop the problem. If your aging relative struggles to swallow, knowledge of dysphagia can give you a better understanding of how to help them.
How Does Swallowing Work?
To understand dysphagia, it is helpful to understand what happens when a person swallows. Swallowing is a complicated dance of nerves, muscles, and valves.
It actually happens in three stages:
Stage 1: Food or drink are kept in the mouth by the tongue and palate.
Stage 2: Stage 2 happens in just half a second, but it involves several steps. First, the brain decides to swallow. Then, the food moves from the mouth into the throat. While that is happening, a valve located at the bottom of the throat opens so the food can move through and the airways are closed off to keep food from getting into the lungs.
Stage 3: Food enters the esophagus and is moved along via a series of muscular contractions. A valve located at the bottom of the esophagus opens to let food move into the stomach.
Dysphagia occurs when something in that process breaks down, making it harder for food to move from the mouth to the stomach.
What Are the Symptoms of Dysphagia?
Everyone occasionally gets something stuck in their throat. Usually, though, it doesn’t happen often, and the food is easily moved by taking a drink.
When a person has dysphagia, they might experience:
- Frequent choking.
- Pain during swallowing.
- A complete inability to swallow.
- Frequent pneumonia due to food entering the airways.
- A feeling of food being stuck behind the sternum.
- Weight loss without trying.
- Gagging or coughing during swallowing.
- Needing to cut food into very small pieces to swallow it.
People with dysphagia may need to eat a specialized diet. Home care can assist with preparing special foods that are easier to swallow. Having a home care provider present during a meal can help an older adult with dysphagia to feel more comfortable and less worried because someone is on hand to assist them if they choke. Home care providers can also make sure seniors are sitting in a proper position to aid swallowing.
If you or an aging loved one are considering Home Care Services in Faith NC, please contact the caring staff at TenderHearted Home Care today. (704) 612-4132.
I have enjoyed volunteering my time as the President of the Rowan County Home School Association, assisting with the Parkinson’s Support Group, Walk to End Alzheimer’s, Pregnancy Support Center, MOPS International, Capstone Recovery Center, Kairos Outside, Celebrate Recovery, various church committees and going on a mission trip to Moldova. I am a member of the Rowan County Council on Aging, Meals on Wheels board member, REACH of Rowan County, HIPSS of Davidson County, Second Tuesday Business Group and several Christian Business Life Groups.
I am passionate about serving others and providing the most compassionate care possible, as I would want for my own family. I love relaxing with my husband, Peter, and my two dogs, Yoyo and Terra Cotta.