Speech and Language Therapy (SLT)
I am passionate about this project since I work with those who have difficulty swallowing (dysphagia); tasty food and good nutrition for this client group are essential for wellbeing. When it is a struggle to chew and swallow safely, motivation to eat is reduced, placing individuals at increased risk of medical and nutritional complications. To be given the choice to enjoy tastes of real food when there is a swallowing difficulty, or at the end of life, offered with support and compassion is the ideal for me.
We have a multicultural, ageing population that has lived through decades of changing food taste and availability. It is right that we should offer nutritional choice. For those with dementia and associated communication difficulties, visual aids (pictorial menus) and non-verbal communication facilitate food choice and offer some dignity.
There are changes in the swallow as we age (60 years+), that occur as primary effects of ageing: it can take longer to chew food, the swallow trigger can be delayed and the muscles responsible for transiting food to the stomach become weaker. There is an increased risk therefore of food going down the wrong way. With this in mind, studies have in fact concluded that healthy older adults exhibit a highly safe and efficient swallow.
Clients referred to speech and language therapy with a poor swallow are not generally ‘healthy older adults’ and often require a modified diet. In these cases we alter the texture of food, allowing for a safe transit through the mouth to the stomach. You will notice that the recipes listed are colour coded, some are ‘dysphagia friendly’ and can be adapted to suit modified diets. The diet consistencies we recommend are: normal, fork mashable, thick purée and thin purée. Details can be found on the Modified Consistency Foods page.
Thankfully, choking instances that lead to death are rare. In order to protect vulnerable swallows and yourself, I advise the following:
If you suspect someone has a swallowing difficulty, seek a professional speech and language assessment. Avoid changing recommendations made by a speech and language therapist.
Sue Renyard MSc, RegMRCSLT
Speech and Language Therapist