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Dietary management of dysphagia in aged care

First published on HealthTimes – April 24th, 2018


ysphagia is a condition affecting more than one million Australians, from premature babies to those in old age. According to Speech Pathology Australia, swallowing difficulties (or dysphagia) is “any problem with sucking, swallowing, drinking, chewing, eating, controlling saliva, taking medication, or protecting the lungs from food and drink ‘going the wrong way’.”

Adults can develop swallowing problems from head injuries, Parkinson’s disease, dementia, motor neuron disease and cancer of the head and neck. Such problems can lead to food, drinks or saliva entering the lungs and causing pneumonia which is risky for those with lowered immune systems.

People with dysphagia have difficulty consuming food and drinks in their normal form, and can experience malnutrition, dehydration, immune-compromise and bouts of aspiration.

A 2015 study published in the Australian Journal of Dementia Care identified death by choking as the second highest cause of preventable death in residential aged care facilities in Victoria (AJDC, Aug/Sep 2017, Vol 6 No 4).

To ensure people with dysphagia receive food that is easy to consume and provides adequate nutrition, allied health professionals work with them and their care providers to improve their understanding of dysphagia and facilitate ways to support safer swallowing.