Published on 23 Sep 2022
Eating is a pleasure for most of us, but the experience can become unpleasant when swallowing becomes difficult. Have you ever come across the term ‘dysphagia’ when browsing through articles and social media feeds?
Dysphagia is a condition where one has difficulty swallowing. Read on to learn more about this condition and how proper speech therapy can help prevent dysphagia and strengthen the muscles to regain your swallowing ability.
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Dysphagia is a medical term for swallowing difficulties, where some people have problems swallowing certain foods or liquids, while others can’t swallow at all. There are three main stages of dysphagia, namely oral (mouth), pharyngeal (throat) and esophageal (food pipe). Dysphagia can happen at any or all stages of swallowing from the mouth to the stomach. In the long run, Dysphagia can have devastating effects on health including risks of choking, aspiration pneumonia, dehydration, malnutrition and poor quality of life. In more serious cases, it can also make taking medication more difficult.
Some common symptoms of dysphagia include:
Typically, dysphagia is caused by other health conditions which affect one’s nervous system such as a stroke, head injury, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, dementia and cancer. Hence, one should try to keep healthy and avoid any preventable medical conditions.
However, while these are some symptoms of dysphagia, many other conditions also share these common symptoms. Therefore, if your loved ones present any of the symptoms mentioned, it is best to consult a doctor for a proper diagnosis.
It is common for seniors with dysphagia to avoid the consumption of food or liquid when they experience difficulty swallowing. This can affect their intake of fluid and nutrition as they suffer from a low appetite, and this may result in other forms of health complications eventually.
Here are some of the common health complications of dysphagia and how it can affect the daily life of your loved ones:
Caregivers can help look out for the above complications and seek medical assistance before further deterioration. Keep scrolling to learn about tips to cope with dysphagia and how you can help your loved ones regain their eating abilities.
Caring for your loved ones with dysphagia may require more attention, especially when it comes to eating or drinking. It is highly recommended that you seek professional advice from a doctor or a speech therapist.
Here are some practical tips you can use to ensure that your loved ones stay hydrated and well nourished:
Dysphagia can be a daunting condition as it affects the quality of life of your loved ones, with complications that can lead to other health conditions. But with proper care and support, your loved ones can continue to lead fulfilling lives and even resolve their swallowing problems.
Recovery of swallowing function takes time and determination, and NTUC Health can be there to support your loved ones through the journey. It is important to provide emotional support to your loved ones as they may feel frustrated and helpless during the process.
Our team of speech therapists at our Rehabilitation and Physiotherapy centres can help personalise dysphagia treatment plans for your loved ones, which exercise and strengthen weak facial muscles, as well as their throat and mouth. Rehabilitation with our speech therapist can improve and restore functions such as swallowing and speech.
Home therapy and tele-rehabilitation give older adults with difficulty travelling to our centres an option to undergo speech therapy sessions in the comfort of their own homes, with visits by our team of therapists. Keep encouraging your loved ones on the road to recovery. Let them know you are there for them and offer help whenever possible!
Mr Teo Kian Huat, 87 years old, lives with Parkinson’s disease, old infarct (area of dead tissue caused by loss of blood supply) and Ischemic Heart Disease (IHD), which led to swallowing difficulties. Due to his condition, Mr Teo constantly felt discomfort in his throat area, with more phlegm and frequent coughs.
In October 2020, Mr Teo was referred to NTUC Health's Speech Therapy service for speech assessment and therapy to help manage his swallowing problems. A speech therapist was assigned to Mr Teo to assist him with sessions focusing on maintenance exercises, strategies that help him swallow safely, and providing his caregiver training and education on how to manage Mr Teo’s condition.
Throughout the 2-year process, our speech therapist ensured that the sessions continued to allow Mr Teo to tolerate limited oral feeding without compromising his lungs, as well as making sure his caregiver knew how to feed him safely.
Is dysphagia causing your loved ones difficulty swallowing? NTUC Health is here to help with suitable speech therapy programmes to improve their ability to swallow foods. Call us at 6715 6762 to learn more about our day rehabilitation and speech therapy services. Visit our Family Medicine Clinic if your loved ones need to consult a doctor for symptoms of dysphagia.
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