Dysphagia can be a little bit frightening when your senior first develops it. She may have increased difficulty eating or drinking and that can lead to other health problems.
Dysphagia is the medical term for difficulty swallowing. This can happen with both food and beverages. Your elderly family member may have a family history of dysphagia or she may deal with it because of an illness or injury. Dysphagia can cause your senior to gag or to cough when she’s eating or drinking, which may make her avoid both activities. The most dangerous part of dysphagia is that your elderly family member can get food stuck in her throat or she may aspirate food or drink.
Talk to Her Doctor
If your elderly family member seems to be having trouble swallowing, you should definitely talk to her doctor. This is especially important if your senior has been losing weight or has starting drooling, having frequent heartburn, or her voice has started to become hoarse. If you suspect that there’s something caught in your elderly family member’s throat, you should definitely contact medical professionals for help.
There May Be an Official Test or Series of Tests
There are a few different types of tests your senior might undergo to diagnose dysphagia. One is an X-ray with contrast. It involves your senior swallowing barium while she’s having a series of X-rays taken. Another type of test might be an endoscopy of her esophagus. A camera passes down your senior’s throat so the doctor can look at what happens. Other tests may be more appropriate for your senior’s situation.
Your Senior’s Doctor Recommends a Plan
Once your senior’s doctor knows what she’s up against, it’s time to formulate a plan. Medications may help your elderly family member with dysphagia if GERD is a contributing factor. In severe cases, surgery or a feeding tube might be recommended. Many people with dysphagia eat a special liquid diet that is slightly thickened. This can often be preferable to some other treatments because it’s not invasive and is unlikely to have side effects.
Senior care providers can be incredibly helpful while you and your senior are adjusting to this diagnosis. If you’re not able to be there with your senior during meals and snacks, it can be a huge weight off your shoulders to know that there’s someone there with her. It’s also a relief for your senior to have someone helping her with meals who understands her condition and her needs.