There are a few different issues that are likely to become bigger problems for your senior at the end of her life. Difficulty swallowing is just one of those concerns, and it’s an important one to address as soon as possible. Unchecked, dysphagia can cause much bigger problems for your elderly family member.
What Is Dysphagia?
Dysphagia is a condition in which it’s difficult or impossible for someone to properly swallow. The issue could be in someone’s mouth, esophagus, pharynx, or any other part of the gastroesophageal tract. It’s important to deal with dysphagia as quickly as possible after someone starts to experience symptoms because it can quickly lead to nutritional deficiencies. People suffering from dysphagia often lose interest in eating or drinking. They can even become embarrassed because of the difficulties that they’re experiencing, which can be a key factor in refusing food and drink. People with unrecognized dysphagia can find their overall health declining rapidly.
Causes of Dysphagia
The causes of dysphagia really run the gamut. Your senior may develop dysphagia because of a primary illness, such as a stroke, dementia, or a traumatic brain injury. These types of dysphagia may not be curable. Other types of swallowing difficulties that are related to issues that can be treated may eventually resolve themselves, but your senior may need help in the meantime to ensure that she’s getting the nutrients that she needs.
Signs of Dysphagia in Your Senior
It may not always be easy to recognize dysphagia in your elderly family member, especially if she’s embarrassed and making sure that she’s hiding visible symptoms. If she’s hiding what’s happening, you may notice that she’s losing weight without trying to do so. During meals, your senior may take a lot longer to eat than she used to. Or you may notice that she’s coughing more while eating or almost choking as she eats. It’s also possible that she mentions she’s experiencing pain when she eats or drinks, or that food seems to be sticking in her throat or esophagus. Any of these signs are ones that she needs to talk about with her doctor.
Living with Dysphagia
Once your elderly family member is diagnosed with dysphagia, it’s important to do what you can to help her to be comfortable. Palliative (or Supportive) care is a great option for people dealing with dysphagia, because this type of care can help to support your senior as she is maintaining proper nutrition and hydration. Palliative care providers can also put your senior in touch with other services, like occupational or speech therapy, which can help her to learn new techniques that can help her to be more comfortable while swallowing.
There are options if your elderly family member is battling dysphagia. The important first step is to recognize what’s happening and to get her doctor’s assistance to determine if there’s an underlying medical cause. From there, it’s all about helping your senior to have the best possible quality of life that she can have as she deals with this new health issue.