Swallowing Difficulties and the Holidays

Posted by Sarah Schuman on 12/14/2018 to Dysphagia & Oral Motor Control
During the holiday season, there are many people with dysphagia (difficulty swallowing) who may be embarrassed to eat or drink around friends and family and thus feel unable to participate in events. To make the holidays more enjoyable and inclusive for all, include a variety of food consistencies including soft food options and puree foods and provide a quiet space for people who prefer to eat separately. Small changes may just be what is needed to foster inclusion and create a happy holidays for all.  

The article "Many people have a hard time swallowing. Help them to 'eat, drink and be merry' this Christmas" (Hemsley, B, Freeman-Anderson, A, Nund, R, 2018) highlights the struggle many people with dysphagia experience. Treatment often involves speech pathologist as the point of access to critical interventions. However many different health professions are involved in treatment of dysphagia

According to the article, approximately 8% of the worlds population has difficulty swallowing. Difficulty swallowing is classified into 3 main types, oral dysphagia, pharyngeal dysphagia and esophageal dysphagia. It is possible for a person to experience one, two, or all three types of dysphagia. It affects a wide array of people, of all ages, and may be due to a variety of causes including: 

  • Neurological conditions (i.e. Parkinsons, ALS, brain tumors, stroke etc).
  • Congenital or developmental conditions (i.e. cerebral palsy, cleft palate). 
  • Obstruction (i.e. head and neck cancer, radiation, GERD, pharyngeal pouches, etc).
  • Muscular conditions (i.e. scleroderma, achalasia). 
  • Normal Aging - muscles become weaker and the coordination needed for swallowing/breathing may become disorganized. 
This is an important article as it focuses on an issue that is often kept private but affects so many.  Let's strive to make our holiday celebrations dysphagia friendly!

We, at CMR, wish you and yours a very happy holiday season. 


References

Hemsley, B., Freeman-Anderson, A., Nund, R. "Many people have a hard time swallowing. Help them to 'eat, drink and be merry' this Christmas" The Conversation, 13 December 2018, http://theconversation.com/many-people-have-a-hard-time-swallowing-help-them-to-eat-drink-and-be-merry-this-christmas-108426 Accessed 14 December 2018.

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