People with swallowing difficulties can have their cake and eat it too

Wednesday 13th March 2019

People with swallowing difficulties can have their cake and eat it too

Patients and staff tasted thickened “mocktails” at Queen Victoria Hospital (QVH) in East Grinstead on Swallowing Awareness Day (13 March) to highlight the difficulties faced by people with dysphagia.

Swallowing difficulties (dysphagia) can result in a range of life-threatening issues, such as choking, pneumonia, chest infections, malnutrition and weight loss.

People with dysphagia can often struggle with taking medication, which can lead to a poorer quality of life for them and their family.

Swallowing problems can occur at any stage of life, and can follow a serious incident such as a stroke or as part of a life-limiting disease.

The speech therapy team at Queen Victoria Hospital provides support to patients with swallowing difficulties as a result of head and neck cancer and its treatment, burns patients and the East Grinstead community, including nursing homes.

Meanwhile, QVH has adopted a new way of describing food textures and fluid thicknesses to improve safety for patients.

The standardised terminology will see ambiguous and sometimes confusing words like ‘soft’, ‘syrup’ and ‘sloppy’ replaced with scientifically-developed terminology, such as soft and bite-sized or minced and moist.

The aim is to reduce choking risks and, as the new criteria is being introduced internationally; it will also ensure patients will be given the same consistency of food or drink, regardless of where they are receiving care.

The work comes as part of a project called the International Dysphagia Diet Standardisation Initiative (IDDSI).

Marc Tramontin, Therapy Services Manager at QVH, said: “We often celebrate occasions with food and drink or a dining experience at a restaurant, but many people with swallowing problems say their enjoyment of food and drink can be altered. They may avoid social situations because of fear or embarrassment and that can lead to social isolation.

“But people don’t have to be restricted – they can still enjoy social engagement surrounding food if they are given the right textures. Making sure patients receive the right food and drink to meet their nutritional needs can have a big impact on their overall health.

“The new terminology will improve safety for people who are struggling to swallow by making sure labels and measurements are precise and consistent.”

Pictured, left to right: Claire Rodd, Samantha Bloice and Jane Dawson, from the QVH Speech and Language Therapy team.