The ability to swallow and eat and drink easily is important for our health and wellbeing. As clinicians, we can help patients make a smooth transition from the hospital to their home or care facility.

A change in a patient’s swallowing ability can be daunting for an older person and their family to manage once they leave the hospital. To improve outcomes in this area:

  • check that the patient understands their treatment goals and provide them with handouts and information to aid in their comprehension
  • inform the patient's family and carers about the swallowing issues and ongoing interventions required so they can work closely with the patient to keep them well
  • emphasise the importance of maintaining safe swallowing and good nutrition while at home or an alternative care facility
  • provide verbal and written information about safe swallowing practices if these have been recommended, as well as oral hygiene and food preparation
  • stress the importance of keeping well hydrated to sustain recovery and assist with managing dysphagia; dehydration can lead to a dry mouth and throat which will affect swallowing ability
  • ensure the patient and their family and carer are aware of how to take prescribed medication
  • provide the patient with information on where to purchase nutritional supplements if needed and check that they have the funds to do so
  • consider referring the person to a community dietitian and speech pathologist to provide ongoing support
  • refer the patient to social support services if necessary
    • There is a risk of older patients with dysphagia becoming socially isolated, as they may be reluctant to eat in front of others1
    •  Find out if the patient was experiencing social isolation prior to their admission, and help them with strategies and referrals to access support
  • recommend that the patient has regular dental checks as dental hygiene is an important factor in managing dysphagia.

 


1. Ekberg, O., Hamdy, S, Woisard, V, Wuttge-Hannig, A, Ortega, P, Social and psychological burden of dysphagia: Its impact on diagnosis and treatment. Dysphagia, 2002. 17(2): p. 8.