It can be challenging to tailor a diet for a loved one who is having difficulty swallowing due to an illness. It is important to remain patient as you find the right meals for your loved one and rely upon assistance from nurses and practitioners. Learn more about how you can help feed someone who is having difficulty swallowing, especially after being diagnosed with a terminal illness.
What Causes Difficulty Swallowing?
There are many possible causes of swallowing difficulties. The cause of the difficulties may affect the way in which you can best feed your loved one. The most common causes include:
- Certain types of cancer
- Issues with motor function
- Nervous system disorder
Cancer itself often causes difficulty swallowing. Cancer treatments such as chemotherapy may also contribute to or directly cause difficulty swallowing. It is important to follow the dietary advice of your loved one’s medical provider to best assist them.
Tips For Feeding Someone With Difficulty Swallowing
Your loved one’s doctor, nurse, or hospice care team should be able to provide more specific details on how to best feed your loved one. It is important to discuss the best feeding strategy directly with a professional so that they can provide more detailed information. However, there are some general tips that are important to follow, each of which are discussed in detail below.
Avoid Foods That Are Hard To Swallow
Perhaps the most obvious tip is to limit the consumption of foods that are hard to swallow, such as tough meats and crunchy foods. In many cases, you can soften or chop up harder to swallow meals so that they are easier to swallow. This way, your loved one can still enjoy many of their favorite dishes.
Make Their Foods Soft And Tender
As mentioned, you can often soften foods that are hard to swallow. One great way to do this is by cooking foods that are naturally harder. For example, you can serve your loved one carrots and other harder vegetables by steaming them to make them softer and easier to swallow. The same goes for potatoes (i.e. mashed potatoes) and any meats you may serve.
Eat Smaller Meals Rather Than Fewer Large Meals
A common mistake that is made when feeding a loved one with swallowing difficulties is reducing their number of meals. Instead, it is actually helpful to increase the number of meals, providing more small meals (four or five) throughout the day.
Avoid Foods and Drinks That Could Cause Irritation
Many foods are difficult to swallow due to the irritation they can cause. Specifically, foods that are spicy, hot or frozen beverages, and alcohol can be more challenging to swallow without causing irritation. In addition, smoking can also cause irritation. Avoiding these foods, drinks, and habits is a great way to improve the ability to swallow.
What Meals Are Not Ideal For Swallowing Difficulties?
There are some more common foods that are not ideal for someone with a difficulty swallowing to eat. It is important to avoid these foods and drinks as much as possible. These foods and drinks include:
- Tough meats
- Tortilla chips
- Spicy foods
- Tomato-based dishes
- Hard slices of bread (toast, pizza)
For many, finding the right foods to feed to someone that has difficulty swallowing is often trial by error. Of course, some foods are likely to be harder to swallow and relatively obvious, such as ribs and other tougher meats.
What Meals Are Ideal For Someone With A Difficulty Swallowing?
It is helpful to have specific meal ideas for a loved one with swallowing difficulties. Of course, it is important to take into consideration any allergies or dietary restrictions that your loved one has. With that said, foods and drinks that are good to eat for someone with swallowing difficulties are:
- Chicken or tuna salad
- Egg salad
- Cottage or ricotta cheese
- Creamy peanut butter
- Sweet potatoes
- Baked apples
Although it is not a universal rule, a general rule you can follow is that the easier the food is to chew, the easier it is to swallow. Of course, it is also best to avoid any foods that can irritate your loved one, which includes many dishes that are spicy or hot. However, some warmer dishes such as soup are acceptable, especially if you allow it to cool by adding a few ice cubes before serving.
Harbor Light Hospice Helps Patients With Difficulty Swallowing Due to a Serious or Terminal Illness
If you are or a loved one is considering hospice care, then call Harbor Light Hospice today. We take great pride in assisting our patients that are diagnosed with a terminal illness, ensuring they are able to enjoy an ideal quality of life.