Controlling Dysphagia: The Elderly Swallowing Problems

Controlling dysphagia
Controlling Dysphagia, the elderly swallowing problems, is a growing concern in that aging population. These changes in the physiology that come as we age could present a deficit in the digestive system, more specifically in the esophagus. In fact any disturbances in the swallowing process is called dysphagia.

The elderly swallowing problems are among a variety of diseases and conditions that with age come in any person’s life. Dementia and strokes are the top two conditions that show symptoms of dysphagia which is closely related to nutrition and is known to be a high risk cause of pneumonia.

An effective approach to improve oral intakes is swallowing rehabilitation. It has been proven that this type of therapy benefits the patient’s health and nutrition and treats dysphagia successfully as well as prevent it.

As we age our muscle mass throughout the body reduces and the throat area is no exception. With this reduction the tissues lose elasticity affecting the motion and strength causing this digestive tract restriction. As time passes this loss of elasticity is accumulative up to a point in which sometimes some of the swallowed foods could deviate to the upper airway or cause a residue during meals. Food then requires more preparation and special care on the ingredients. Along with psychomotor changes that come with age there are also variations in taste, smell and oral moisture that generally are a big part of the swallowing process. Elderly swallowing problems usually cause dangerous alterations in the diet intake and should be taken seriously.

There are food alternatives to help the patient while managing a swallowing therapy like the one found in the Swallowing Difficulties section in Discount Medical Supplies. Thickened beverages and food thickeners are a great aid in maintaining a diet that meets all basic needs from the organism. Malnutrition is a common result among the elderly with swallowing problems and this malnutrition could later contribute to a decreased functional capacity and a fragile physical state. Nutritional supplements like the above mentioned can help reach an adequate daily caloric intake as well as manage and prevent malnutrition.

A group of tools are available for controlling dysphagia, the elderly swallowing problems, and they all depend on the characteristics of the individual and the grade of their dysphagia. The National Center for Biotechnology Information has a vast and detailed information on Dysphagia and management strategies. Among them they provide a good example of swallow rehabilitation:



Intendended Outcome

Reported Benefit

Lingual resistance

·   Strengthening tongue with progressively increasing intensity.

·   Increased tongue strength.

·   Improved swallow.

·   Indreased tongue muscle mass.

·   Increased swallow pressure.

·   Reduced aspiration.


·   Strengthening suprahyoid muscles.

·   Improve elevation of larynx.

·   Increasing UES opening

·   Improve strength of muscles for greater UES opening.

·   Increased larynx elevation.

·   Increased UES opening.

·   Less post-swallow aspiration.

EMST (expiratory muscle strenght training)

·   Strengthening submental muscle.

·   Improve expiratory presures for better airway protection.

·   Improve expiratory drive.

·   Reduce penetration and aspiration.

·   Better penetration-aspiration scores in Parkinson’s disease.

·   Increased maximum expiratory pressure.

·   Increased submental muscle electromyography activity during swallowing.

MDTP (McNeill dysphagia therapy program)

·   Swallow as exercise with progessive resistance.

·   Improve swallowing including strenght and timing.

·   Improved swallow strength.

·   Improved movement of swallow structures.

·   Improved timing.

·   Weight gain.