Dysphagia or swallowing difficulties affect around 13.5% of the population and are much more common in seniors. Some people with dysphagia struggle swallowing certain foods or drinks, perhaps things that are either too runny or too tough. Others can’t swallow at all. For some, it’s an inconvenience, but for many people, dysphagia can affect their everyday life, health, and well-being, and eating can be impossible. If you have a loved one with swallowing difficulties, while they may have learned to cope at home, eating out can be difficult and upsetting, which might mean that they shy away from attending important family events and dinners. The good news is, dysphagia doesn’t have to mean that your loved one misses out, here are some tips to help.
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Look at the Menu Beforehand
If your loved one’s dysphagia means that they can’t swallow certain types of food, it’s worth looking at menus online before you book a table, to make sure there is something that they might be able to eat more comfortably. Do this with them, to avoid making decisions for them.
Get in Touch with the Restaurant
It can also be worth ringing or emailing the restaurant before you book. Let them know that a member of your group has difficulty swallowing and ask if any meals can be adapted to suit them. Your loved ones might also be able to take their own food and drinks so that they can still be part of your group and don’t have to miss out.
Dysphagia might also mean that it takes your loved one much longer to eat a meal. If this is the case, make sure the restaurant knows that you’ll need the table for longer than the average party, so you don’t have to rush to finish.
There are some things that your loved one can take with them to make eating and drinking in public easier. This can include things like a special drinking cup or straw and thickeners like Simplythick easy mix. Make sure you’ve got everything that they need before you leave the house.
Take Your Time
The worst thing that you can do when eating out with someone who has difficulty swallowing is rush them. Make sure you take your time with your meal so that they don’t feel hurried.
Most people with dysphagia find things like sitting up straight help them a great deal. When you speak to the restaurant, request a high-backed chair to help them.
Be Honest with Your Companions
Make sure that everyone at your dinner party understands your loved one’s dysphagia, so that there’s no awkwardness around the dinner table.
Taking your time and helping out doesn’t mean that you can’t all have fun. Make sure conversation is flowing, and that you involve your loved one as much as you can. This will help them to feel more comfortable and encourage them to eat out more in the future.
Dysphagia can make eating out difficult, but it isn’t impossible. Have an honest conversation with your loved one about how you can help, and what they want from you, and try to get into the habit of eating socially, either in a restaurant or at home, to make them more comfortable.