Many chairs will be vacant at our Thanksgiving table this year as members of our communities and families sit this one out because dysphagia takes no holiday! The inability to swallow- to eat and drink will leave those we care most about alone and isolated because they cannot commune with family and friends over a shared meal.
A swallowing assessment study published in 2008* reported that a swallowing “disorder is under recognized by most clinicians and is frequently underreported by patients.” To provide an easy assessment tool and promote better communications between a patient and their clinicians, the study authors developed and validated a self-administered Eating Assessment Tool with 10 easy questions. This assessment tool is named “EAT-10” and has been adopted by many clinics as a means of initial patient assessment and ongoing progress.
Dr. Peter Belafsky, an NFOSD board member and current president of the Dysphagia Research Society (DRS) wrote a president’s letter to the DRS membership in June 2012. In that letter he likened the affects of severe dysphagia on the patient as being in a constant state of water boarding. The video in this article was published by Amnesty International. Be forewarned, it is short, yet graphic, and is not for everyone.
By Jan C. Pryor M.A., CCC-SLP, BRS-S
Exercise of the Month: The “Effortful” Swallow (aka the Modified Valsalva maneuver, or the “Hard Swallow”)
Sometimes the best practice for swallowing is swallowing itself. How you do it, can make all the difference. The exercise is just as the name implies, you swallow with effort or HARD! That’s right, with GUSTO. The goal of this technique is to recruit more motor units, increase the demand and create a muscle training/strengthening effect. This technique is used to protect the airway. How does using this technique protect the airway? When there is muscle weakness due to various conditions, such as head and neck cancer, stroke or general de-conditioning, the muscles of the tongue and pharynx may not be doing their part to push, lift or squeeze to propel food out of the mouth and throat. The result of a weak muscle contraction(s) is often that food or liquids “pool” in the mouth or pharynx (throat) after the swallow. After swallowing, residual food and liquid in the mouth and throat are likely to overflow into the unprotected airway and cause what is known as aspiration.
by Jan C. Pryor M.A., CCC-SLP, BRS-S
I have been a practicing speech and language pathologist for over 25 years specializing in Dysphagia, yet I am constantly in the process of learning from my patients. Here are some direct quotes and hard won lessons from the men and women that I have had the privilege of working with. Their strength and bravery are the valuable “pearls of wisdom” they have shared with me, that I am now happy to pass along to you.