Finding it difficult to swallow can make it tricky to consume certain foods or liquids. The problem can result from a serious long-term illness like throat cancer, but it can also come on suddenly and out of the blue. When you have a friend or family member who you know has problems with dysphagia, it’s natural to want to find ways to make their life easier. Here are four of them to consider.
1. Recommend a Food Thickening Agent
A food-thickening agent like Simply Thick can help dysphagia sufferers. The idea behind a thickening agent is simply that it gives food or liquids greater volume, so it becomes easier to swallow. Given that throat difficulties can make swallowing water or thinner liquids infinitely harder, a thickener can address that. The thickener doesn’t add a different taste when consumed, so the natural taste of the liquid or food is retained.
2. Visit When It’s a Good Time
Sufferers can feel extremely self-conscious when they’re having a bad episode. At that time, they may be trying to consume a drink or get a meal down while their symptoms have flared up again. They’re still hungry, so they’ll likely need to continue but they don’t necessarily want an audience. People often feel self-conscious even about friends looking on as they suffer through their symptoms. They worry about being judged as less than their former selves. As a result, it’s best to check with them first before heading over. This includes phoning to re-confirm a planned visit just before heading out. They can then tell you if it’s still a good time for them or whether a visit will need to be rearranged. Doing this allows them to keep their dignity and look forward to your visits.
3. Can You Lend a Hand?
They need to be accepting of the help, but if you offer it, will they accept it? It depends on the individual as to whether they’ll agree to take assistance from you. They may already be receiving help from a friend and not feel as though they need you. Maybe they’re too proud, and so decline the very idea of you helping, but later find that they cannot manage and need to change their mind. So, don’t be surprised if that happens. The help could be anything from babysitting the kids while they visit a clinic or hospital, to taking them shopping, running a load through the washing machine, or cleaning the home.
4. Listen More, Talk Less
Illness is a personal thing. How it feels, the frequency, the level of discomfort, and its limitations are unique to them. It does not help to compare their suffering to someone else’s; when they’re experiencing a dysphagia episode, they’re very much alone in it. Make it a point to become a better listener. Speak less frequently. Let them get comfortable enough to share about how they’re hurting. There’s comfort in that for them and it will also highlight how you might assist them.
Sometimes, people won’t accept the help. Other times, they find that it becomes necessary. Form an attitude of patience. It will be useful to both of you.