What Can I Feed an Older Relative Who Has Difficulty Swallowing?

5 answers | Last updated: Oct 29, 2016
A fellow caregiver asked...

What can I feed an older relative who has difficulty swallowing?


Expert Answers

Beth Reardon, M.S., R.D., L.D.N., is Caring.com senior food and nutrition editor and the director of integrative nutrition at Duke Integrative Medicine. As a practitioner of integrative nutrition, Reardon takes a holistic approach to wellness, recognizing that the foundation for optimal health and healing begins with a health-promoting diet. As a practitioner of integrative nutrition, Reardon takes a holistic approach to wellness, recognizing that the foundation for optimal health and healing begins with a health-promoting diet.

Food preparation is important to consider when you have a relative who has difficulty swallowing. Offering a wide variety of foods cooked and served so that chewing and swallowing will be easier can make all the difference in the person's overall nutrition and health.

Many factors can contribute to difficulty swallowing, but it's more common in older adults because of weakened musculature, neurological damage (usually caused by stroke, Parkinson's, or advanced Alzheimer's), gastrointestinal disorders, or cancer treatments.

What to try:

  • Make sure food that's offered is soft to begin with (items like cooked lentils, rice pudding, casserole).

  • Try soup, especially nutrient-dense soups, such as vegetable-chicken, split pea, or other bean-based soups.

  • Cut the food into very small pieces.

  • Cook vegetables and meats to tenderness.

  • Pour gravy or sauce on foods (such as vegetables and pasta) to make them softer.

  • Serve nutritional supplement drinks (Boost, Ensure, Sustacal). Add ice cream to make a shake, or serve the supplement in pudding form.


Community Answers

Kees answered...

I have a very high speed blender which blends any combination of organic fruits vegetables nuts seeds etc., into a nutritious wholesome smoothy. Soups can be made too with various veggies, just let the blender run until it warms up. Besides the blender, I have a very good juicer that can juice fruits and vegetables. Ever heard of Wheat grass juice, research it on the internet, you will be surprised at the nutritious values.


Mammagoose2 answered...

Not only the blender and juicer but Gerbers is also an answer because as they provide great food for the new baby the also provide great answers to proper food for the the person with having adiffuclty swallowing my mom loves it and it takes jaust a little doctoring (butter, salt , Mrs Dash) and away you go the fruits and cereals are great to and very tastey.


A fellow caregiver answered...

My mother has Parkinson's disease, which causes worsening swallowing problems as it progresses. A baby food blender allows me to puree her meals in small portions. The "baby bullet" will even puree a steak if you add some liquid, like beef broth or vegetable cooking water. Vegetables, especially sweet potatoes, squash, peas and carrots also puree and freeze well. Chicken and pork, pureed with pineapple, apricot or applesauce also puree and freeze well. You can even puree spaghetti and meatballs! We used a small food processor until the consistency produced became too difficult for her. The baby food blender is a great low cost alternative (about $60) to the juicer. I freeze some portions in silicon muffin tins so that she has a homemade meal if I am not around to cook for her - a healthcare worker just pops the portions onto a plate and reheats. She gets healthy homemade balanced meals with fiber that she can eat with a spoon and swallow.


A fellow caregiver answered...

'Thick It' is wonderful, add it to water, Ensure, even soup, as a thicker liquid is easier to swallow, than water.