Dysphagia During the Holidays

Christmas holiday table setting

The holiday season is upon us and food is on everyone’s mind. After all, Thanksgiving is all about the universal tradition of sharing a meal. This is how we connect with family and friends. We create bonds and memories over special dishes from recipes that have been passed down for generations. In the process of preparing for the holidays, we usually don’t think about the act of eating; we take it for granted! However for the estimated 15 million people living with difficulty swallowing – Dysphagia -- holiday gatherings can be a source of heightened stress, anxiety and isolation. Not being able to participate in meals in a natural, effortless way can certainly take away some of the joy. A food or drink of the wrong texture can pose serious health risks. Holiday staples such as turkey and apple pie may have to be avoided or require special preparation and lose much of their appeal. Adding to the frustration, a person with dysphagia may have to be super attentive to every bite and every sip, to their sitting posture and head position, and to how they place the spoon and cup in their mouth and how quickly they swallow. All that in place of engaging in dinner-time chatter with family and friends can add up to a great deal of stress.

Thankfully, recent advances in dysphagia rehabilitation offer new treatment approaches that can improve or restore swallow function and vastly improve quality of life for many people living with dysphagia. Intensive swallowing exercise programs, neuromuscular electrical stimulation and myofascial release therapy, have helped many people to recover some of the lost swallowing function and participate in holidays meals safely and joyfully. In addition, easier access to information on the various dysphagia diets have widened options for those that still need special meal plans.

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About the IDDSI Consumer Handouts

Inna LevineInna Levine, MS, CCC-SLP

Speech Language Pathologist

Phone: 609-584-6640 (Hamilton) and 609-890-4450 (Pennington)

Inna is a senior speech language pathologist who works at both the RWJ Rehabilitation - Hamilton and RWJBH Rehab at Pennington offices. She is certified in Vital Stim therapy, as well as LSVT Loud for Parkinson’s. Her special interests in rehabilitation include dysphagia, motor speech disorders, and stuttering.

To learn more about dysphagia rehabilitation programs at RWJ Hamilton or to schedule an evaluation with a licensed Speech-Language Pathologist for yourself or your loved one please call (609) 584-6640.