Things to consider when going out for a meal with someone who has swallowing difficulties

By: Ali Sheperd

Posted: 26th July 2018

Going out for food is one of the most popular social activities groups do. Whether it is going for coffee or a three course meal those with eating, drinking and swallowing difficulties (also known as dysphagia) may find this difficult. This may reduce their quality of life as they turn down social invitations. However, dysphagia should not limit someone from going out and eating with their friends or family.

It is important to provide loved ones with dysphagia the opportunity to live their lives as they once could. There are some things that we must consider before taking someone out with dysphagia to eat in order to reduce as much stress as possible.

Plan ahead

Planning is a crucial part to a successful meal out, particularly when someone has dysphagia. A simple phone call (perhaps whilst booking a table) to the cafe or restaurant to make them aware of the difficulties and how food may have to be modified, can make all the difference. This will take away any surprises for the waiter or the chef and ultimately reduce stress for the individual with dysphagia.

Involve the individual with dysphagia in the decision making

Dysphagia can be due to changes in the brain caused by stroke and brain injury. This can sometimes reduce a person’s capacity to make decisions. However, a lot of the time dysphagia can be caused by conditions unrelated to the brain. Therefore, they are still able to make their own decisions and understand their own safety and what they can or can’t eat. So as everyones, ensure their opinion on where and what they would like to eat is heard.

Be patient

Dysphagia can be time consuming. Due to their difficulties, they need more time to decide what to eat and to actually eat the food. However, this is for their own safety and dysphagia patients must learn to be patient with themselves. So don’t make an individual with dysphagia feel uncomfortable about taking their time with their food.

Don’t rush

As it can be time consuming, don’t choose a time where you are in a rush and need to be elsewhere. If a person with dysphagia rushes to eat, they may choke or aspirate their food. Choose to go for a meal when everyone has the whole evening free.

Health and safety comes first

Although this is a different environment the same rules apply. If it is not safe for the individual with dysphagia to eat or drink certain consistencies, it is not safe for them to eat them anywhere or anytime. All advice given from professionals must be used when eating out.

It may be unwise to mix eating with talking

Whilst we might find it easy to hold a conversation with others whilst eating our meal, this is a monumental task for someone with dysphagia. It will take a lot of effort and skill for them to coordinate their breathing and swallowing and therefore may be unsafe for them to talk to others whilst eating. It may be useful to consider this and allow everyone to focus on eating at the same time and then save the conversations for after.

Respect emotions

Always remember that no matter how hard we plan, there is always a possibility that some things just might go wrong. This might not be anyone’s fault but can just happen. It is therefore important to understand others emotions and respect how the person with dysphagia might feel. Consider emotions before reacting and then act appropriately with emotions and interests in mind.

Eating out is always enjoyable and should be enjoyable for a person with dysphagia so why not give it a try if your loved ones are up for it.

If you feel you may benefit from speech and language therapy or would like any more information on our services please email office@slt.co.uk or call 0330 088 5643.

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