What to Do If It's Hard to Chew or Swallow
3. Limit Distractions
It’s important to stay focused during mealtime, especially for someone who’s had a stroke or is in the early stages of dementia, says Kristi King, RDN, a spokeswoman for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
“A person with Alzheimer’s may pay more attention to an open window or the TV in the room than what’s in their mouth,” she says.
4. Keep Your Mouth Moist
Before meals, swab the inside of your mouth with a disposable oral swab or, better yet, brush your teeth “to help moisturize the mouth so swallowing will be easier,” Hedman says.
And keep a drink handy during meals. McClure sips water or something else that isn’t bubbly between every single bite to help move food along. If water or other thin liquids cause you to cough, use an over-the-counter liquid thickener, Hedman suggests. These thicken without changing the taste or appearance of your drink.
“I also avoid medications like over-the-counter cold and allergy tablets, or sleeping aids that contain antihistamines,” McClure says. “Antihistamines are [drying], and most definitely will affect the amount of dryness in my mouth, eyes, and nose.”
5. Tiny Is Better
Cut up solid foods into bite-size pieces to minimize the risk of choking.
“I’ve learned that even finger foods must be cut up into very small portions,” McClure says. “When I indulge in something like potato chips or popcorn, I make sure I eat one at a time, slowly, and in very small bites.”
6. Swallow Often
You might need to swallow two or three times per bite or sip. If food or liquid catches in your throat, cough gently or clear your throat, and swallow again before taking a breath.
Try "alternating bites and sips,” Hedman says. “If you have difficulty sucking liquid all the way up a straw, cut the straw down so there is less distance for the liquid to travel.”