Monday, November 28, 2011
dysphagia, yes / dysfunctional meals, no
Written from my perspective, the caregiver’s view, Patti has MS related chewing and swallowing challenges. Memory loss and cognitive impairments act somewhat like an eraser on Patti’s ability to relate her own experience.
A meal centered holiday like Thanksgiving literally and figuratively brings dysphagia to the table.
This year was the first year I needed to feed Patti at the table following years of her increasing struggles to try to feed herself.
Amplifying this year’s focus on the challenges of chewing and swallowing I found myself the following day in an enlightening though poignant conversation with a cousin about her own and her son’s challenges with dysphagia associated with muscular dystrophies.
In Patti’s case it’s about the central nervous system in theirs it’s muscular. Nor is dysphagia exclusive to MS or Muscular Dystrophies – Alzheimer, Parkinson, and strokes to name a few. Even some medications and aging itself can complicate the complex combination of voluntary and involuntary muscles we know as chewing and swallowing and that most of us take for granted.
However none of us started out by taking it for granted. Any parent fondly remembers their time spent teaching a baby to eat from a spoon or chew solid food.
Do we fondly or alarmingly view the reverse? How many people at the table can actually recognize choking and assist?
In Patti’s case, MS related, for example she may appear to be choking. Yet if familiar you would know that if a person appears to be choking yet talking (yes, even cursing and swearing) or coughing a dramatic interference such as Heimlich maneuvers might actually make things worse.
Speaking of the Heimlich maneuver how many at the table actually know when and how to do it? What about with special circumstances, such as a wheelchair?
Perhaps it should be about eating comfortably. Sharing a meal with people you do not have to educate or explain why you eat the way you eat and knowing they’ve ‘got your back’.
Caregivingly Yours, Patrick Leer
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