Swallowing Awareness Day, 17 March 2021
Dr Nicole Byrne, Head of Speech Pathology & Dietetics
More than 1 million Australian’s have difficulty with swallowing.
Swallowing is essential to everyday life. The average Australian swallows 500-700 times per day. Swallowing problems (Dysphagia) can have a significant impact on a person’s ability to eat and drink safely at home and in the community. However, the knowledge of dysphagia and its implications remain largely unknown for most Australians.
A swallowing problem can occur at any stage in life. However, according to Speech Pathology Australia, 65 percent of stroke survivors, 69 percent of people with Parkinson’s disease and 25 percent of people with Multiple Sclerosis will experience dysphagia.
Chewing and swallowing problems affect 50 percent of residents in aged-care facilities, with choking being the second-highest cause of preventable death after falls.
Speech pathologists work with individuals and their families to identify the safest food and fluid consistency and where relevant therapy techniques or postures to assist swallowing.
Nicole Byrne, Recovery Stations’ Head of Speech Pathology & Dietetics, said that “Timely assessment and management can help to prevent life threatening complications that can arise due to swallowing difficulties such as choking or obstruction, or food and liquid going into the lungs.
“Speech Pathologists also work closely with a range of allied health professionals to assist people with swallowing problems.’ Nicole explains
“For example, an Occupational Therapist may assist with a person’s upper limb function including prescribing adaptive cutlery, a Physiotherapist may assist with posture to enable the person to sit up straight for eating, drinking and taking medications and a Dietitian may help to ensure someone on a modified diet is getting adequate nutrition from their food to help them stay healthy.”
Swallowing Awareness Day is an opportunity to bring attention to swallowing disorders and to connect people with speech pathologists, the professionals who can assess and manage dysphagia.
If you would like to make a referral for a swallowing assessment and management plan please contact Recovery Stations referrals team.