December 28, 2022

Senior woman drinking a smoothie

Thickening beverages for people with swallowing disorders helps prevent choking and liquid entering the lungs.

Unless you are one of the many who struggle with swallowing disorders, you most likely haven’t given much consideration to the different textures and consistencies of the liquids in your daily diet. When you are thirsty, nothing hits the spot like an ice-cold glass of water. On a hot summer day, you might crave a cool milkshake. And when you’re recovering from the flu, a warm bowl of soup is just what you need.

With swallowing disorders, however, liquids need to be thickened, making it harder to feel as though your thirst is quenched, changing your ability to enjoy things like that first hot cup of coffee in the morning or a glass of your favorite soda at lunchtime. Adjusting to thickened liquids takes some time, but these suggestions can help.

What Are the Best Beverage Thickeners?

It boils down to the person’s individual preference and might take some experimentation to identify which is best suited. The physician will advise on the level of thickness needed, which might range from thin, to nectar- or honey-like, to spoon-thick. The kinds of thickeners available include:

  • Liquid or gel thickeners that blend easily without clumping, even into beverages which can be more challenging to thicken, such as hot foods, soda, or supplement beverages.
  • Starch powders, made of modified cornstarch, which have to be served just after mixing to prevent lumpiness or a gritty texture or taste.
  • Gum-based powders, which are relatively new and are often a preferred option over starch powders, because they maintain their viscosity over time and work without adding flavor, grit, or cloudiness to the liquid.
  • Pre-thickened products, which are becoming increasingly available, in either honey or nectar consistencies.

It is essential to make sure that someone with a swallowing disorder stays hydrated. Certain fluids may be more palatable, especially as the individual is adapting to thickened liquids. Try fruit juice, which will be similar in texture to a fruit puree or smoothie. You can also freeze thickened juice, or any other thickened beverage, into an ice pop.

It’s also helpful to be aware that beverage thickeners may be covered by Medicaid, Medicare, and private insurance providers. Although these products are available over the counter, ask the doctor to write a prescription and include the need for a beverage thickener in the older adult’s chart notes to see if the cost is reimbursable.

Continuum’s experts in home help in Chesterfield and the surrounding areas can help prepare thickened beverages and provide encouragement to make certain seniors with swallowing disorders stay healthy and hydrated, along with a number of other senior care services at home. Contact us at (314) 863-9912 or (636) 861-3336 to request a complimentary in-home consultation to learn more.