8 ways to manage swallowing problems

John cared for his mum, who had Parkinson's. He shares 8 tips on managing swallowing and saliva control.

 

Issues with swallowing and saliva control can affect many people with Parkinson's and their family, friends and carers. 

As Parkinson's progresses, chewing food can be tiring and become more difficult. Your swallowing reflex also becomes less responsive.

This means that there is an increased risk of food going down the wrong way. But it's important that these issues don't stop you eating well and enjoying a meal with others.

There are lots of things that can help. These are John's tips.

1
Try to eat foods that require less chewing but are still nourishing

Examples include porridge, mashed potato, turnip (or other veg) and meat which has been minced.

2
Try slow cooking whole pieces of meat

This will mean that it is as soft as possible before you chew and swallow it.

3
Ensure any liquids are suitably thick as it's very easy for these to go down the wrong way

Thickeners such as 'Thick and Easy' are available on prescription and can be added in the right amounts to get the thickness you need. Cornflour can also be used as a substitute.

4
Make fruit juice or smoothies instead of eating whole fruits

Using a blender is a quick and easy way to do this. Bear in mind that smoothies are a thicker consistency so may be easier to swallow.

5
Use your posture to help you swallow well

Use a comfortable chair that can be adjusted if needed or add cushions to help you sit up straight.

6
Suck a mint or sweet

Doing this can help you practise swallowing and reduce drooling. 

7
Some medication can be provided in a non-oral form if you find tablets difficult to swallow

For example, rotigotine is a type of dopamine agonist medication. It comes in a patch which you stick to your skin. Speak to a health professional about whether this type of medication is right for you.

8
If you care for someone with the condition, check inside their mouth for any leftover food after a mouthful

If someone you care for has more advanced Parkinson's, they may not realise they still have bits of food left in their mouth. This could lead to choking. Looking inside their mouth will make sure all their food is gone. 

What else can help with swallowing and saliva control?

Speech and language therapy

If you need more advice on swallowing and saliva control, a speech and language therapist can help. Speak to your GP about getting a referral.

A speech and language therapist can give you tips to help you swallow more easily and teach you how to use any equipment for controlling saliva.

The Swallow Prompt app

Swallow Prompt is an app that delivers regular and discreet prompts that remind you to swallow. It's available for iPhone, iPad and Android devices. 

Find out more about the Swallow Prompt app.

More information on eating, swallowing and saliva control

Find out more about these issues, how they can affect your Parkinson's and what you can do to manage them. 

Go to our information on eating, swallowing and saliva control.