How to Use Beverage Thickeners to Help Swallowing Disorders

Learn how beverage thickeners can help seniors with swallowing disorders.

Nothing quenches your thirst like a glass of cold water. You may love a milkshake on a warm summer day. And when you’re recuperating from the flu, a warm bowl of soup really hits the spot. However, unless you’re one of the many Americans diagnosed with swallowing disorders, it is likely you haven’t given much consideration to the various textures and consistencies of the liquids in your diet.

With a swallowing disorder, liquids have to be thickened, making it much harder to feel as though your thirst is quenched, and changing your ability to savor things such as that first hot cup of coffee in the morning, or a glass of your favorite soda at lunchtime. Making the adjustment to thickened liquids can take some getting used to, but these suggestions will help.

What Are the Best Beverage Thickeners?

Everyone is different, so it may take a period of trial and error to establish someone’s preferences. The physician will advise on the degree of thickness needed, which might vary from thin, to nectar- or honey-like, to spoon-thick. The kinds of thickeners available include:

  • Starch powders, made of modified cornstarch, which have to be served just after mixing in order to avoid lumpiness or a gritty texture or taste.
  • Gum-based powders, which are relatively new and are frequently a preferred option over starch powders, as 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, either in honey or nectar consistencies.
  • Liquid or gel thickeners that blend easily without clumping, even into beverages that can be harder to thicken, such as soda, hot foods, or supplement beverages.

It’s vital that someone with a swallowing disorder is consistently hydrating. Certain fluids could be more palatable, particularly as the person is adjusting to thickened liquids. Try fruit juice, which will be similar in texture to a smoothie or fruit puree. You may also freeze thickened juice, or just about any other thickened beverage, into an ice pop.

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

Our caregivers can help prepare thickened beverages and provide encouragement to ensure those with swallowing disorders stay hydrated and healthy, along with a number of other senior care services at home. Contact us online or call 213-383-2273 to request a complimentary in-home consultation to find out more about our elderly home care services in Los Angeles and the nearby areas.