What is Dysphagia Training?

Did you know that 16-22% of Australians over the age of 50 experience Dysphagia? Dysphagia, or swallowing difficulties, are a common symptom of many conditions, like Stroke, Parkinson’s Disease, and Motor Neuron Disease. 

While there is a lot of information out there about Dysphagia generally, every individual’s experience is different. The varying severity of swallowing difficulties calls for different recommendations and food and fluid modifications to support safe swallowing. If you are caring for someone with Dysphagia, or multiple people if you are a support worker or professional carer, you should consider completing Dysphagia training.

Find out more about what Dysphagia training is, what you’ll learn in Dysphagia training, and how you can access a convenient Dysphagia training program with practical resources in this article. 

What is Dysphagia?

Let’s start by defining Dysphagia in a little more depth. As you know, Dysphagia is a term that refers to persistent swallowing difficulties. There are multiple stages of the swallowing process, and as such, there are different types of swallowing difficulties based on which stage of the process is impacted by neurological or physical damage.

Here is a brief overview of the three main types of Dysphagia:

Oral Dysphagia is a type of swallowing difficulty caused by changes in the structure or function of muscles in the mouth, like the tongue. It can create difficulty when trying to take bites from a utensil, chewing food, or managing the movement of food or fluid to the back of the oral cavity. This kind of swallowing difficulty can also lead to food or fluid leaking out of the front of the mouth due to a poor lip seal when eating and drinking.

Pharyngeal / Oropharyngeal Dysphagia is a swallowing difficulty characterised by food or fluid not passing through the throat area as it would normally. This can feel uncomfortable, and can even lead to a heightened risk of food or fluid ‘going down the wrong way’. 

Oesophageal Dysphagia is a swallowing difficulty that shows up towards the end of the swallowing process, as food or fluid begins to try and move down through the oesophagus. This can also feel uncomfortable and lead to a heightened risk of reflux and food or fluid ‘going down the wrong way’. 

It’s important to note that Dysphagia can be caused by both neurological (stroke, Parkinson’s Disease) or structural changes (oesophageal narrowing due to GORD) that impact swallowing function. You can learn more about Dysphagia causes here.

The Benefits of Dysphagia Training

When people with Dysphagia are seen by a Speech Pathologist, they are assessed and a personalised Mealtime Management Plan is developed to support them in maintaining airway safety when swallowing. The plan is designed in collaboration with the individual to consider their preferences and needs to help maximise their enjoyment of mealtimes. Because Dysphagia symptoms can change over time, Speech Pathologists perform regular reviews of Mealtime Management Plans which can lead to changes in recommended strategies and diet modifications. 

For family members, carers, and support workers caring for a person with Dysphagia, these Mealtime Management Plans can be a lot to take in at first glance (especially if it is your first experience caring for someone with Dysphagia!). Mealtime Management Plans are filled with helpful instructions for those supporting the individual with Dysphagia, but it can be worthwhile gaining some background knowledge from Dysphagia training to help inform the way you care for someone with Dysphagia.

Here are some of the benefits of completing Dysphagia Training:

  • You will learn about the swallowing function and signs of Dysphagia
  • You will develop your knowledge and confidence in assisting people with their specific eating and drinking needs 
  • You will have a greater understanding of the use of texture-modified diets and fluids
  • You will learn about Mealtime Management Plans and what to look for in them
  • You will learn how to identify swallowing risks and how to address mealtime difficulties
  • You will be equipped with the information you need to successfully support individuals with Dysphagia to have safe and enjoyable mealtimes

What You Will Learn in Dysphagia Training:

Want to find out more about Dysphagia Training? Here are some things you can expect to learn in Dysphagia Training. Although, keep in mind that the following Dysphagia Training inclusions come from the Speak & Swallow Dysphagia Training program. You may find that Dysphagia Training with other providers will cover different content. 

Here is what you’ll learn in Dysphagia Training:

  • The foundations for maximising safety and mealtime enjoyment for people with Dysphagia (swallowing difficulty)
  • Evidence-based theory on Dysphagia including what happens during swallowing and how it can create risks to airway safety
  • Your responsibilities in line with the NDIS regulations and Australian Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission
  • A variety of tools and techniques to help implement Mealtime Management Plans for those in your care

Where to Access Dysphagia Training

Most Speech Pathologists in Australia will provide the option of training support workers or carers of a client with Dysphagia on how to implement Mealtime Management Plan recommendations. However, in-person training may not always be an option with a large care team spread across multiple locations. Family members may also want to take part in Dysphagia training to get a better understanding of how to support their loved one with Dysphagia. 

Online Dysphagia Training is a great option for accessing convenient and immediate training on all aspects of Dysphagia and Mealtime Management Plans. At Speak & Swallow, we have developed a comprehensive online training with our team of Speech Pathologists that you can have lifetime access to for only $89. Visit our dedicated website page to find out more, or send us an email to find out more about whether online Dysphagia training is right for you. 

Speak & Swallow also offer in-person Dysphagia and Mealtime Management Plan training in Burpengary for those located locally. It is a great option if you have a team of carers who would like to be trained in Dysphagia management at the same time so they are all on the same page.

We hope you’ve found this article exploring the different elements of Dysphagia training helpful. Just by taking the initiative to seek out further information on how you can support someone with swallowing difficulties, we can already tell you are doing a great job in looking after those in your care.

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