Dysphagia in Geriatric Population


Dysphagia also referred to as (swallowing difficulty) has become one of the greatest health concerns among the aging population in recent times. In the US alone, dysphagia affects over half a million people annually. According to Crary, it is estimated that approximately 15% of the aging population is affected by dysphagia. In addition to this, recent studies suggest that dysphagia prevalence among the elderly has been on an increase in recent years. A single study conducted by the American Health Institute indicated that between 2002 and 2007, dysphagia referral rates in tertiary medical institutions increased from 15% to 20%. The study further revealed that over 70% of the referrals were patients above 60 years of age.

Dysphagia has over the years become prevalent among aging adults. Despite the fact that old age facilitates in a way some physiological change in human body, age related diseases are a common factor in dysphagia patients. The presence of diseases such as stroke and dementia may reflect a high rate of dysphagia. In almost all situations, dysphagia is associated with lack of nutritional food as well as an increased risk of pneumonia. Recent studies conducted by medical practitioners around the world suggest that aging adults face a greater risk of contracting dysphagia.

Management of dysphagia requires a combination of both clinical and non-clinical procedures as there is no ingle strategy that can effectively manage dysphagia among the elderly. Medical professionals apply different strategies when dealing with dysphagia patients. However, what is common among these patients is that different individuals respond uniquely to such treatment procedures. For dysphagia patients who show signs of improvement, medical professionals apply what is known as compensation strategies which are intended to be utilized for a short period of time. Compensation strategies are intended to help the patient maintain both nutritional and hydration needs through the adjustment of food and liquid until such a time when the patient can do so by themselves. However, acute dysphagia may require intense rehabilitation of the patient to correct the swallow functions.

Despite the fact that dysphagia is not considered as a serious health problem, statistics show that if not monitored well, the results would be reduced morbidity in elderly populations. While the medical fraternity is searching for the most effective and efficient methods of identifying dysphagia, it is upon the rest of the society to ensure that any symptoms of dysphagia are addressed during the early stages. Future research should also focus on providing alternative strategies that will help address dysphagia as a medical related problem.