Now That’s Hard to Swallow!

Now That’s Hard to Swallow!

image of female and female senior seated

One minute you’re in the backyard visiting with your neighbors over a picnic meal, and before you know it, a delicately prepared bite of steak has become stuck in your throat.  As you’re coughing, sweating, and panicking, it’s Heimlich’s miraculous maneuver to the rescue! If you’re fortunate, the maneuver works as intended, with no harm or foul, but choking can have more detrimental effects. The National Safety Council reported that in 2020, 3,000 choking deaths occurred, and nearly half of the victims were over age 74. Many things change with age, including the ability to swallow easily.

Because it’s Heimlich Maneuver Day, we also want to highlight a possible choking preventative: speech therapy. Unfortunately, speech therapy isn’t given proper credit. When many think of it, grade school may come to mind when it helps youngsters pronounce their /r/s correctly, but it’s far more than linguistics. Did you know it can also help with swallowing?

The same structures involved in speech and voice production are also part of the swallow mechanism. When muscles become deconditioned and weak, the risk of aspiration increases. Aspiration is when food or liquids enters the lungs. Aside from discomfort and a choking sensation, pneumonia can also be a severe complication of aspirating foods and beverages.

Signs of a Swallowing Impairment

Swallow studies are ordered by a medical doctor and completed in a hospital or clinic. During the study, participants may be asked to swallow various liquids. This can help to determine if there are significant problems with the muscles in their throat that contribute to swallowing. Participants may also undergo a scope evaluation that can show physicians the inside of the throat to find areas of weakness or structural deficiencies. After the assessment, doctors may recommend dietary changes such as thickened liquids, speech therapy, or surgical procedures to address the problem. If you or someone you love shows signs of swallowing impairment, seeking a medical evaluation promptly may help reduce the risk of unwanted complications like choking.

Additional Tips to Prevent Choking:

  • Eat appropriately sized food (cut into bite sizes)
  • Don’t speak or laugh while eating
  • Chew food carefully/adequately
  • Allow enough time for meals (avoid rushing the process)
  • Ensure dentures are properly fitted to reduce gaging
  • Provide water or a beverage to help wash the meal down safely

Dementia & Increased Choking Risks

Memory loss can cause someone to forget to chew at all or adequately before they swallow, leading to significant choking and aspiration problems. While a speech therapy evaluation to learn best practices for mealtime is ideal, check out the tips above and below to increase safety at mealtime for those suffering from dementia:

  • Calm, verbal reminders to chew and swallow
  • Comfortable, distraction-free environment
  • Supervision during the meal

If you’re seeking outpatient speech therapy or memory care services for your loved one, contact us at We offer a variety of support, such as adult day services and memory care, and many of our communities also offer on-site outpatient speech therapy services provided by CaringEdge to help.

Relief Options for Those with Parkinson’s

Relief Options for Those with Parkinson’s

senior exercising


Because April is Parkinson’s Awareness Month, we wanted to help spread the word and highlight how those suffering have found some relief.

The Hoehn-Yahr Scale helps to classify Parkinson’s disease into stages based on the degree of physical involvement. The first stage, stage I, begins as involvement on one side of the body with minimal or no troubles with functional use. The most advanced stage, stage V, is classified as physical weakness and incapacity, so great that the individual may be bed-bound or using a wheelchair unless given assistance.

Almost all diagnoses have a progression, and Parkinson’s disease presents differently in each individual who is diagnosed. Both physical and non-physical symptoms come from this neurodegenerative disease that could cause minimal or devastating impacts on daily function and relationships.

The early stages can be easily misunderstood as ordinary changes related to the aging process. Unfortunately, when symptoms are overlooked, the clock is ticking. Increasing our understanding of the disease process helps us to intervene earlier.


Common earliest signs of Parkinson’s:

  • Fatigue
  • Decreased ability to smell (which may also lead to appetite changes and weight loss)
  • Constipation
  • Small, cramped handwriting
  • Voice changes
  • Stooped posture

It’s no wonder that the early signs of Parkinson’s disease often go unrecognized. The body tries to alert you to this movement disorder for years before movement difficulties are generally even recognized, and your body compensates for these early warning signs. However, as the disease progresses to the mid-to-late stages, there are much more noticeable symptoms. Read on to learn more about the common symptoms and some of the lesser-known ones.

Four major characteristics:

  • Tremors (shaking that occurs at rest)
  • Stiffness in the arms, legs, and trunk
  • Slow movements
  • Problems with balance and a tendency to fall

Secondary symptoms:

  • Reduced arm swinging when walking
  • Tendency to get “stuck” when walking
  • Tendency to fall forward
  • Muffled, low-volume speech
  • Blank facial expression
  • Decreased blinking and swallowing

Lesser-known symptoms:

  • Increased risk of melanoma (skin cancer)
  • Flaky white or yellow scales on the skin, known as seborrheic dermatitis
  • Sleep disturbances with vivid dreams
  • Hallucinations
  • Difficulty with visual-spatial relationships
  • Problems with attention and memory
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Muscular pain

Caregivers often wonder what will help their loved ones to live well through the progression of Parkinson’s disease. Many hopeful therapies are around to help encourage those living with Parkinson’s.


Since 1987, individuals have been experiencing the benefits of amplitude-based treatment developed by Dr. Lorraine Ramig called Lee Silverman Voice Treatment (LSVT LOUD). It is based on the principle of “recalibrating” the understanding of how to use the voice to provide for increased volume, clarity of speech, and facial expression. LSVT LOUD is directed by a specially trained speech therapist and follows a specific dosage for optimal results. More recently, LSVT BIG has been developed with the same principles of amplitude-based training and recalibration from LSVT LOUD, but this time to focus on the body’s overall movements. Certified physical and occupational therapists lead the participant through a one-on-one, intensive four-week program to optimize the performance of walking, balance, dressing, handwriting, and whatever other tasks are meaningful to each participant.

Parkinson Wellness Recovery (PWR!)

Parkinson Wellness Recovery (PWR!) is a model of fitness and health for life developed by Dr. Becky Farley in 2010 for individuals with Parkinson’s disease. It creates a natural flow to and from group fitness classes and skilled one-on-one therapy with a certified PWR! occupational or physical therapist to decrease symptoms of Parkinson’s disease and promote an optimal quality of life. PWR! uses four primary movements, PRW! Up, PWR! Rock, PWR! Twist and PWR! The steps that work to counteract the symptoms of stiffness, slowness of movement, incoordination, and reduced body awareness are commonly found in individuals with Parkinson’s disease. PWR! builds physical, cognitive, and emotional health through specialized delivery of service and through empowering participants to live well every day.


Rock Steady Boxing

Empowerment and hope are the keywords for Rock Steady Boxing. This one-of-a-kind program is designed to knock out the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease through a specially designed non-contact boxing program. It optimizes physical fitness and provides a non-traditional support group where participants and their care partners unite to fight against Parkinson’s disease. Whether you consider yourself an athlete or not, this program is for you!

With the help of CaringEdge’s Outpatient Therapy Program, those residing at Edgewood have some options for managing symptoms of Parkinson’s. When a disease like Parkinson’s strikes, there’s no cure, but creatively, we can help those in need to find relief. Reach out to us today at to learn more.