Health care facilities providing residential services to dysphagia patients are potentially vulnerable to the devastating effects of catastrophic storms and natural disasters. Patients with swallowing disorders represent a highly vulnerable population, particularly in an emergency situation, due to the cognitive, physical, emotional and behavioral impairments stemming from the roots causes of dysphagia.1 However, the most critical necessity for these patients in an emergency situation is their continuous and uncompromising need for dysphagia-friendly nutrition and hydration in the forms of liquids, powders and purees.2
September is “National Preparedness Month,” sponsored by the Federal Emergency Management Agency in the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.3 The goal of this initiative, now in its 14th year, is to educate the public about how to prepare for emergencies, including natural disasters, mass casualties, biological and chemical threats, radiation emergencies, and terrorist attacks.4 We encourage you to have your dysphagia foods services and menus well-planned and ready throughout the year. Here are a few tips for ensuring both you and your patents are always prepared in the event of a disaster or emergency.
1. Have flexible nutritional options for your dysphagia patients.
- Consistently take inventory of your food supply available to your dysphagia food patients.
- Know the specific dietary needs of each of your patients to ensure you have all the necessary foods and ingredients for their health and nutritional needs.
- Check the expiration dates of each of your food and liquid products and modify menus to use the oldest foods first to maximize your inventory.
2. Keep a well-organized, easily accessible food inventory.
- Keep emergency food products on the highest possible floor within your facility for protection from possible flooding and water damage.
- Clearly label all foods products to easily identify and track all available foods for your patients and residents.
- Keep a minimum of at least a week’s supply of non-perishable, dysphagia-friendly foods on hand at all times.
3. Create an emergency menu focused on hot foods that can be easily heated, and plenty of liquids.
Nutritious, easily accessible foods and fluids are key to an emergency menu. Here is a sample, featuring Thick-It® brand dysphagia nutrition solutions:
- Breakfast: Thick-It® Clear Advantage® Thickened Water for hot and cold beverages (add powdered milk, tea or coffee) and hot cereals (add cream of wheat) and Thick-It® French Toast Puree.
- Lunch: Sloppy Joe, Mac and Cheese, and Thick-It® Sweet Corn Puree.
- Dinner: Thick-It® Clear Advantage® Thickened Water for a variety of soups (mix with condensed tomato and condensed cream of mushroom) and Thick-It® Beef Stew Puree.
- Dessert: Applesauce, add food blends for variety, and Thick-It® Caramel Flavored Apple Pie Puree.
4. Have a plan for preparing food without power.
- Although hot meals are preferred, be sure to have food options that do not require boiling or heating.
- Periodically check to make sure backup generators in your facility are in good working order.
- Investigate options for emergency mobile kitchen units in your area.
5. Be sure you have these non-food related items within your facility, including:
- Battery-powered or hand crank radios and a NOAA Weather Radio with tone alert and extra batteries for both
- Flashlights and extra batteries
- First aid kits
- Moist towelettes, garbage bags and plastic ties for personal sanitation
- Wrench or pliers to turn off utilities
- Manual can openers for food
- Cell phones with chargers, inverters or solar chargers
Following these steps will help you begin to consider the essential foods and supplies you will need to keep your dysphagia patients safe and nourished until the emergency passes or help arrives. For more information on “National Preparedness Month,” visit www.cdc.gov/features/beready.