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On the Front Lines of Dysphagia: Susan Norris

Dysphagia affects an estimated 590 million people worldwidei, yet the swallowing disorder is often overlooked and unknown. On our blog and social media pages, we’ve been sharing the stories of patients, caregivers, healthcare professionals and others impacted by the disorder. Our hope is that “On the Front Lines of Dysphagia” will help raise awareness of the disorder, and ultimately, as with everything we do, improve the lives of those living with it.

Our latest interview is with Susan Norris, regional sales manager for the Personal Nutrition Solutions (PNS) division of Kent Precision Foods Group, Inc. (KPFG). Under the PNS division, KPFG produces the Thick-It® brand family of products.

Q: Tell me about your experience working with people with dysphagia and their caregivers.

A: In my personal life, I’ve seen how dysphagia impacts overall health. Both my father and grandmother were afflicted with dysphagia as a result of mesothelioma and dementia. It’s hard on families to see their loved ones not eating or drinking enough, which can create a tremendous amount of fear and frustration for the patient and family. On a professional level, I have witnessed the effects of dysphagia on the clinician-patient therapy relationship in hospitals, long-term care and rehabilitation facilities. In particular, I have witnessed the difficulties associated with the management of dysphagia which can often lead to setbacks in a patient’s rehabilitation progress, creating frustration on all sides – from the patient to the caregiver to the healthcare professional.

Q: Why are you passionate about helping those with dysphagia?

A: I’ve always been passionate about helping others, and knowing I can be a part of changing the day-to-day life for those with dysphagia is what drives me. Having worked in healthcare for more than 20 years, I’ve seen firsthand how complex and challenging dysphagia can be for patients and families alike. I always put the patient at the center of what I do, and it’s fulfilling for me to help improve their quality of life, healthcare experience, and family, among other things

Q: Have you seen firsthand how dysphagia affects patients’ dignity, confidence and quality of life?

A: I see the embarrassment and lack of confidence that comes with having dysphagia. For example, some patients don’t want to drink out of something that looks like a medicinal product or baby food, and some patients won’t eat or drink because they’re embarrassed or they can’t open their own food and drink containers. Dysphagia can really strip away one’s independence and make them feel isolated and different from everyone else. In our culture, food is the centerpiece of nearly every social interaction – from holidays with family to dinner and drinks out with friends – but people with dysphagia lose that luxury.

Q: Why are you passionate about selling Thick-It® products?

A: I truly believe that Thick-It® products can change lives. Dysphagia is difficult enough for these folks; they deserve to dine with dignity and feel confident that their mealtime offerings are safe, nutritious and flavorful.


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