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5 Ways to Protect Dysphagia Patients During National Preparedness Month

If the past two-and-a-half years have taught us anything, it is that global health crises can cause widespread devastation. Therefore, it is important for healthcare facilities and caregivers treating patients with dysphagia to take proactive steps to mitigate harm in advance of future disasters.

Unfortunately, there are a lack of disaster preparedness measures made specifically for people with swallowing disorders.[i] Many existing disaster response plans overlook differences in textures between emergency foods and those that are safe for individuals with dysphagia to consume. This may lead to an increase in the rate of aspiration pneumonia in vulnerable populations after a disaster.

Every September during National Preparedness Month, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) supports emergency preparedness efforts.[ii] Healthcare facilities and caregivers should be ready to respond to an infectious disease outbreak, chemical or radiological release, or natural disaster with texture modified foods and drinks well-planned and staged throughout the year.

Consider these five tips to help you prepare to meet the nutritional needs of the patients you care for during an emergency:

1) Have flexible nutritional options for your dysphagia patients.

  • Regularly take inventory of your supply of texture modified foods and drinks.
  • Know the specific dietary needs of each of your patients to ensure you have the necessary foods and drinks to meet their health and nutritional needs.
  • Check the expiration dates of each product and modify menus to use the older foods and drinks first to maximize your inventory.

2) Keep a well-organized, easily accessible food and drink inventory.

  • Keep emergency food and drink products on the highest possible floor within your facility for protection from possible flooding and water damage.
  • Clearly label all food and drink products so they are easy to identify and track.
  • Always keep a minimum of at least a week’s supply of non-perishable, dysphagia-friendly foods and drinks on hand.

3) Create an emergency menu with easily accessible and nutritious foods that can be heated and plenty of liquids, including:

4) Have a plan for preparing food without power.

  • 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) Keep 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 ensure you have the essential supplies to keep your patients with dysphagia safe and nourished until an emergency passes or help arrives. For more information on National Preparedness Month, visit the CDC website.

Always seek the advice of a physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have about a medical condition, treatment, or the use of Thick-It® products. The information contained herein is for informational purposes and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment in any manner.

[i] Tashiro S., Kawakami M., Oka A., Liu F., Nishimura A., Ogawa C., Hagai F., Yamamoto S., Yazawa M., Liu M. “Estimating nutrition intake status of community-dwelling elderly people requiring care in disaster settings: A preliminary cross-sectional survey.” Journal of Rehabilitation Medicine, April 1, 2019.
[ii] “National Preparedness Month.” Centers for Disease Control, August 30, 2021.

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