A new white paper was launched today that highlights the lack of awareness and healthcare training for dysphagia, a condition that is said to affect 8% of the population.
‘Dysphagia – The Hard to Swallow Truth’ is designed to plug a gap in easily accessible information available to support individuals, and their family members, living with the condition.
In addition, care professionals are struggling with limited awareness, a lack of investment into training and resource, inconsistent use of standards and a failure to focus on providing a dignified dining experience.
The report, which is published by food producer Apetito, points out that dysphagia can lead to malnutrition and dehydration, a loss of dignity when dining, and has potentially fatal consequences.
Yet there is a worrying lack of easily accessible information available to support the increasing number of individuals, and their family members, living with this condition.
In the white paper, it examines the complexities of this condition and paints a picture of a condition that sees surprisingly little awareness, despite its prevalence.
According to its research, as many as 75% of nursing home residents will live with dysphagia, while an estimated 68% of those living with dementia have dysphagia. Data also shows that between 40% and 78% of stroke survivors experience dysphagia.
Lee Sheppard, director of public policy and external affairs at Apetito, said: “Dysphagia is caused by a huge number of primary conditions – it’s associated with stroke, those suffering brain injury, developing Parkinson’s, Multiple Sclerosis, or dementia. It is also widespread in children with acute Cerebral Palsy, as well as being widely experienced amongst the elderly, often simply due to muscle-weakening or poorly fitting dentures.
“It is not surprising that many of us will experience this condition which can lead to further severe health problems, and yet our research has shown that 70% of healthcare professionals (HCPs) say there is a worrying lack of help, education and training around dysphagia.
“Indeed, 53% of HCPs felt that a lack of access to potential solutions such as texture modified foods directly contributed to aspiration in patients and 47% felt that this lack also directly led to malnutrition in those living with the condition. Overall, 73% were concerned about the nutritional intake of their dysphagia patients.”
Sheppard said the research suggests increased levels of training and investment in healthcare professionals is needed. “We also need support organisations to provide far better information and signposting and for dignified standards to be upheld by our regulators.
“In recent years, special ranges of food have been developed following approved guidelines for dysphagia. However, specialist texture modified foods – which are high in nutritional value and have been proven to support the reduction of malnutrition in care home residents – are not available on prescription, nor are those living with the condition adequately signposted to them.”
The full report can be downloaded from www.apetito.co.uk.