May is Stroke Awareness Month and we wanted to share with you an article we have written specifically to help you to develop greater empathy to support ladies and gents who have survived a stroke to continue to eat and drink, as best they can independently and with dignity.
I would like you to imagine, for a moment, how you would feel if you were suddenly struck down with a stroke – seemingly coming from nowhere in the space of a moment, and with potentially life changing consequences – not just for you who is immediately affected, but also for your loved ones.
After all, shaky hands, limited movement in your neck and/or potential paralysis down one side of your body, would make it nearly impossible for you to eat and drink independently. And having to have someone assist you with your meals, or face spilling food on a table or yourself, can be embarrassing and have a negative effect on your self-esteem and even lead to you refusing to eat.
Dealing with the aftermath of a stroke can be physically and emotionally stressful. Depending on the severity of the stroke, you may lose some of your mental and physical abilities. Some of your abilities may return over time, while others may not. You need to relearn and practice every day movement sequences – which include eating and drinking, to help promote dignity, independence and the enjoyment of food once again.
You may have a loved one or care for ladies and gents who are stroke survivors, and by empathising with their conditions and symptoms, you can gain a better understanding of how best you can help them:
Here we talk about some of the ways a stroke can affect normal eating, and offer you our tips and solutions to help overcome them:
Swallowing difficulties– a stroke survivor may experience choking coughing, or gagging while eating, or find that liquid comes out of their nose when they try to swallow. It may get better over time, but a few tips can help:
- Get a referral to a Speech and Language Therapist. They will be able to provide guidance on exercises to strengthen the tongue, lips, throat, and mouth muscles, which will help with swallowing. They may also recommend prescription medications like muscle relaxers, which can open the throat and make swallowing easier, and prescribe a pureed diet and thickened drinks for safer nutrition and hydration.
- Stick to soft and pureed foods like cooked cereal, mashed potatoes, soup, cottage cheese, and apple sauce, as they are all easier to eat. Our innovative range of silicone food moulds are amazing to help improve the presentation of pureed foods.
- If you want to try tougher foods, cut them into small pieces or chop them in a blender to make them easier to chew.
- Thicken liquids. It’s important to drink enough fluid to avoid dehydration. But when you have swallowing difficulties, you are at high risk of aspiration, when water and other thin liquids can accidentally enter your airways or lungs and cause serious health problems such as pneumonia. We have range of drinks thickeners and drinking beakers with spouts suitable for thickened fluids.
If using cutlery is a challenge – a stroke can weaken the muscles in arms or hands making it hard to use traditional forks, knives, and spoons. Try:
- Cutlery with larger and thicker handles which are easier to hold
- Switching to a knife with a curved blade that allows the cutting of food with one hand, or a ‘splayed fork’ which acts like a spoon and a fork in one for single handed eaters.
Eating with one hand – a stroke can lead to paralysis (temporary or permanent) down one side of the body, making eating independently more challenging, try the following ideas:
Our brilliant Sloped Base Plate and Bowls unite three products in one: plate/bowl, plate guard and non-slip table set.
- They have an interior base which is not flat and a discreet protruding lip, both of which help food to slide toward the fork or spoon making it easier for people with limited hand mobility to access food with a fork or spoon.
- Additionally a nonslip base, guarantees a firm stand to help enable single-handed eating.
- Adaptive kitchen equipment – special tools can be used to help cook one-handed, such as easy-grip scissors, battery-powered peelers, and specially designed cutting boards.
Eating slowly – when recovering from a stroke and relearning every day skills including eating and drinking independently it can take longer to eat meals, which can cause them to get cold and therefore be unappetising for the person who then gives up on eating and becomes at greater risk of malnutrition.
- Non-slip grip pads on the side pf the plate and bowl not only ensure a safe hold, but also conceal the openings for the thermal function which are both safe and easy to fill with hot or cold water or crushed ice ( to also use for desserts and ice cream to keep them cool)
- A non-slip ring under the base ensures a firm stance whilst eating.
Our colourful and functional range of Ornamin tableware, with its supportive features, compensate for just these types of disability, and can help to facilitate independent and carefree eating and drinking. They hold products securely in place on the table, prevent them from slipping out of hands and, like an invisible second hand, allow people with just one hand to eat on their own with ease.