Choking Hazards for Seniors & Older Adults

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When we eat, we often don’t focus on the process of eating – biting, chewing and swallowing. However, as a person ages, the activity of eating which was once second nature, becomes more difficult and can even make food difficult or dangerous to eat.

Additionally, the older mouth tends to be very dry as salivary production decreases with age. Some medications such as antidepressants, anti-anxiety drugs, antihistamines, and diuretics may also slow the production of saliva. Reduced saliva also makes food difficult to swallow, causing a choking hazard. If you provide care for an aging parent or loved one, it’s important to be aware of the most common choking hazards for seniors, some of which are healthy foods that you wouldn’t think twice about!

  • Popcorn – A fun snack, popcorn can get stuck in the airway, making it difficult to breathe and causing extreme discomfort.
  • Peanut Butter – Since peanut butter is so thick, it can get lodged in the throat.  Putting it on white bread increases the risk, because the combination acts like glue. Adding jelly and spreading peanut butter thinly reduces the choking risk.
  • Crackers and Rice Cakes – The dryness of both these precuts can make it difficult to swallow and chew. Unfortunately, they are often seen as healthy snacks and are commonly recommended for seniors and older adults.
  • Fruit – Seniors often have trouble biting directly into fruit as the result of tooth decay or gum pain, however chopping up fruit may create another problem – a choking hazard. Large chunks of fruit such as pineapple, bananas, berries, and apples should be cut into small pieces.

Choking hazards are also more common among seniors with advanced conditions. For instance, Parkinson’s patients may find the movements of chewing and swallowing more difficult as the disease progresses and many stroke survivors also have difficulty eating independently. If you care for an aging parent or loved one with one of these conditions, it’s important to speak with their doctor about choking risks and which foods would be recommended as replacements.

For more information about senior nutrition and safety, reach out to Home Care Assistance of Denton County. We are a premier provider of hourly and live-in senior care and have a team of highly trained caregivers who can assist with a variety of tasks from nutritious meal preparation to transportation for errands and medical appointments. Reach out to us today at 972-468-6010 and schedule a complimentary, no-obligation consultation.