In 2022, Speech Pathology Australia will host Swallowing Awareness Day on Wednesday 16 March.
Swallowing Awareness Day is an opportunity to bring attention to swallowing disorders and to connect people with speech pathologists, the professionals who can help.
Like breathing, swallowing is essential to everyday life. Humans swallow at between 500-700 times a day, around three times an hour during sleep, once per minute while awake and even more during meals.
Around one million Australians have a swallowing difficulty and swallowing problems can occur at any stage of life. However, the knowledge of swallowing difficulties and its implications remain largely unknown for most Australians.
This year's theme is: Dysphagia. A difficult diagnosis to swallow!
What is Dysphagia?
Swallowing difficulty (dysphagia) is any problem with sucking, swallowing, drinking, chewing, eating, controlling saliva, taking medication, or protecting the lungs from food and drink ‘going the wrong way’. It can also be a problem with keeping the lips closed so that food, liquid or saliva doesn’t dribble out.
Sometimes, the first sign of a swallowing problem is coughing, gagging or choking when eating and drinking. Swallowing problems can mean food, drinks or saliva gets into the lungs and this can cause lung infections (pneumonia). Reflux is a problem where the valves in the oesophagus causes the contents of the stomach (like food, drink or stomach acid) to come back up, sometimes reaching as far up as the throat and mouth.
How to find a Speech Pathologist
Public services are sometimes available through hospitals, community health centres, MND Clinics and outreach. We recommend you discuss your options with accessing a speech pathologist with your current health practitioners, MND Advisor, Support Coordinator (NDIS) or Case Manager (My Aged Care).
Speech Pathology Australia have an online search tool here which lists current certified and practising members of Speech Pathology Australia (SPA). These are only the members who have chosen to have their details made public and may not be experienced supporting people with MND.
MND NSW has a range of publications available for people living with MND, their family and their service providers. Our publication 'Living with motor neurone disease: day-to-day for people with MND, their family and friends' has a section on Communication and MND, Eating Well and suggestions for symptom management. This publication is available to view free online or can be provided in hard copy, ask your MND Advisor or our Information Line for further details.
- The MND Connect website also has information on eating, drinking & swallowing and MND Information & Support | MND Australia
- Learn more about swallowing difficulty (dysphagia) by reading this fact sheet produced by Speech Pathology Australia: Fact Sheet on Swallowing.
- This comprehensive guide Eating and drinking with motor neurone disease (MND) is produced by the Motor Neurone Disease Association of England, Wales and Northern Ireland.
- Managing saliva - Learn more about managing problems with saliva with this factsheet from the MND Association: Swallowing difficulties factsheet
- For recipe ideas, and a cook book range from Hammond Care, see our blog post here
Clare McCluskey – former Senior Speech Pathologist at St Joseph’s Hospital presented at our ‘Living Well with MND’ day in 2019. Clare outlines a ‘recipe of success’ for staying in control of speech, saliva and swallow. She presents on the role of the speech pathologist and MND, and covers communication, saliva and swallow. She also shares insights from people living with MND
You can view this presentation on our YouTube channel here: 2019 LWWMND - Staying in control of your speech, saliva and swallow - Clare McCluskey - YouTube
If you are having difficulty swallowing, or start to cough when eating and drinking, it is important to discuss this with a speech pathologist to find the safest thickness and texture for your diet and fluids. You should also discuss your diet and nutritional needs with a dietitian.