Parkinson’s Disease and Swallowing Therapy: April 16, 2019
It’s one of the most common symptoms related to Parkinson’s disease. “Almost 95 percent of people with Parkinson’s will have some sort of swallowing difficulty at some point in the disease,” said Courtney Welch, a speech-language pathologist with Lee Health.
But many patients are unaware of the different challenges that lie ahead. “A lot of times people are most aware of the tremors or the change in the gait, so when all of these other things happen, it’s so scary and confusing on what’s happening to my body,” explained Welch.
She encourages patients to meet with a speech therapist as soon as they are diagnosed to learn how to manage their future symptoms. “Sometimes the cognition can impact it, and they are not aware that there’s still food in my mouth, keep eating, or I forget to swallow the food in my mouth; or sometimes those muscles are too weak or too uncoordinated to swallow, so the food or drink can go down the wrong way,” she said.
Therapists can teach patients different techniques to help them swallow safer. Whether it be changing their sitting position when they eat, changing their head posture, or modifying the types of foods they eat. “There are swallowing exercises. We can work out the muscles in your mouth and your throat just like we can with your arms and your legs,” Welch said.
Teaching patients the tools they need to make the transition easier--and help them maintain their quality of life with Parkinson’s Disease.