For most people, enjoying good food is one of the most pleasurable aspects of life and many would agree that food increases our overall quality of life. All great events in life include food. So what happens to those adults, who have experienced this type of enjoyment and then have to shift their lives to one of a modified diet? Modified diets are often needed for adults that have begun aspirating (choking) on foods they are eating which can happen for multiple reasons. The diets are prescribed by doctors or speech-language pathologists to reduce the chances of food or drink entering the lungs. This risk can be very serious and life threatening as it can cause pneumonia.

Modified diets, are stereotypically not as enticing as a regular diets since they may include soft-textured food, thickened liquids, inability to eat certain foods unless blended first etc. The difficulty lies in balancing a modified diet with quality of life. As SLP’s we consider quality of life when the client and their families are asking us questions about the modified diet recommendations. We modify the diet as minimally as possible, to improve overall swallowing function, while trying to maintain pleasure of eating. It is therefore important to let your practitioner or SLP know if there are any foods that you just can’t live without.

For example, my grandmother was put on a feeding tube, after being diagnosed with multiple mini strokes. These strokes affected her overall functioning; she was wheelchair bound, eating through a feeding tube and most of her day was spent on a respiratory machine. The only joys in her life at that time were having her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren visiting, but the family felt that wasn’t enough. In our culture, food is everything, and what my grandmother loved was chocolate. Although my grandmother was not supposed to be eating anything orally, her SLP said that if she couldn’t live without her chocolate, she could eat some chocolate pudding to improve her overall quality of life. The role of the SLP was to provide our family with all of the information on swallowing risks. Since the family decided that chocolate was worth risking from time-to-time, and we were open and told this to our SLP, she was able to give us the information we needed to give my grandmother chocolate in the least risky format. This did not mean it was without risk, but it was a risk we were all fine with taking. At the same time, it allowed my grandmother to have one more pleasurable thing in her life, her love… of chocolate!

Melissa Oziel
Speech-Language Pathologist
The Speech Therapy Centres of Canada