A few facts to consider:
• Weak arms and/or hands make it harder for people with MND to lift food or feeding utensils.
• Weakened throat and/or tongue muscles make chewing and swallowing harder.
• People with MND have a greater risk of choking. This is partly due to the production of excess saliva.
When these changes occur, great care should be taken to ensure adequate hydration and nutrition. However, with the correct measures in place, eating and drinking doesn’t have to be painful or life-threatening.
Where to start
Start by getting a referral from your GP for specialist advice. You can get good advice from:
• An occupational therapist, who would suggest and source eating and drinking aids.
• A dietician, for advice on the best diet to ensure proper nutrition management.
• A speech and language therapist, who will offer techniques for swallowing.
Feeding techniques aren’t an exact science, and will depend on the individual. Experiment with a few methods to see which is most practical.
A few tips for easier eating and drinking:
• Opt for lightweight plastic bowls and cups, which are easier to handle than glass and ceramic dishes.
• Place a moistened paper towel or a rubber mesh mat under plates and cups to prevent slipping.
• Glue small rubber balls to pieces of cutlery to make for an easier grip.
• Opt for plastic mugs with wide handles (four fingers should fit), which are easier to lift.
• Use a plastic gym bottle with a built-in straw for easy sipping.
• Consider limiting the intake of dairy products to reduce phlegm (it’s important not to cut out dairy completely).
• Suck crushed ice before eating. This will make swallowing easier.
• Apply an ice-pack to the front of the neck to help relax muscle spasm.
REMEMBER: The above-mentioned physical changes can have a significant emotional impact on the person with MND. If you’re the caregiver, it’s important to try and make eating and drinking as sociable and pleasurable as possible.