Finding the “New Normal”

Years ago, when I brought home my newborn son, I stumbled as I tried to find my “new normal”. Major life events mean that life has to change in a big way. The “normal – normal” seems to no longer exist.

Those first few weeks of caring for a totally dependent new life were exhausting, scary, “real” and totally overwhelming. Days were measured by feedings, naps and diapers. Since eating is such a basic part of living, I expected that feeding my son would come naturally. It didn’t. We had challenges. I met with Lactation Specialists in the hospital. I read everything I could get my hands on. What helped me most was reaching-out to other moms and getting advice.  Slowly, as I became more comfortable and confident in my role as mommy/care-giver and after my son started eating regularly, the days started to make sense.

I like to compare my experience as a new mom to what families go through when a loved-one is sent home from the hospital after a stroke or other debilitating illness. Care-givers are thrust into roles they’ve probably never before navigated or at least have never practiced on their wife or husband or parent. Many people are often unprepared for the realities of managing the demands of cooking for someone with a swallowing disorder. Unfortunately, the “old way” of preparing meals won’t work anymore and the transition can be difficult. There are no “pureed diet” cooking shows on the Food Network. No famous chef has written a book about how to make pureed foods and beverages safe, nutritious and delicious…but I have.

I have dedicated my life to helping people eat, drink and return as close to “normal” as possible, as they navigate the road to recovery at home. During the ten years I spent working with staffs in hospitals, rehabilitation units and long-term care facilities, I taught many people how to properly manage foods and beverages for their patients with dysphagia. What I teach isn’t difficult or expensive but it can be critical to caring for someone who is living with a swallowing disorder.

The “new normal” will come with time and with a little instruction, a dose of creativity, and the right products. You can help restore the joy of eating and drinking to someone who is living with dysphagia.

If you need help or assistance, please contact me: laura@dysphagiasupplies.com

 

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The Perfect Puree Day by Laura Michael

Dysphagia Cafe

Getting proper nutrition can be difficult when you have trouble swallowing. The inability to eat the right foods safely can lead to malnutrition. Maintaining proper nutritional intake is a key to overall good health and a high quality of life1. The National Dysphagia Diet2 defined the standard of what pureed food is, but offers little information on how to incorporate pureed foods into an active lifestyle.

The Challenge: Is it possible to eat healthy and well on a puree diet without using your blender or food processor? Can you still eat out? Yes! Let’s answer that challenge by offering breakfast, lunch, and dinner options for those on a modified diet.

Breakfast. Pre-made smoothies, available in the freezer case at most grocery stores, are a good option. Custom-made smoothies can be found at Whole Foods®, Einstein Bros.®, McDonalds®, Starbucks® or any juice bar. Smoothies that contain…

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Cookbook Review – Part 2

Book 4.1

 

I purchased, read and tested recipes from the four best-selling “Dysphagia Cookbooks” on Amazon.  Each is well written and insightful but there are specifics that are unique to each book. Each is a “labor of love” for the author. If you purchase one of these books, I encourage you to read the forewords and acknowledgements as you will find something of value in each.

As a passionate cookbook reader, collector and author, I currently have more than 100 cookbooks in my collection. I subscribe to every food magazine that is currently published and I can’t seem to part with my 20 year collection of the now defunct “Gourmet” magazine. If you called me a “food-wonk”, you would not be far off. I have developed my own techniques and recipes and have combined them into a guide: “Cooking for Someone with Swallowing Problems”.  This guide teaches the techniques you need to modify everyday foods and beverages. It has recipes and suggestions for eating out and stocking your pantry with pre-made, common everyday foods found in the grocery store. This guide is designed as a reference tool so you can modify the everyday foods you love so you can come close to living the life you had before you developed dysphagia. It is available for purchase for $29.95, which includes shipping and handling. If you want to purchase one, contact me directly: laura@dysphagiasupplies.com.  As part of the purchase of the guide, you will receive monthly updates, articles and new recipes.

The four best-selling “Dysphagia Cookbooks” on Amazon are:

  •  “Soft Foods for Easier Eating Cookbook” by Sandra Woodruff, R.D. and Leah Gilbert-Henderson, Ph.D.  This is “A Complete Guide” to dysphagia management.  The first 101 pages cover everything you need to know about stocking your pantry with food and kitchen equipment, thickening liquids, staying healthy, special considerations and more! If you can, take the time to read the first 101 pages, they are truly enlightening. The approximately 200 recipes follow the National Dysphagia Diet guidelines. The recipes are simple and easy to follow. Each recipe includes nutritional information and offers suggestions for substitutions and modifications. There are also tips for menu planning. The last thirty pages lists support organizations as well as products, manufacturers and distributors of products that make life easier for living with swallowing problems.

 o   This book was written in 2010, therefore it does not list many of the, new or improved products, new suppliers and support groups that have been developed in the last four years and there are many.

  •  “Down Easy: A cookbook for those with swallowing difficulties” by Judy Best. This book is especially helpful for someone recovering from cancer. The author, Judy Best, a graduate of a Le Cordon Bleu cooking school, was inspired to write this book as her husband was recovering from throat cancer.  If you want to learn to eat again after you’ve been on a feeding tube, this book offers great tips. The recipes are simple, easy to follow, use whole foods and natural ingredients.  Each recipe also has a complete nutritional breakdown and addresses whether it is gluten-free. This cookbook would appeal to someone who is transitioning to “regular” foods.

o    The author has assigned her own “Down Easy Swallowing Levels”, so the recipes don’t follow the standards set by the National Dysphagia Diet. If you have been given a care-plan for the National Dysphagia Diet, it may be a bit confusing if/how you use the recipes.

  • The “Easy-to-Swallow, Easy-to-Chew Cookbook” by Donna L. Weihofen, R.D., M.S, JoAnne Robbins, Ph.D., CCC-SLP, and Paula A. Sullivan, M.S., CCC-SLP. Part one of the cookbook covers information about how we swallow, and gives tips for managing some of the conditions that occur with swallowing problems. Part two contains approximately 150 recipes that will appeal to someone who enjoys the basic American diet. Each recipe includes a complete nutritional breakdown. This book is written for someone who is on a “Mechanical Soft” diet or who just needs foods that are easy to chew. It doesn’t completely address purees and how to modify each recipe for a “Puree” diet.

o    Written about the same time the National Dysphagia Diet was developed, it does not use the same terminology.  This book was published in 2002, so it can be a bit hard to find.

  •  “The Dysphagia Cookbook” by Elayne Achilles, Ed.D.  In this cookbook, most of the recipes are written for someone who can eat soft foods.  The author offers good advice on how to stock your refrigerator and pantry with foods that are easy to prepare and eat. The book also offers tips for traveling and eating out. The approximately 150 recipes will appeal to a wide variety of people.

 o   The recipes do not use the standards set by the National Dysphagia Diet, so you may need to read carefully and adjust the final dish.  This book does not include nutritional breakdowns of the recipes.