Happy Swallowing Awareness Day!

Watch our Speech Pathologist Arabella teach us how to make meals for easy swallowing!

For many of us, swallowing is an activity that we do every day without thinking too much about it, so we take for granted how essential it is to daily life. More than a million Australians are affected by swallowing difficulties or dysphagia that make it hard for them to eat or drink. This also puts them at risk of choking, malnutrition or lung infections.

This Swallowing Awareness Day, let’s take some time to focus on dysphagia and learn how to prepare some easy to swallow meals together! Watch our Speech Pathologist Arabella talk about this condition and share her favourite mousse recipe.

In this video, you’ll learn about:

  • Dysphagia
  • How to make mousse, a delicious treat that’s easy to make and easy to swallow
  • First aid for choking


0:01 Hi, my name is Arabella. I’m a Speech Pathologist at Better Rehab and we are here today to do a bit of a cooking class in celebration of Swallowing Awareness Day!

Now, Swallowing Awareness Day usually happens around this time every year. The theme of today’s Swallowing Awareness Day is dysphagia, a difficult diagnosis to swallow.

Dysphagia is the medical term for difficulties with swallowing. At Better Rehab, we work with people with lots of types of disabilities across the lifespan and unfortunately swallowing difficulties are one of the more common trends that we see in people with disabilities. So it’s really important that the Speech Pathologists are able to work with people to make sure that they can swallow safely, enjoy their eating and drinking but in a really safe way.

When I talk about swallowing safely, we talk about a few things that can happen when we don’t swallow well, when we have dysphagia. So the first thing that you might notice yourself that happens from time to time with everyone is food might come down the wrong way. Food and drink can make us cough, especially while we’re talking or laughing when we’re eating. But people with disabilities often have difficulties with the structure of the muscles and the way that the muscles work. Sometimes they have difficulties controlling how fast or slow they are eating or drinking. So we can see that food and drink go down the wrong way a lot more in people with disabilities.

Another thing that we talk about safety-wise is making sure that people are eating enough food and drinking enough to maintain their nutrition. It’s really important that we’re eating well, that we’re eating for our health. When you have dysphagia there might be a difficulty with your ability to get enough food, enough of the right types of food, and drink down to maintain your nutrition and live a really healthy life.

Third of all when we talk about safety swallowing, you know food and drink going down the wrong way can lead to some other consequences, especially in our disability population. Consequences like chest infections. Chest infections happen when the food goes down into the lungs and isn’t able to make it back out. Our lungs are really nice and dark, moist and warm, and a great place for bacteria that comes from our mouth to grow into an infection. So those are the consequences of food and drink going down the wrong way, you might get a chest infection.

Of course, the other thing we’ve all heard about, very sadly, you might choke. Choking is a life-threatening condition, and it happens when the airway is blocked by something. In this case, food.

In Australia, a recent report has found that people with disabilities are a hundred times more likely to die choking than the general population. That is a huge, huge number. So today, what we’re going to look at is making sure that for people with modified diets, for people who are recommended to eat softer foods, minced foods or pureed foods, that we have good options to give them that is still really fun, really interesting.

The report also showed that a recent trend in Australia, people with disability choke more often when they’re celebrating. What this shows to us is when someone has a birthday or celebration, we love to come around food, we love to eat in celebration. It’s a really social event. Unfortunately, when people with disability come around to celebration there are lots of factors at play, and people might not be eating something that’s quite right for them. It might be just a treat and they’re expected that they should be fine. Or it might just be a case that there’s a lot going on, not as much individual attention being paid to people with disability.

4:17 So what I’m going to do today now that I’ve told you about swallowing and why it’s so important that we’re doing safe swallowing, we’re going to make some chocolate mousse. Chocolate mousse is a really fun food to celebrate with. It’s also perfect for swallowing difficulties because if someone is recommended any kind of modified diet because of their chewing or swallowing ability, mousse is something that you don’t need to chew, it’s something that goes down, if it goes down the wrong way, it’s quite easy to cough up. It’s not going to block anything, it’s not solid, it’s quite airy and fluffy. So we’re going to make some chocolate mousse.

To make it even easier, I am going to make it out of a packet today! We have some Speech Pathologists going around this week to group homes doing some swallowing education and handing out some packet mousse. But we really want to be focusing, with the group homes that we work with, on educating for safe swallowing and safe celebrations.

So this was two dollars at the supermarket. There’s lots of different types out there. But all it needs is a mixer and some milk. It’s so, so easy, and I’m no great cook so it was really easy for me. I did it last night and it definitely works!

We’re going to make some chocolate mousse out of a packet today. There’s a lot of desserts in the aisles of your local supermarket that you can make out of a packet really quickly and easily. So if you are working in a supported disability accommodation and specialist accommodation, you can whip this up very quickly, and it’s a very safe, very effective way of celebrating.

5:55 Here I have my packet mousse in a bowl. All you have to do is empty it out in a bowl and it takes 1 cup of milk. So I have my milk here and my cup measurement, and I’m just going to pour it into the bowl.

Now the instruction is to mix it with a mixer until it’s combined and then give it a couple of minutes.

So that’s what we’re going to do now. I have my lovely mixer handy and I have my bowl of mousse and milk as you can see, so we’ll give this a mix up now. Bear with me while I mix for a couple of minutes to combine, I’ll show you what it looks like as we go along.

Now I did this last night by hand in my apartment with a whisk and I tell you what I got some muscles after that! If you are working with people with disabilities who have some goals in terms of cooking skills in activities of daily living, this is a really fun activity to do together, really simple. You don’t need a whisk, you only need a hand mixer and can be a lot of fun preparing for your celebrations.

7:10 As you can see that’s all combined nicely there. What we need to do is mix it on High until it’s nice and thick. So bear with me and I will mix it on High and I will come back with you in a minute.

It’s really thickening up, it looks pretty good. Now mousse is something that you can top with strawberry jam, something to make it a little bit sweeter. You can try lots of different flavours. Really good for fuller celebrations where it can be a little bit more fun.

It’s thick enough that it’s going to hold its shape. You don’t have to do much after this, you just need to pop it in the fridge for 15 minutes.

Have a look at that. Now that’s thickening up nicely, you can see it on my beater. But it’s looking really nice, it would take maybe one more minute.

There we go, you can see that it’s dripping really nicely off the beater there. So I’m just going to pop that down on our bench. I have a glass here and spatula, and I’m just going to scoop this glass full and you’re going to see the consistency with the mousse as it goes into the glass.

9:02 Here we go. Lovely, nice, thick, light, delicious mousse.

One of these packets say that it serves around four. I love desserts, I would probably eat all of it by myself.

If you have someone on a special diet, and you’re making something out of a packet, make sure to check the ingredients for allergens, check for the nutritional content because that’s going to be really important. If someone has a special diet that they’re sticking to or if someone has allergies.

Just going to get the last little bit out of this. Yum, yum, yum.

Spilled some on the side, I’ll just eat that.

I’m going to pop this in the fridge, give it a couple of taps, pop it in the fridge.

Let me show you the one that I made last night.

Now this is my mousse that I made last night. As you can see it’s thickened up really, really nicely.

I’m going to show you just the texture of that. Look at that. Nice and soft and airy. And it’s delicious.

I’ll probably like to have this with some pureed berries on top just to give it that little bit of tartness. That’s really, really yum and such a great option for safe celebrations.

10: 43 What we want to talk about is if you are in a situation where someone is choking, it’s really important to be on top of the first aid. Our Speechies today are going around some group homes, delivering some packet mousse and doing swallowing education, they’ve also got these nice signs on how to manage choking.

These should really be front and centre in your dining room, in your kitchen, wherever people are eating in your group home or in your home, even. This is a really great, simple reminder on how to deal with choking if it unfortunately happens.

First step, get them to cough. If you can tell them to cough, if you can tell them to try and cough, if you can gesture to get them to cough, sometimes tapping the chest is something that people recognise as a prompt to cough.

If they cough, excellent! Coughing means that they’re breathing and we’ve dislodged that item from the throat. It’s not stopping you from breathing anymore, you can cough. We just need to make sure that it’s out and doesn’t go down the wrong way again. We need to stay vigilant but coughing is a really good sign.

If that isn’t successful, then the next thing that we go to is giving them five back blows. So you can see in this picture, this person has turned the person who is choking around and he is hitting him in the middle of the back 5 times quite firmly. It can be quite a scary thing to do to have to hit quite firmly but it’s really important that we dislodge whatever is blocking that airway, okay.

And then finally, if that is not successful, we do three chest thrusts. So we turn around, we do the same thing. We push down really hard on the chest and give some blows. It’s really important that we’re doing that with quite a bit of firmness as we’ve said before. Quite a scary thing to be experiencing, but the quicker you can be alternating between that back and chest blow, then the better chance that you have of making sure that someone’s going to be able to dislodge.

It’s actually a cycle. So if you can get them to cough after those back blows and chest thrusts, then you’re in a really good position. If that isn’t working, very important at this stage to be calling an ambulance, choking is a medical emergency, and we really need to make sure that we’re bringing in the professionals where our first aid hasn’t been effective.

Even if someone has been successful and stopping someone from choking, then we’re going to see a doctor as well. It’s likely that food and drink that has made its way into the lungs can stay there and can cause chest infections. We want to make sure that we’re making sure that people are healthy and well-equipped to be healthy for a long time after a choking episode.

So even if someone has stopped choking, and is okay, make sure that you take them to a doctor. If they have a disability and a mealtime management plan from a Speech Pathologist, it’s very important to give the Speech Pathologist a call at this point to make sure that you are reviewing the items that they have choked on, that we can do another swallowing assessment and actually update recommendation. If there’s some change happening in the body that caused that choking episode.

14:07 Our Better Rehab Speech Pathologists, we do swallowing assessments. We are all trained at uni to be a swallowing Speech Pathologist, at Better Rehab we make sure we have a specific training program for Speech Pathologists where disability is involved because it’s a complex area. It’s very important that we’re across everything that we need to be across. We are really into training, and training with experience.

So if you are looking for a Speech Pathology assessment, if you’re looking to update your mealtime management plan, or if you just like one of our kits and some education, please give us a call, our numbers are all over our socials and really easy to get in touch with a Speech Pathologist. We do Telehealth as well. If you’re in a remote area, we have a really great Telehealth swallowing program. We can do Telehealth Speech Pathology assessment over the computer, over the iPhone, over your Android phone, over whatever device you have that helps us have a video interaction online.

It’s been lovely speaking with you this morning and making our mousse together. I hope you have a lovely Swallowing Awareness Day. Remember your choking first aid, remember your follow-up and don’t forget to renew your mealtime management plan every 12 months at least.

If you need a Speechie, then give us a call. Happy cooking, happy swallowing, I’ll speak to you guys later!

End of transcript.