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For Caregivers: Swallowing Problems After Stroke

Some people have trouble swallowing (dysphagia) after a stroke. This makes choking more likely. It also puts the patient’s health at further risk for conditions like aspiration pneumonia. In some cases, a special X-ray may be done to find the extent of the problem. To maintain nutritional needs, a speech therapist may teach your loved one ways to improve swallowing.

Woman handing man cup of orange juice. Bottle of orange juice and can of powder are on table.
For your loved one’s safety, prepare all food and drink exactly as directed.

Learning New Ways to Eat

If swallowing is a problem, changes in diet and body positioning may help. Some patients are directed to turn the head to a specific side to aid swallowing. Adding thickeners to liquids may also make swallowing easier. Some patients need to avoid hot or cold items. If a patient cannot take food or drink by mouth, a feeding tube may be needed. As swallowing improves, restrictions will be adjusted.

Increasing Muscle Control

Many patients are helped by exercises. Some strengthen muscles in the mouth for better swallowing. Others improve tongue movement and lip closure. This keeps food in the mouth until the person is ready to swallow.

Food and Drink Guide

The speech therapist will teach you which food textures and liquids the patient can swallow safely. Discuss examples using foods the patient likes.



 None by mouth/tube feeding




 Other __________________


 None by mouth/tube feeding

 Honey thick

 Nectar thick


 Other __________________


Online Medical Reviewer: Fetterman, Anne, RN, BSN
Online Medical Reviewer: MMI board-certified, academically affiliated clinician
Last Review Date: 11/24/2013
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