Cathie's Corner


Is SafeStraw the best drinking aid for people with dysphagia?


Dysphagia – the tendency to cough and ‘choke’ when drinking - can be a serious and frightening condition if it is not carefully managed. Apart from the obvious choking danger, and the discomfort from food or liquids going into the ‘windpipe’, there is also a high risk of food or drink passing into the airways which, if this occurs, could result in the person developing pneumonia.

Thankfully, there are a number of eating and drinking aids, including the SafeStraw by Bionix, that can help people with dysphagia to eat and drink with more confidence.

 

What is Dysphagia?


Dysphagia develops in a range of medical conditions and is often caused from damage to the nerves and muscles that we use for swallowing. This could be the result of a stroke, Parkinson’s disease, Multiple Sclerosis (MS), a brain or spinal cord injury, other neurological conditions, or general frailty.

 

Picture of elderly eating

 

Understandably, people can become quite afraid to eat and drink, and some start to avoid drinking in public and going out for meals as they are embarrassed this choking might occur when they are out.

 

In more severe cases of dysphagia, some people start to avoid drinking (and sometimes also eating) altogether because it requires so much effort. They then risk severe dehydration and in some cases malnourishment too.

 

Leef sells a selection of special cups designed to limit the volume of liquid able to be taken at a time which makes it easier to control in the mouth and to swallow safely. However, having your own special cup with you at all times just isn’t practical – and that’s where SafeStraw drinking aids come in – they are small and light so you can easily carry one with you on ‘stand-by’, ready for when you need to use it, whenever or wherever you may be.

 

Elderly drink from SafeStraw with nurse

 

SafeStraw for Dysphagia helps people with swallowing difficulties to drink fluids more safely as it only allows a small measured 'sip' to enter the mouth at one time, making it easier to swallow without it spreading out in the mouth and risking some going down the ‘wrong way’.
These little straws are genius – they help people to get the hydration they need and drink with confidence.
There is a blue one for use with thick / nectar thickened liquids and a white one for use with thin liquids.

 

SafeStraw has a number of advantages:
  • fits in standard cups and bottles
  • can be used with any 0.25-inch diameter straw
  • delivers approximately 6.2 mls (roughly 1 tsp) per sip
  • assists with prevention of aspiration when drinking fluids
  • is approved for purchase with DVA funding

 

Woman drink with SafeStraw

How does the SafeStraw work?


SafeStraw provides a small, measured mouthful by using a fluid chamber, a one-way valve, and float.

  • As the person sucks on the straw, fluid flows through the valve and into the chamber.
  • When the fluid travels through the chamber to the straw, the float rises.
  • After around 6mls the float reaches the top of the chamber closing it off and preventing the user from receiving more fluid.
  • Once the person stops sucking, the float sinks to the bottom of the chamber providing time for the drinker to swallow safely.
  • Then once the float has reached the bottom of the chamber, they can suck on the SafeStraw again and draw another 6mls of fluid into the mouth.

 

 

Leef has a large range of eating and drinking aids which can assist you to eat and drink more confidently. Our expert team can help you to choose products that are suitable for your situation. There are also various treatments, as well as modified foods, that can assist in some cases of dysphagia.

 

If you or a person you know has dysphagia, it is useful to discuss these symptoms with a Doctor and potentially ask for a referral to a Speech Pathologist or other specialist to advise if food texture modification and liquid thickening levels would be useful for your / their specific needs.

 

I hope this review of SafeStraw has been informative, and if swollowing safely is a challenge you, I encourage you to give one a try - it may help restore your ability to have afternoon tea out and about with ease. Enjoy!

 

Cathie's illustration

- Cathie

 

 

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