Swallowing awareness is so important at SeeAbility. We currently support close to 90 people with swallowing difficulties. Our support workers are trained to look out for swallowing difficulties and changes in the people they support and speak to the Speech and Language Therapy Team with any concerns. Our Speech and Language Therapists assess each individual’s eating and drinking skills and give recommendations as needed.

We spoke to Lesley Thorndycraft, our Highly Specialist Speech and Language Therapist about some the things our teams are doing to support people's health and wellbeing if they have dysphagia (swallowing difficulties):

"Failure to prepare food and drink appropriately can result in coughing, choking, penetration or aspiration of food or drink into the lungs, which can be fatal. We use mealtime mats to ensure people with swallowing difficulties are supported to eat and drink safely and maintain their health and wellbeing.

In April last year the UK introduced the IDDSI (International Dysphagia Diet Standardisation Initiative) guidelines. From this the Speech and Language Therapy Team updated all the mealtime mats - As a team we chose to redesign the mealtime mats and produce a more detailed report to help support workers, agency workers and families to fully understand our rationale for changing the textures of food and consistency of drinks.

The dysphagia training also needed updating, as well as introducing new terminology from the updated guidelines. This was rolled out across SeeAbility through Dysphagia Refresher training so we could ensure everyone was up to date and could provide the best support.

We also introduced a new observation tool for service managers, deputies and seniors to check their teams were understanding and implementing the guidelines accurately.

All of this has come together and our support staff have reported the new style mealtime mats are more visual and effective and are making a difference."

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