Beverage Thickeners Help Older Adults With Swallowing Disorders


Beverage thickeners help older adults with swallowing disorders remain hydrated.

Unless you have a swallowing disorder called dysphagia, requiring the use of beverage thickeners, you probably have not given much serious thought to the various textures and consistencies of the liquids in your daily diet. When you are feeling thirsty, nothing hits the spot like an ice-cold glass of water. On a hot summer day, you may crave a cool milkshake. And when you are recuperating from the flu, a hot bowl of soup is such a comfort.

With a swallowing disorder, liquids have to be thickened, making it harder to feel as though your thirst is quenched, changing your ability to savor things like that first cup of hot tea in the morning or a glass of your favorite soda at lunchtime. Adjusting to thickened liquids does take time; however, these suggestions will help.

What Are the Best Beverage Thickeners?

It boils down to the person’s individual preference and might take some experimentation to identify which works best. The doctor will advise on the degree of thickness needed, which can range from thin, to nectar- or honey-like, to spoon-thick. The types of beverage thickeners available include:

  • Gel or liquid thickeners that blend easily without clumping, even into beverages that can be harder to thicken, such as soda, hot foods, or supplement beverages.
  • Starch powders, made of modified cornstarch, which have to be served just after mixing to prevent lumpiness or a gritty texture or taste.
  • Gum-based powders, which are relatively new and are frequently a preferred option over starch powders because they maintain their viscosity over time and work without adding grit, flavor, or cloudiness to the liquid.
  • Pre-thickened products that are becoming more widely available either in honey or nectar consistencies.

It is necessary to ensure someone with a swallowing disorder remains hydrated. Certain fluids may be more palatable, particularly as the individual is adjusting to thickened liquids. Try fruit juice, which will be similar in texture to a smoothie or fruit puree. You can also freeze thickened juice, or any other thickened beverage, into an ice pop.

It is also helpful to know that beverage thickeners may be covered by Medicaid, Medicare, and private insurance providers. Although these products are available over the counter, ask a doctor to write a prescription and include the requirement for a beverage thickener in the senior’s chart notes to see if the cost is reimbursable.

Our caregivers can help prepare thickened beverages and provide encouragement to make certain someone with a swallowing disorder stays hydrated and healthy, along with providing a number of other senior care services at home. Email or call CareWorks Health Services at (949) 859-4700 to request a complimentary in-home consultation for more information our Laguna Woods elder care. For a full list of all of the communities where we provide care, please visit our Service Area page.