Perception Versus Performance of Swallow Function in Residents of Long-Term Care
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Purpose The purpose of this study was to determine if older adults residing in long-term care were able to accurately self-report their swallowing status by comparing subjective complaints of dysphagia and objective methods of swallowing screening. Method Data were collected from 397 residents of long-term care (M age = 86.8 years ± 7.8; 263 female). Cognitive impairment scores were collected, and each resident was asked (a) if they thought they had a swallowing problem, (b) if they coughed/choked when they ate, and (c) if they coughed/choked when they drank. These responses were compared to results of a swallowing screening tool and mealtime observations of coughing and choking. Results Residents who reported swallowing difficulties (10%, n = 41) were 8 times more likely to fail the swallowing screening (p < .001); however, 80% of residents who failed the swallowing screening did not previously report that swallowing was an issue. There was no significant association between self-reports of coughing and choking at meals and observations. There was no difference in level of cognition between residents who accurately reported swallowing status and those who were inaccurate. Conclusions Residents are largely unable to accurately self-report swallowing difficulties and also have difficulty accurately reporting incidences of coughing and choking. These findings suggest that concerted efforts are required to implement regular, formal swallowing screening protocols in long-term care to objectively identify those at risk.
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