When your loved one lives in an assisted living center, one of the things that may happen is a texture modified diet to fit their needs and requirements. Although this does not alter the flavor of the food, it can come as a shock to family members and cause anxiety when deciding what snacks to bring. At Serenity Gardens, we believe you should still be able to spoil your loved one who suffers from dysphagia. We have assembled this helpful guide to the different texture modifications and how it will affect what you can bring to treat your loved one in a memory care assisted living.
Modified Textured Diets
Modified textured diets are used for a variety of reasons. Perhaps your loved one has a difficult time chewing due to missing or ill-fitting dentures or dental issues, or more commonly, you loved one suffers from dysphagia. Dysphagia is the medical term for difficulty swallowing. Difficulty in swallowing may occur for various reasons, commonly a stroke, respiratory disease, or advanced dementia. If your loved one has difficulty swallowing, it could pose big problems when food or liquids enter the lungs instead of the esophagus — aspiration. When a person aspirates, foreign material enters the lung which can cause dry drowning, infection, or most commonly, pneumonia. To help combat this problem, a speech therapist and / or a nutritionist will recommend texture modifications to help your loved one to swallow better, depending on the severity of dysphagia.
This is the “normal” diet with no texture modifications or limitations. Food is left in its whole form and liquids are served in their original form. Here, the only modifications to treats would be calorie or other medical diet restrictions, such as a renal diet, low-salt, heart-healthy, low-fat/ low-cholesterol, or diabetic diet, or fluid restrictions. Ask your nurse about your loved one’s specific restrictions.
A soft diet should consist of soft and moist foods. These foods can be naturally soft, such as ripe bananas, mashed potatoes, or eggs, or they should be cooked to alter the texture (for example, most vegetables and meats). The soft foods should be served with a sauce or gravy to help increase moisture content and aid in swallowing. Although small chunks of food may be served, they should be easily chewed and should not require biting or cutting. Soft food should not crumble. The liquid texture will depend on evaluation. While cookies, crackers, and chips should not be included on this diet, many other treats such as casseroles, well-moistened bread, and honey are still allowed.
The mechanical soft or ground diet consists of foods that are moist and soft. It is called mechanical soft because many foods must be altered to obtain a soft, ground-up texture, such as meats and vegetables. No piece of food should be larger than a quarter inch, and everything should easily fall apart. Sometimes this diet consists of meats that have been ground or minced and foods that have been slightly mashed or blended to smooth out the consistency. Puddings, custards, cobblers, jams, and even milk chocolate bars can still easily be enjoyed on this diet. Soft pancakes with syrup, oatmeal, and fruit are recommended treats.
A pureed diet is exactly what it sounds like, everything is pureed. All foods should be whipped and blended to maintain a pudding-like consistency. Meats that are blended should be hummus-smooth to allow for easy swallowing. Foods should be thick enough that they stick together but smooth enough to be easy to swallow. This diet usually has an accompanying liquid thickening requirement as well. Yogurt, pudding, and thick ice cream can still be enjoyed on this diet, as well as anything that you can blend — think about when you made your own baby food!
Most times, when there is a texture modification to a diet, it also includes modifying liquids. Liquids are the biggest culprits for being aspirated and causing problems, so many commercial products have been created to help thicken liquids to allow your loved one to continue to enjoy their favorite beverages. Ask your loved one’s nurse for assistance in creating the right consistency.
These fluids are like tomato juice consistency. They should freely run off of a spoon but should leave a thin coating on the spoon rather than wick right off.
Honey thickened liquids should take on the consistency of fresh honey. Food should slowly dollop off the end of a spoon in blobs. The liquids can still be poured from a cup, but it should be slow.
Pudding-thick liquids should be spoonable and fall off of a spoon rather than flow. The liquids should not be so thick that when a spoon is placed upright in the cup that it can stand, it should fall to the side.
Many commercial products and experienced nutritionists and cooks have allowed texture modified diets to retain the delicious quality of your loved one’s favorite foods. At Serenity Gardens, we make every effort to make delicious and nutritious meals that appeal to all of our resident’s tastes and needs. We offer three fresh, hot meals served daily with appropriate snacks available to residents at any time. We also offer assistance with eating and meal preparation. Don’t be nervous about bringing treats to your loved one who is on a modified diet, just ask staff about safety before giving it to them. Safety of your loved one is our number one concern. For memory-care assisted-living in Friendswood, trust Serenity Gardens with your loved one’s care.