Holy Name Medical Center Blog

Dysphagia Can Be Tough to Swallow

Posted by Colleen Deshayes, MA, CCC-SLP
Senior Speech-Language Pathologist
Creamer Family Rehabilitation Medicine Center at Holy Name on November 30, 2021
Colleen Deshayes, MA, CCC-SLP

From the moment we are born, eating and drinking are a part of our daily life. Not only are these activities essential to our survival, but they are a way of bonding with our world and each other.

Meals become part of our familial, social, spiritual, and cultural heritage. We sit at a table and break bread with our family, friends, and colleagues, as we gather for family dinners, holidays, and meetings to celebrate and share our life experiences. So when something as innate as eating and drinking becomes difficult, it can have a tremendous impact on our quality of life.

A Common Disorder

Swallowing difficulties are known as dysphagia. The disorder is common and can be the result of aging or a neurological disease, such as Parkinson’s, multiple sclerosis (MS), or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). A stroke, traumatic brain injury, and/or dementia can also cause dysphagia. Head and neck cancer may impact the ability to eat and drink safely. Both women and men can be affected, and the risk increases with age.

Speech-language pathologists (SLPs) are essential to the diagnosis and treatment of dysphagia. At the Creamer Family Physical Rehabilitation Center at Holy Name, our SLP team will help you understand the disorder and treat it. We will work with you and your loved ones to identify goals and create a plan of care that will help you attain them.

From Diagnosis to Treatment

After a thorough medical history - including information about how the eating and drinking difficulties progressed - an SLP will conduct a clinical evaluation. This will involve assessing outward symptoms and behaviors associated with dysphagia. If a swallowing disorder is suspected, you will be referred for further evaluation to study your swallow more completely.

Holy Name’s state-of-the-art radiology suite has equipment to examine how well an individual swallows. Your SLP will guide you through a modified barium swallow, the “gold standard” measure. You will sit in a chair, drinking and eating liquids and solid foods, while an SLP and radiologist observe a video X-ray of your ability to swallow.

Once the evaluation is complete, your SLP will meet with you and develop an individualized plan of care. If you require swallow therapy, Holy Name offers the McNeill Dysphagia Therapy Program for candidates who meet the diagnostic criteria. This therapy is the most effective evidence-based treatment for dysphagia today.

As a certified provider of the McNeil Dysphagia Therapy Program, I look forward to working with you to diagnose and treat your dysphagia. We can work together to get you back on the road to “breaking bread” with your loved ones. Please reach out to me if you think this program might be right for you.

Colleen Deshayes, MA, CCC-SLP, treats adults and children, both inpatients and outpatients, for a range of swallowing, speech, language, voice and cognitive-linguistic disorders. She received her master of arts degree in communication sciences and disorders from Montclair State University. Ms. Deshayes completed specialized training in the modified barium swallow impairment profile (MBSImP). She is also a certified provider of the McNeill Dysphagia Therapy Program (MDTP) and Lee Silverman Voice Treatment (LSVT).

For more information regarding Holy Name’s Dysphagia Services, or to schedule a swallowing evaluation, please contact Colleen Deshayes, MA, CCC-SLP, at 201-833-3000, x6049.