Long-Term Care

Trainer's tip: Using food thickeners

LTC Nursing Assistant Trainer, December 29, 2011

The speech language pathologist will work with the resident and nursing personnel to teach the individualized approaches for eating and drinking to prevent aspiration and ensure proper intake. Liquids are usually the most difficult to swallow. The speech professional may recommend using food thickeners to slow the movement of fluid through the esophagus. He or she will prescribe thickening liquids to nectar, honey, or pudding consistency.

High-quality commercial thickeners do not leave an aftertaste, do not continue to thicken after they set, and are fully digestible. Thickening agents that are gum-based, such as guar gum or pectin, are not recommended as they will bind fluid so it is unavailable for hydration.

The consistency of the liquid depends on the amount of powder added. There is a great margin of error in mixing powdered thickeners, so follow the therapist’s instructions exactly. When using powdered thickeners, add the thickener immediately before serving the product. You should:

  • Use the correct product
  • Use the correct amount, according to therapist instructions and physician orders
  • Follow manufacturer’s directions
  • Stir the thickener well
  • Follow the speech therapist’s instructions and plan of care for positioning and feeding

This is an excerpt from the HCPro book, The Long-Term Care Nursing Desk Reference, Second Edition, by Barbara Acello, MS, RN.


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