NYMC Faculty Publications

Presbyphagia to Dysphagia: Multiple Perspectives and Strategies for Quality Care of Older Adults

Journal Title

Seminars in Speech and Language

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Document Type


Publication Date

June 2019


Speech-Language Pathology


The aging population is rapidly growing, requiring speech-language pathologists to better manage a caseload that includes older adults who have a variety of needs. The purpose of this review is to summarize and discuss the current available evidence that will allow speech-language pathologists to make informed clinical decisions when working with older adults. To facilitate this, this article first establishes an understanding of both normal and disordered swallowing physiology in older adults, including how to differentiate between functional changes to swallowing (presbyphagia) and dysphagia. Other important factors to consider, such as caregiver burden, are also discussed so that clinicians can learn how to best support aging in place. Best practices for screening both community-dwelling older adults and residents of long-term care are identified as part of a framework introduced to guide decision making. The critical components of clinical swallow assessments are reviewed, including the adoption of an ethnographic approach and why nutritional status, urinary tract infections, and delirium are important considerations when working with older adults. Factors contributing to, and associated with, aspiration and aspiration pneumonia are also discussed so that clinicians better understand how to take a comprehensive approach to care, as well as consider the impact and influence of a temporary dysphagia versus a more chronic presentation. Finally, the evidence for management of dysphagia in this specialized population is reviewed, highlighting the importance of identifying physiological deficits, feedback, and taking a multidisciplinary approach to care.