Managing basic daily activities can be challenging after brain injuries, including preparing meals and eating. After a brain injury, motor functions can be impaired reducing your ability to use limbs, hands and the way you control your mouth and throat muscles.
This is why patients have to adapt their routine depending on their impairment levels and how they recover. So, how can you adapt the way meals are prepared and consumed?
Brain injuries can cause patients to lose almost all control of swallowing and chewing leading to what is called dysphagia. This may cause a risk of suffocation if swallowed a wrong way into the trachea and lungs.
Therefore, it’s difficult for patients to consume any solid food item. That’s when you need to think about how to prepare your food. You can:
- Adapt your diet to soft ingredients only. You can use a food processor to blend solid ingredients into thick liquids.
- When possible, you may try cutting tough foods into small pieces to make them easier to chew.
In thick liquid form, patients don’t need to use many oral muscles to break the food down. It also allows caregivers to easily assist patients with dysphagia to help consume meals safely.
An occupational therapist can advise on the types and textures of food that are best for patients to eat. They can also recommend swallowing exercises to retrain their tongue control and swallowing ability.
Alongside consuming foods, you may find patients struggling to prepare their own meals.
It may come down to not having the fine motor skills needed to safely perform tasks such as chopping, slicing, or holding cutlery. Furthermore, they may not have the strength needed to cook for long periods or lift certain items.
Therefore, patients must adapt how meals are prepared. You can buy pre-tinned products or sliced vegetables bags that can be used straight away instead of buying individual ingredients. This helps reduce the risk for someone trying to cook a meal and the effort required to prepare and consume it.
Also, talk to an occupational therapist and enquire about larger cutlery and utensils that are easier to hold. These have thicker handles and are lightweight, making them much easier to grip and handle for anyone unable to hold normal cutlery. You can find versions of this for almost every type of utensils from cutlery to spatulas and tin openers.
Eating a balanced diet with lots of nutrients is also vital for building up key body strength.
Consuming rich sources of protein like eggs, soya and meat will help strengthen bones as well rebuild muscle mass to improve overall strength.
Additionally, eating a wide range of vegetables and fruits increases the number of vitamins, minerals, and anti-oxidants needed to help keep the body strong and boost the immune system.
Always sit down with a dietician to find out what is best for your needs.
1. British Heart Foundation. (2022)
2. Cleveland Clinic. (2018)
3. Everyday Health. (2012)