Older people

Whilst dysphagia can occur across age groups it is most common in older people who are more prone to the causative diseases and age-related changes in salivary gland function16.

It has been estimated that 35-68% of older patients have some degree of swallowing dysfunction4 5 impacting not only on their ingestion of food and drink, but also on their quality of life and the administration of their medication6 7. As the growing older population already accounts for one third of the UK’s prescribing volume17 many believe that dysphagia is becoming an increasingly significant problem in terms of medicine administration and therapy:

  • Sixty eight per cent (n=333) of patients responding to a survey needed to open a capsule or crush a tablet to swallow their medication, and a similar proportion (69%; n=305) admitted to not taking a tablet or capsule because it proved hard to swallow. Seventy-two per cent of patients and carers (n=218) stated that their doctor or nurse never asks if they have difficulties taking tablets or capsules before writing their prescriptions16.
  • An audit of 171 patients over the age of 75 in a primary care setting in England found that 11% of patients reported a problem with swallowing medication18.
  • A large survey of 7000 Norwegian general practice patients found that 26% of patients reported difficulty swallowing tablets19.
  • A survey of nurses (n=540) employed in independent UK nursing homes revealed that 15% of all residents had difficulty swallowing tablets and capsules70.