Objectives: To assess geriatric patients' assessment of their clinical symptoms of dysphagia by means of a customized dysphagia screening tool and the usefulness of this assessment to health care professionals.
Design: The screening tool was distributed to an appropriate cohort and the entries correlated with results of standard speech-language pathology clinical assessments.
Setting: A large long-term care/subacute rehabilitation facility.
Participants: There were 199 new admissions screened. The patients included 74 (37.2%) males and 125 (60.8%) females. Patients' ages ranged from 50 to 98 with the mean age of 79.9 years.
Measurements: The screening tool used requires yes/no patient responses to 9 clinical indicators of dysphagia: difficulty keeping liquids in the mouth; coughing after drinking; shortness of breath while drinking; voice change after drinking; coughing after eating; shortness of breath after eating; food getting stuck in the mouth/throat when eating; voice change after eating; difficulty with saliva. After completing the questionnaire, the speech-language pathologist then conducted a standard bedside swallowing examination using the same 9 indicators.
Results: The findings suggest that although patients are less discriminating than clinicians in recognizing swallowing problems, the screening tool as a generalized indicator of potential for dysphagia is consistent and reliable. Individual items should not be used as indicators of dysphagia, but as a whole, the screening tool completed by patients is a reliable indicator of potential for dysphagia.
Conclusion: Patients' awareness of their own swallowing impairment represents an important aspect of functional recovery. The findings of the study indicate that when patients self-identify a swallowing problem, the speech-language pathologist also identifies the existence of a problem, although not the same problem identified by the patient, with the same intensity or with the same manifestation.