I’ve written about this issue before, primarily to complain about how awful thickened liquids taste, how prone patients are to dehydration and death when they’re denied even a glass of cold water, and how it appears that Medicare reimbursements are driving these diagnoses and therapies.
But I just came across some references to an even more insidious problem with conventional, starch-based thickeners: They can actually increase the risk of aspiration for people with dysphagia (1,2), especially when they become intolerably thick or lumpy.
Which leads me to some apparently good news for the swallowing-impaired – a product called xanthan, derived from the secretion of the bacteria xanthamonus campesteris.
Even though the stuff was discovered over a half-century ago, it seems that it’s only now becoming widely available in a range of ready-to-drink beverages marketed under the name Thick-It AquaCare H2O. According to their developer, these beverages have a “clean, clear flavor and texture” that makes them more palatable than conventional starch-based solutions, and puts “water, tea, soup, coffee and even a glass of wine … back on the menu for those with dysphagia.”
For details, check it out here, or refer your family's caregivers to this web page.