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How to Try This: Preventing Aspiration in Older Adults with Dysphagia

Palmer, Janice L. MS, RN; Metheny, Norma A. PhD, RN, FAAN

AJN The American Journal of Nursing: February 2008 - Volume 108 - Issue 2 - p 40–48
doi: 10.1097/01.NAJ.0000308961.99857.33

Dysphagia, the impairment of any part of the swallowing process, increases the risk of aspiration. Dysphagia and aspiration are associated with the development of aspiration pneumonia. While some changes in swallowing may be a natural result of aging, dysphagia is especially prevalent among older adults with neurologic impairment or dementia, leading to an increased risk of aspiration and aspiration pneumonia. This article discusses best practices for assessment and prevention of aspiration among older adults who are being hand-fed or fed by tube. To view an accompanying online video, go to

Best practices for the prevention of aspiration in older adults being or fed by hand or tube.

Janice L. Palmer is a doctoral student and a John A. Hartford Foundation Building Academic Geriatric Nursing Capacity Scholar at the Saint Louis University School of Nursing, in St. Louis, where Norma A. Metheny is a professor and Dorothy A. Votsmier Endowed Chair in Nursing.

Contact author: Janice L. Palmer, The authors have no significant ties, financial or otherwise, to any company that might have an interest in the publication of this educational activity. Try This: Preventing Aspiration in Older Adults with Dysphagia is reproduced with permission of Norma A. Metheny, PhD, RN, FAAN, Saint Louis School of Nursing.

How to Try This is a three-year project funded by a grant from the John A. Hartford Foundation to the Hartford Institute for Geriatric Nursing at New York University's College of Nursing in collaboration with AJN. This initiative promotes the Hartford Institute's geriatric assessment tools, Try This: Best Practices in Nursing Care to Older Adults: The series will include articles and corresponding videos, all of which will be available for free online at Nancy A. Stotts, EdD, RN, FAAN (, and Sherry A. Greenberg, MSN, APRN, BC, GNP (, are coeditors of the print series. The articles and videos are to be used for educational purposes only.

Routine use of a Try This tool may require formal review and approval by your employer.

Aspiration can lead to aspiration pneumonia, a serious health problem for older adults.

© 2008 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.