Navigating the Use of Thickening Fluids for Dysphagia in UK Care Homes: Advantages and Considerations

In care homes, people with difficulty swallowing, known as dysphagia, face special challenges. To help them swallow safely, caregivers often use thickening fluids, after a careful assessment of needs that is carried out by a healthcare professional usually a member of the SALT (Speech and Language Team.  These liquids have a thicker consistency, which can prevent choking and breathing problems. However, deciding to use thickening fluids isn’t always straightforward. There are good and not-so-good sides to it. In this discussion, we’ll look at the advantages and disadvantages of using thickening fluids in care homes. By understanding these points, we can see how they affect residents and the people who take care of them. This helps us make better decisions about managing dysphagia in residential settings and knowing when to seek additional support and advice.

Using thickening fluid, which is common for individuals with dysphagia (difficulty swallowing) in care homes, has both advantages and disadvantages:


  1. Reduced Choking Risk: Thickening fluids can lower the risk of choking and aspiration pneumonia by slowing down liquid movement during swallowing.
  2. Improved Swallowing Control: Thickened fluids help individuals with dysphagia have better control over what they swallow, making it safer for them.
  3. Maintaining Hydration and Nutrition: Thickening fluids ensure that residents with dysphagia stay hydrated and get proper nutrition, as they can swallow safely.
  4. Compliance with Dietary Restrictions: Thickening fluids help care homes follow dietary guidelines for residents with dysphagia, supporting their overall health.
  5. Easier Administration: Thickened fluids are easier for caregivers to handle, reducing spills and accidents when supporting someone to eat and drink.
  6. Improved Dignity: Residents who receive thickened fluids are able to continue eating and drinking in safety, preserving an important part of daily life for as long as possible.


  1. Altered Taste and Texture: Thickened fluids may taste and feel different, which some residents may not like, potentially leading to reduced fluid intake and dehydration.
  2. Limited Beverage Options: Thickening fluids limit beverage choices for residents with dysphagia, affecting their meal satisfaction and quality of life.
  3. Cost: Thickening agents can be costly, increasing the overall expense of care.
  4. Increased Preparation Time: Preparing thickened fluids requires more time and effort, especially in busy care home environments, which can be challenging for staff.
  5. Potential for Inconsistency: Achieving the right thickness for fluids can be tricky and may vary, leading to inconsistencies in taste and texture.
  6. Staff awareness of ‘masking’ problems. Thickened fluids definitely have their place in care settings, but care must be taken to educate staff to look for more subtle signs of swallowing difficulties, as early detection and seeking support is essential to prevent complications.

In conclusion, while thickening fluids help manage dysphagia risks, drawbacks like taste changes, limited choices, increased costs, preparation time, and consistency issues need consideration. Care homes must weigh these pros and cons to effectively manage dysphagia in residents.

To discuss how Swift Management Services can advise you within your service, visit our website: or call 020 8087 2072 to speak to one of our experienced consultants.