May is national speech therapy month. Did you know that speech therapists in the health care setting treat swallowing difficulties in addition to speech issues? Speech therapists are specially trained to evaluate and treat people with dysphagia, the difficulty swallowing food, liquids, and saliva. Special techniques, exercises, and diet modifications can help improve meal safety and enjoyment for these types of patients. Here are some tips from the Aurora Medical Center-Bay Area speech therapists to make swallowing pills easier.

Drink water first.

This will help moisten the mouth, throat and esophagus for the pills to pass easier. Drink just before putting the pill in your mouth and then take a few sips after you swallow your medication. Some people do better with hot/cold liquids or carbonation to increase sensation in the throat for a stronger swallow.

Don’t take them all at once.

Pills do not stick together well and will be more difficult to manage if you attempt to take more than one at a time.

Pill placement is important.

Place pills in the middle or back of the tongue to eliminate the work of moving the tablet through the mouth. Place oval medications length wise so they are easier to swallow.

Use food.

Chew up a bite of food or use purees like apple sauce or pudding to place pills in for better control. Moist foods like apple sauce are going to help them slide down easier.

Don’t throw your head back.

Tilt your chin down toward your chest to push the pill back in the throat. This works especially well if you feel like one is “stuck,” use water to flush it out.

Try a straw.

Straws create extra suction and can help pills go down quicker. Be careful as straws allow you to take too much too quickly and may allow liquids into your airway. The need to cough or clear your throat indicates that something may be entering your airway.

Change the pill consistency.

Cutting larger pills in half or crushing them in placing them in puree can help. Don’t assume you can cut or crush any medications please ask your pharmacist first. Many medications do not work properly if you crush them. Check to see if your medication comes in a smaller size or liquid form. Many vitamins now come in chewable consistencies.


Take a deep breath and relax, tension only makes it more difficult to swallow.

There is much more than speech in Speech Therapy treatment. Aurora Medical Center–Bay Area has two trained speech therapists, Andrea Hallfrisch and Faith Treat who are both trained to evaluate and treat pediatrics, adult and geriatric patients. Speech therapy is provided for multiple reasons, below are some of the many areas speech therapy covers:

■ Difficulty swallowing or facial weakness

■ Speech and language related to stroke or head injury

■ Voice for vocal nodules, paralyzed vocal folds, etc.

■ Cognition — attention, memory, orientation, problem solving, calculating, and reasoning

■ Speech and language development in children

■ Alternative modes of communication for patients who may be non verbal/unable to speak/voice

■ Laryngectomy and tracheotomy care

For more information on speech therapy and other therapy treatments at the Bay Area Mobility Center, people may visit www.bamc.org. To schedule an evaluation with one of the Bay Area Speech Therapists in Marinette, people may call 715-732-5111 or toll free at 888-454-7444.

Andrea Hallfrisch is a MA, CCC-SLP at Aurora Medical Center-Bay Area.