MADISON COUNTY, AL (WAFF) - 92-year-old Bradford W. Mixon suffers from dysphagia, a disorder that makes swallowing difficult.
He is undergoing therapy to help him.
"It was a real problem," said Mixon.
"Dysphasia is another word for swallowing disorders," said Kimberly Lancaster, his Speech Language Pathologist. "It can affect people who have dementia but also other neurological disorders like Parkinson, multiple sclerosis and stroke, and now we know it also affects people with COPD."
Mixon had a stroke two-and-a-half years ago. There are exercises he goes through to keep from choking.
"I cough when I eat if I don't hold my head down that way," said Mixon.
Tucking his chin is one of the exercises he's been taught to use to swallow thin liquids like water.
"A lot of the signs of swallowing disorders are increased drooling, difficulty chewing food also feeling of food getting stuck in the throat," said Lancaster.
Other symptoms include a "gurgling speech" and coughing. Every year people die from choking and nutrition deficiencies.
The primary concern is aspiration of the food to the lungs, and that leads to pneumonia and often death.
In addition to exercises, Mixon also undergoes electrical stimulation. Thermal stimulation is another option open to therapists. They also look at diet and liquid consistency. Thin liquids are easier to swallow.