Dysphagia is a common symptom in myotonic dystrophy (DM1), that may be difficult to diagnose and treat and can be associated with increased morbidity and mortality. Preexisting cognitive impairment or apathy, both well described in the DM1 literature, may contribute to management challenges. Caregivers may become important for managing a family member’s swallowing dysfunction. Although clinicians place great importance on swallowing difficulties, it is unknown how dysphagia impacts patients and their caregivers. Therefore, the purpose of this study was to explore the experiences of caregivers living with those with DM1and dysphagia. An interpretive phenomenological approach was used to study the lived experience of six caregivers for individuals with DM1 and dysphagia. Despite the potential for dysphagia to cause morbidity and mortality in individuals with DM1, caregivers did not describe this as a problematic symptom. Instead, they highlighted more debilitating symptoms like fatigue or weakness and discussed the caregiving experience. Healthcare providers need to balance issues of clinical concern with those that are important for individuals and their family members. Assessments of caregiver knowledge and burden at each clinic visit may be warranted.
LaDonna KA, Koopman WJ, Ray SL, Venance SL. Hard to Swallow: A Phenomenological Exploration of the Experience of Caring for Individuals With Myotonic Dystrophy and Dysphagia. J Neurosci Nurs. 2016 Feb;48(1):42-51.