Free Water Programs for Geriatric Dysphagia Management


The practice of restricting fluids to aspirating patients frequently has adverse outcomes including non-compliance, dehydration, and continued complaints of thirst. These problems may be reduced if free, unthickened water is allowed within an organized program. This course covers the rationale and procedure for using free water as a therapeutic tool, for developing an “in-house” program, and selecting appropriate participants. This course is for practicing dysphagia therapists who need greater understanding of the literature related to aspiration-related illnesses and guidelines for advanced clinical application of dietary modifications.

Course Goal: The Participant will become familiar with and be able to apply the principles behind a Free Water Program.

Learner Outcomes:

Upon completion of this interactive course, the Learner will be able to:

  • List five major barriers to adequate hydration for aspirators
  • Identify the basic structures of the lungs
  • Identify 10 major risk factors in developing aspiration pneumonia
  • Participate in the development of a “free water” policy for the long term care setting
  • Select patients who may be eligible for a free water program
  • Provide patient and caregiver recommendations regarding alternatives to thickened liquids

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