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Eating equipment

Eating Equipment Panel

Mealtimes are a cornerstone of social interaction and nourishment. However, for older adults living independently, challenges like a weakened grip, limited dexterity, or difficulty swallowing can make eating a frustrating and potentially unsafe experience.

Common scenarios and concerns

Lifestyle and equipment options to help you

Difficulty gripping utensils: Conditions like arthritis or weakness can make holding cutlery challenging.

This can lead to frustration, difficulty eating independently, and malnutrition.

Adaptive utensils: Opt for built-up or weighted handles, rocker knives, or utensil cuffs for improved grip.

Reduced hand-eye coordination: Difficulty coordinating hand movements to bring food to the mouth can lead to spills and mess.

This can lead to messy mealtimes and potential embarrassment.

Weighted utensils: Weighted utensils can improve hand stability and tremor control. 

Plates with raised edges: Consider plates with raised edges to guide food onto utensils.

Limited dexterity: Tasks like opening jars or cutting food can be challenging with limited hand mobility.

This can lead to difficulty preparing meals and decreased independence.

Jar openers: Utilise electric or rubber jar openers for effortless opening. 

Rocker knives: Consider rocker knives that require minimal hand movement for cutting.

Difficulty chewing or swallowing: Certain medical conditions can affect chewing and swallowing abilities.

This can lead to difficulty eating safely, potential choking hazards, and malnutrition.

Thickeners: Thicken liquids with food thickeners to improve swallowing consistency. 

Blended food: Consider blended or soft foods for easier consumption.


Common challenges faced during meals

  • Difficulty gripping utensils: Conditions like arthritis, weakness, or tremors can make holding cutlery challenging. This can lead to dropped utensils, difficulty manipulating food, and ultimately, frustration and a decreased desire to eat.
  • Reduced hand-eye coordination: Bringing food to the mouth can be difficult with limited hand-eye coordination. This can cause spills and mess, leading to embarrassment and a reluctance to eat independently.
  • Limited dexterity: Tasks like opening jars, cutting food, or spreading condiments can be challenging with limited hand mobility. This can lead to dependence on others for meal preparation and a decline in independence.
  • Difficulty chewing or swallowing: Certain medical conditions can affect your ability to chew or swallow safely. This can increase the risk of choking and lead to difficulties consuming solid foods, potentially resulting in malnutrition.

Maintaining independence at mealtimes

By implementing these practical tips and utilising appropriate equipment, you can continue to enjoy independent and safe mealtimes.

  • Simplify meal preparation: Opt for pre-cut vegetables and fruits, pre-cooked or frozen meals, and easy-to-open packaging to minimise the need for complex food preparation tasks.
  • Prioritise good posture: Sit upright with good posture at the table to facilitate swallowing and prevent choking.

Equipment and aids to help you eat

For improved grip

  • Built-up or weighted utensils: These utensils feature enlarged handles that are easier to grasp and control. Weighted handles can also provide additional stability for individuals with tremors.
  • Rocker knives: Rocker knives require minimal wrist movement for cutting, making them ideal for individuals with limited hand dexterity.
  • Utensil cuffs: These silicone bands add width and grip to existing cutlery, making them easier to hold.

For better hand-eye coordination

  • Weighted utensils: The added weight of these utensils can improve hand stability and tremor control, allowing for more precise movements while bringing food to the mouth.
  • Plates with raised edges: Consider plates with raised rims that guide food onto utensils, minimising spills and making scooping easier.

For overcoming dexterity limitations

  • Electric or rubber jar openers: These tools effortlessly open jars and containers, eliminating the need for hand strength.
  • Rocker knives: As mentioned previously, rocker knives require minimal wrist movement, making them ideal for individuals with limited hand mobility.
  • Single-handed kitchen tools: Explore tools like one-handed chopping boards, peelers, and can openers designed for easy use with minimal hand strength.

For swallowing difficulties

  • Food thickeners: Thickeners are available in powder or liquid form and can be added to beverages and pureed foods to create a thicker consistency, making swallowing safer and easier.
  • Blended foods: Consider blended or soft foods that require minimal chewing, reducing the risk of choking. Consult a healthcare professional for dietary advice tailored to your specific needs.

Additional things to consider

  • Maintain good hydration: Dehydration can worsen swallowing difficulties. Drink plenty of fluids throughout the day to keep your mouth and throat moist.
  • Seek professional guidance: A speech and language therapist can assess your swallowing difficulties and recommend specific exercises or strategies

Where to buy equipment to help you eat

Plymouth City Council, NHS Devon, and Livewell Southwest have jointly commissioned NRS Healthcare to deliver the Safe+Well service, and they have over 2,500 daily living aids that you can purchase by mail order, telephone, or online.

View the Plymouth Safe+Well website

NRS has a dedicated phone line with a trained team of specialists who can answer any questions you might have. Just call 0345 6461860.

Other places to buy equipment from:

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  • Free assessment tool: Select the area of difficulty that is relevant to you. You will then be asked a few questions to guide you towards helpful daily living aids. 
  • Free telephone advice line: Complete the online form, and we will contact you to arrange a convenient time to call.



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