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Taking care when eating and drinking

Taking Care When Eating And Drinking Panel

Enjoying a nutritious meal and staying adequately hydrated are essential aspects of maintaining good health at any age. However, for older adults living independently, these seemingly simple tasks can become challenging due to age-related changes in vision, dexterity, or swallowing.

Common scenarios and concerns

Lifestyle and equipment options to help you

Difficulty swallowing: Choking hazards, dehydration, malnutrition.

Food and drink consistency: Modify food and drink textures to be easier to swallow. 

Swallowing exercises: Consider consulting a speech and language therapist for swallowing exercises.

Reduced hand strength or dexterity: Difficulty using utensils, grasping cups, or opening food packaging.

Adaptive utensils: Utilise weighted or built-up utensils for better grip. 

Easy-open packaging: Choose food items with easy-open packaging or containers. 

Assistive devices: Consider electric can openers or jar openers.

Vision problems: Difficulty seeing food on plates or reading labels.

Increased lighting: Improve lighting in the kitchen and dining area. 

High-contrast plates and mugs: Use plates and mugs with contrasting colours for better visibility. 

Magnifying aids: Consider using magnifying glasses to read labels.

 

Common challenges when eating and drinking

  • Difficulty swallowing: Swallowing difficulties, also known as dysphagia, can make it challenging to safely consume food and liquids. This can lead to choking hazards, dehydration, and malnutrition.
  • Reduced hand strength or dexterity: Weakened grip strength or limited hand dexterity can make it difficult to grasp utensils, open food packages, or hold cups securely. This can increase frustration and decrease independence during mealtimes.
  • Vision problems: Age-related vision changes can make it difficult to see food on plates, read labels, or navigate safely around the kitchen. This can increase the risk of spills, burns, and accidents.

Tips for safe and enjoyable mealtimes

  • Modify food and drink consistency: If swallowing is a concern, consider modifying the consistency of food and drinks to be easier to manage. This might involve pureeing solid foods, thickening liquids, or cutting food into smaller, bite-sized pieces.
  • Swallowing exercises: In some cases, specific swallowing exercises prescribed by a speech and language therapist can improve swallowing function and safety.
  • Improve kitchen lighting: Ensure good lighting throughout the kitchen and dining area to enhance visibility while preparing and consuming food.
  • Use high-contrast plates and mugs: Opt for plates and mugs with contrasting colours (e.g., white plates with a dark rim) to make food and drinks stand out and easier to see.
  • Utilise adaptive utensils: Consider using weighted or built-up utensils, which provide a thicker, easier-to-grasp handle for those with limited dexterity.
  • Choose easy-open packaging: When shopping, opt for food items with easy-open packaging or containers that require minimal effort to open.
  • Assistive devices: Explore assistive devices like electric can openers or jar openers to simplify tasks and maintain independence.
  • Magnifying aids: If reading food labels is a challenge, consider using magnifying glasses to enhance visibility.
  • Take your time: Avoid rushing through meals. Chew food thoroughly and take small bites to ensure proper swallowing.
  • Maintain a well-hydrated environment: Keep a water bottle or sippy cup readily available throughout the day to encourage regular fluid intake.

Additional things to consider

  • Plan and prepare meals in advance: This can reduce the workload and stress associated with mealtimes, especially for individuals with limited energy or mobility.
  • Involve a friend or family member: Consider having meals with a friend or family member for companionship and support.
  • Make mealtimes social: Enjoying meals with others can enhance the overall dining experience and encourage social interaction.

Where to buy equipment to help you take care whilst eating or drinking

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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