When Your Senior Loved One Needs Eating Assistance

For family caregivers who love aging adults, concerns about how well they are eating often seems to be a high health priority and source for concern.

As seniors age, and especially if they suffer from dementia, Parkinson’s disease or have had a stroke, eating skills can be affected. What may be seen as a lack of interest in food is a sign of frustration. It may not be that their appetite is poor but rather that they are simply having difficulty getting the food they want to eat into their mouths.

There are tools, known as adaptive eating devices, specially designed for people who need some assistance in eating. They are similar in concept to using a walker or cane to assist in walking and can make a big difference in how much your senior is able to eat.

Adaptive Eating Tips & Devices

  1. Using a nonskid mat under your loved one’s plate to help her keep it from scooting across the table. Using a bold colored plate or placemat to create a better visual field will also be helpful when vision is reduced.
  2. A specially-made plate that is divided or an attachment on the plate called a plate guard can help your senior to push food onto his utensil.  There is also a plate called a scoop plate that can help elderly eaters scoop the food onto the spoon by pushing against the side of the plate.
  3. Sometimes a person suffering from a stroke or Parkinson’s has tremors in his hands that result in food being spilled off the spoon or fork before he can get it into his mouth. There are utensils with handles that are weighted that can help steady their hands to get the food safely into their mouths.  Sometimes using a soup spoon instead of a teaspoon can help as well.
  4. If your senior has trouble manipulating her hands, in grabbing the handle of her utensil and wrapping it securely into her grasp, there are utensils that have handles that are larger or built-up.  Some foam wraps that slip onto your utensils are available that can give a better grip.
  5. Cups with two handles are easier for many seniors to safely grasp and control.  Also, using a cup with a lid such as found on travel mugs can make it safer and keep hot beverages from spilling and causing potential injury.
  6. There are cups that have cutouts on the side for those seniors who have difficulty bending their necks. These cups help keep them from spilling beverages out the side and down their cheeks.

If your senior loved one is having difficulty eating and drinking, you may want to find an occupational therapist that can help you find the right device to make mealtime more successful.

If you are interested in trying any of the above devices, you can find them at the Senior Care Bookstore.

Being able to eat independently, safely and effectively will help your senior stay healthy as he or she ages.