If weakness, reduced range of movement or tremor has made eating and drinking difficult, come to our Occupational therapists for advice. The first thing we will want to know is how and where you like to eat and drink. If you sit in an armchair, a dining chair or a wheelchair we will look at ways to create a stable and functional seated position. We will look at the right seat height for you and try out supports within the chair to help you achieve the most stable and functional position for eating and drinking. We will also look at the ideal position of the table, your plate, cup and cutlery. When you are in a better position for eating and drinking then ordinary cutlery and crockery may be easier to use, but you can also try equipment from our display of specialist cutlery and equipment.
Non-slip mats are useful to stabilise the plate on the tray or table so that you can cut or scoop without the plate moving. We have round and rectangular mats here and even non slip matting on a roll that can be cut to size.
Plates with a raised edge are useful for an effective scoop too, plate guards can also be added to your existing pate to prevent food spilling while you scoop. We have several designs for you to try, to find which shape works best for you.
Larger handles may make cutlery easier to grip, larger hand grips can be added to your cutlery. We can’t offer you a real meal to test the cutlery, but we can give you a realistic alternative to food, so that you can cut and scoop to find what shape handle works for you.
Rocker knives make cutting easier as the knife rocks over the food. You can try these at the Independent Living Centre and see how the rocking cutting action holds food in place, unlike traditional knives that use a sawing action. We also have knives with ergonomic handles which are easier to use if your hand or wrist is weak or painful.
Angled spoons and forks may help you to bring the food to your mouth if you have limited movement in your shoulder or arm, but the angle may make scooping more difficult. It is good to try both of these and see if the angled cutlery is useful for you.
Weighted cutlery is designed to assist people who have a tremor, some people find this feature helpful. You can come and try these for yourself and we can also explore other options to help you eat safely and independently.
The cutlery strap holds the spoon or fork in your hand without the need to grip. This helps if you cannot sustain a secure grip while eating and sometimes this strap also supports someone with a tremor. It may work for you, come and try it.
A stabilising handle on the table may work for you as you can hold it to support yourself in a stable position, leaving your other arm and hand to do the finer movements required for holding and using cutlery. We have a handle from Smirthwaite, but some ingenious Occupational Therapy colleagues have invented their own using a sink plunger!
An arm support may also help you to eat independently; sometimes a simple office equipment arm support will meet the need, but if not then we can invite specialist companies to the Independent Living Centre to demonstrate the more complex arm supports and eating devices to support independence.
Automated eating devices have made huge advances in technology in the past decade. Neater Eaters are the original and the most sophisticated of the devices to support independent eating. The manual ‘Neater eater’ link has been used for decades and is still a very effective device to help you eat independently when you have a tremor. The support arm holds the cutlery steady as you scoop and raise food to your mouth. It has adjustments and extras to rotate the plate and provide alternative handles so you can find the right set up for you. The Neater Eater Robotic is a ‘smart’ device that is controlled via an app. It is neat and portable and has to be seen to be believed! There are videos of them in use and we can ask our local rep to bring one to the Independent Living Centre for you to see it in action. Rahana Life has developed an alternative automated eating device called the Obi dining companion, watch a film of it in use. We know the local rep who is happy to bring this clever and compact device to the Independent Living Centre for you to try.
Over chair tables may be useful if you have no choice but to stay in an armchair, wheelchair, or bed when eating or drinking. It is important to get the table at the right height and close enough to you so that you can be in the best functional position when eating from an over chair or over bed table.