The Top Types of Adaptive Equipment for Eating
Occupational therapists are known as the gurus when it comes to helping our patients be as independent as possible their in activities of daily living. Recommending adaptive equipment for eating/self-feeding is one way to promote more independence in one of life’s most important occupations.
Many of us have worked with patients with new hand weakness, tremors, or arthritic fingers, who are desperate to be able to independently feed themselves. I do feel that targeting the underlying impairment (such as strength, range or sensation) is the best solution to improving independence in feeding, but for many patients, this is not always an option, and that is where adaptive equipment is a great solution.
What is Adaptive Equipment for Eating/Self-Feeding?
Adaptive feeding equipment can be tools, adapted plates, or utensils that are designed to assist people with disabilities to be able to feed themselves independently.
Adaptive feeding equipment is essential for promoting independence and improving quality of life.
Furthermore, many people with disabilities socially isolate themselves over meal times, as a result of feeling embarrassed about having to be fed in public. Therefore, having the right adaptive equipment for feeding promotes social inclusion by enabling people with disabilities to engage socially over meal times with family and friends.
Who Benefits from Adaptive Equipment for Feeding?
There are many conditions that may impact one’s ability to feed themselves, some of these may include:
- Spinal cord injury (quadriplegia)
- Parkinson’s disease
- Multiple Sclerosis
- Guillain-Barre Syndrome
- Hand injury
We will list adaptive equipment based on different difficulties that may be impact feeding.
1. Hand weakness or difficulty grasping cutlery:
Utensils with built up grips
Many people are unable to form the grasp to hold the utensil, despite having good upper limb strength to bring the utensil to their mouth. You can compensate for the weak grasp with use of thick handled cutlery.
Here is an example of a 4-piece thick handled utensil set you can purchase from Amazon.
Alternatively, you can use these foam grip tubes on your existing utensils to make them easier to grip. This pack comes with different diameters of the hole inside the tube to make it more versatile in using different sized cutlery or other objects inside it.
Utensils with a strap
Some people do not have the ability to form a grasp, or have a very weak grasp, such as someone with quadriplegia. In these cases, having cutlery with a handle will enable them to feed themselves despite not being able to hold the utensil.
Here is an example of a strap that cutlery fits into, that you can also purchase from Amazon.
Here is another universal cuff example that will work with utensils as well as other items.
These are diverse, as they can have other items placed in them as well, for non-feeding related activities, such as: a paintbrush, a razor, a stylus for a phone, or computer typing.
This is a silicone universal cuff aid that is diverse as it can be fitted onto several items: utensils, hairbrush, and toothbrush. The silicone also makes it more hygienic as it is easier to wash food off of it.
Many people manage to grasp a fork or spoon but do not have the hand strength or endurance needed to cut food with a knife.
A rocker knife uses a rocking motion to cut up food and is a great option to improve independence in food cutting in our patients.
2. Decreased range of motion in the wrist or fingers:
Some of the adaptive equipment for eating already mentioned is helpful for limited range, but here is an equipment item that is great for those with decreased range in their wrist.
This is ideal for people with stiff wrists, as the spoon and fork are already angled to be in the correct position for the individual’s mouth.
Here is a great option with all cutlery pieces (fork, knife, and two spoons), with the addition of them being built up as well.
There are multiple adaptive feeding options with tremors, ranging in cost. We will provide both types of options depending on individual budget and preferences.
Cost effective option:
The S’up Spoon is a hollowed out spoon that reduces spillage with tremors as the food is inside the spoon’s cavity. You can see the unique design here.
This revolutionary device from GYENNO provides 360 degree stabilization, and claims to reduce tremors by 85% in the hand while feeding. The reviews are currently mixed so it would be worth contacting the company for the return policy/free trial information before taking the plunge on this one.
Plate guards are inexpensive options that can be attached to any plate, to assist in one handed feeding. It provides a barrier to help scoop the food into the utensil.
The best part is that this plate guard was designed by an occupational therapist, with the intention of improving on the issues with other existing plate guards.
Scoop plates provide a raised edge to scoop food onto the utensil. The base is also non-slip to keep the plate in place. For your patients who prefer who dislike attaching the plate guard on their plate, then this scooped plate is the better option.
These partitioned plates are another great plate to allow for a raised edge to scoop food against, but also to keep food divided and separate for those who dislike their food touching each other.
These non-slip mats are very helpful in helping to stabilize the plate or bowl being used. This helps keep the plate in place while one is scooping the food. Non-slip mats assist in decreasing spillage and mess, as well as the frustration of the individual.
Wrapping up, adaptive equipment made for eating is an essential tool for people with disabilities to be able to feed themselves independently.
The use of adaptive feeding equipment promotes independence, social inclusion, decreases caregiver burden, improves mood and quality of life.
Occupational therapists can assess the patient’s current functional level and what the underlying impairment is. They can provide guidance and support to individuals with disabilities in choosing the right adaptive feeding equipment for eating as well as teaching how to use it effectively.
Want to learn more about the other types of adaptive equipment to assist in ADLs? Be sure to check out our companion article, Our List of “Must-Know” Adaptive Equipment for OT Practitioners.