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Adaptive Eating Utensils: Eat Independently Again

Posted in Helpful Tips
Caregiver UniversityHulet SmithWritten by Hulet Smith, OT

Adaptive Eating Utensils: Eat Independently Again

Eating is a seemingly simple act we often take for granted, but for those who experience difficulties in feeding themselves because of certain conditions, such as age-related weakness, arthritis, tremors, and other disabilities, eating can seem like an insurmountable challenge.

People who struggle with eating utensils often also develop negative side effects including weight loss, decreased appetite, self-isolation, and depression.

They may eat less than they require to meet their daily needs for nutrition, or may no longer be able to eat foods they used to enjoy.

The frustration and potential embarrassment can even stop some people from dining out and socializing with others, which can lead to low self-esteem, isolation, and depression. 

Thankfully, there are a wide variety of highly effective aids to help people eat independently despite challenges with standard utensils.

Adaptive eating utensils and accessories come in a variety of different models and styles to suit the unique needs of any user.

These specialized adaptive devices for easier eating include utensils that are curvedbendableable to swivelfeature built-up handles, or are weighted.

Holderscuffs, and straps help utensils to stay in place on the hand and wrist, and rocker knives enable users to cut food safely and more easily with less pressure required.

Regardless of the format, all adaptive eating utensils are designed to improve the user’s ability to manipulate the food onto the utensil, and then bring that food to the mouth.

They assist children and adults with a variety of special needs and disabilities including both tremors and manual or upper body weakness, and help them to better control the utensil and food, enhancing their confidence and sense of independence. 

How to Choose the Best Adaptive Eating Utensil

The introduction of adaptive utensils and other feeding aids can make a significant difference in the lives of those who struggle with utensil challenges.

Let’s take a closer look at a few of the most popular adaptive utensils and accessories and what you need to know to make the best choices for your loved ones.

Weighted Utensils and Built-up Handles

Utensils with a larger grip or handle make grasping easier, and are ideal for users with weakness, tremors, and decreased dexterity.

The wider area puts less stress on the small joints of the hand, and doesn’t require as much grip strength.

Weighted utensils aid in stabilizing tremors resulting from conditions like Parkinson’s disease, providing necessary proprioceptive feedback for the tremors symptomatic of these sorts of conditions.

Larger, built-up handles are available to add to your existing forks, knives, and spoons, or can be purchased as pre-configured utensils.

They come in a range of weights and sizes to better fulfill the individual requirements of each unique user.

The built-up, weighted utensils often offer a selection of various surfaces for the grip, such as a smooth texture for comfort, contoured shape to better fit the hand, or a textured surface that improves grip and ease of manipulation.

Curved, Swivel and Bendable Utensils

Although they all work a little differently, adaptive curvedswiveling, and bendable utensils are ideal for those who have a variety of fine motor skill challenges and subsequently struggle with hand-to-mouth feeding.

These types of assistive eating utensils are designed to help users keep food on the fork or spoon even when turned at any angle.

Ideal for those with limited or no muscle control, and/or minimal manual range of motion, these types of utensils make it easier to deliver the food to the mouth without it spilling off the side.

They reduce any need for twisting force from the wrist, and often come in left or right-hand designations for correct support. They can be used by anyone from children to the elderly and are perfect for dining in any setting.

Cuffs, Holders, and Straps

In addition to adaptive utensils, there are a variety of cuffsholders, and straps designed to help users more easily feed themselves.

Also known as ‘universal cuffs’ because they can be used to hold other items like toothbrushes or pens, they’re generally configured as adjustable bands or straps that fit across the palm of the hand, with a small pocket for the utensil handle on the palmar surface of the cuff. This provides a secure and stable position for the utensil.

Universal cuffs come in various sizes and configurations, and are often helpful for users with Parkinson’s disease, arthritis, those recovering from a stroke, and anyone else facing challenges with grasping and holding small objects.

They can be great for people still looking to use their traditional utensils, or for those dining out who may not want to bring their own adaptive fork and spoon.

Who can benefit from Adaptive Eating Utensils?

The use of adaptive eating utensils helps a multitude of people overcome their challenges with this essential activity every day.

Although there may be a bit of a learning curve at first with some of these devices, correctly-chosen assistive utensils can make a dramatic difference for users struggling with eating disabilities.

The following are just a few of the many conditions that can benefit from the use of adaptive eating utensils and other assistive equipment:

  • Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia
  • Stroke
  • Arthritis
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis)
  • Cerebral palsy
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Quadriplegia
  • Amputation of hand
  • Tremors / Palsy
  • Hand weaknesses
  • Upper body extremity weaknesses
  • Reduced manual dexterity
  • Fine motor disabilities
  • Developmental delays
  • Sensory processing disorder (SPD)
  • Reduced range of motion in the hand or hands

If you or a loved one is experiencing difficulties with properly manipulating utensils and other small objects, it is also recommended that you consult with your doctor or an Occupational Therapist to determine the cause, and what types of adaptive equipment are going to be best to address it.

The use of adaptive utensils is just one way to aid in eating participation. There is also an array of adaptive tableware and adaptive glassware to make eating and drinking even easier for people with these challenges.


11 adaptive utensils and dinnerware make eating easier for people with hand tremors, Parkinson’s, arthritis, and dementia

Eating independently can be challenging for some seniors

Older adults living with health conditions like strokeAlzheimer’sdementia, tremors, arthritis, or neuropathy often have trouble eating independently.

Hand tremors or weakness can make holding utensils and making the necessary hand and arm movements almost impossible.

Because of the difficulty, some seniors may even lose their appetite and stop eating.

Adaptive utensils, plates, and cups make it easier to eat so mealtime is more enjoyable and seniors are more likely to stay well-nourished.

We rounded up 11 helpful adaptive utensils and dinnerware that make eating easier for people with:

  • Hand tremors, weakness, or Parkinson’s
  • Alzheimer’s or dementia
  • Weakness, arthritis, or hand mobility issues

4 adaptive utensils for hand tremors or Parkinson’s

Weighted adaptive utensils set

1) $33 Adaptive Utensils 4-Piece Premium Stainless Steel Set – Wide, Heavy Weighted, Non-Slip Handles

  • Features: Discreet appearance; weighted, non-slip wide handles
  • Helpful for: People with hand tremors, Parkinson’s, weak grip, wrist or hand weakness
Adaptive scoop dish for one hand or low mobility

2) $9 GripWare Adaptive Plastic Scoop Dish

  • Features: Non-skid feet grip the table, low front edge and high back edge helps scoop food onto fork
  • Helpful for: Single-handed eating and people with poor eyesight, limited coordination, Parkinson’s, stroke, or tremors
hand tremors adaptive utensils

3) $13 Maddak Ableware Partitioned Scoop Dish with Lid

  • Features: 3 compartments to keep foods separate, high-sided to make scooping easy
  • Helpful for: People with Parkinson’s, stroke, or tremors or those eating pureed foods
hand tremors adaptive utensils

4) $9 Independence 2-Handle Plastic Mug with 2 Style Lids, Lightweight Drinking Cup

  • Features: Double handles, two lid types included, clear plastic, holds warm or cold liquids, keeps spills to a minimum
  • Helpful for:  People with weak grip, hand tremors, who need to drink while in bed, Alzheimer’s, dementia, Parkinson’s, or those recovering from stroke

2 dining sets for Alzheimer’s or dementia

hand tremors adaptive utensils

1) $45 Deluxe 5-piece Redware Dining Set

  • Features: Specifically designed to increase appetite in Alzheimer’s patients. In studies, the red color increased food intake of Alzheimer’s patients by 24% and liquid intake by 84%.
  • Helpful for:  People with Alzheimer’s or dementia who struggle with eating or have decreased appetite
hand tremors adaptive utensils

2) $98 Eatwell Assistive Tableware Set, 8 Piece

  • Features: Specially designed tableware that helps increase food and drink intake, maintain dignity and independence during meals, and reduce work for caregivers
  • Helpful for:  People with Alzheimer’s or dementia who struggle with eating or have decreased appetite

5 adaptive utensils for weakness, arthritis, or hand mobility issues

hand tremors adaptive utensils

1) $13 Good Grips Rocker Knife with Serrated Blade

  • Features: This easy-grip handle, bendable to the left or right, special knife edge gives extra stability while cutting, even meat
  • Good for: One-handed cutting and people who have difficulty cutting food
hand tremors adaptive utensils

2) $18 3 Piece Super Easy Grip Flatware Set – Bendable Built Up Fork, Knife, and Spoon

  • Features: Large, easy-grip handles that are bendable to the left or right.
  • Helpful for: People with arthritis, Parkinson’s, neuropathy, or low grip strength
hand tremors adaptive utensils

3) $15 4-Piece Adaptive Utensil Set with Wide, Non-Weighted, Non-Slip Handles

  • Features: Wide, easy-grip, non-slip handles
  • Helpful for: People with arthritis, Parkinson’s, neuropathy, or low grip strength
hand tremors adaptive utensils

4) $15 EazyHold Universal Grip Cuff (2 Pack)

  • Features: Silicone strap cuff helps hold a variety of utensils, tools, and other objects
  • Helpful for: People with arthritis, Parkinson’s, neuropathy, or low grip strength

5) $13 Vive Foam Tubing Utensil Padding Grips (9 pieces)

  • Features: Provides a wider grip for everyday objects like toothbrushes, pens, hairbrushes, etc. for greater control – cut to desired length
  • Helpful for: People with arthritis, Parkinson’s, neuropathy, or low grip strength

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