What’s your favorite meal?
Imagine it’s sitting in front of you right now, but you can’t bring it to your mouth. Would you want someone to feed it to you, or would you rather use a special utensil that enables you to feed yourself?
Most older adults absolutely want to maintain their independence in eating! People who lose the ability to feed themselves often report feeling embarrassed or uncomfortable being fed by others.
Because of this, they sometimes avoid eating outside of their home, turning down chances to go to restaurants or spend quality time with friends or family.
One potential solution for this issue is utilizing adaptive eating utensils specifically designed for the disabled and older seniors with mobility issues.
Why do Elderly Seniors Need Adaptive Eating Utensils?
The need for assistance is more widespread than many people realize.
In fact, it’s estimated that 23% of older adults use some sort of adaptive equipment every day due to a variety of mobility issues ranging from arthritis to Parkinson’s! Many of these seniors are taking back their independence by using specialized utensils to feed themselves.
Many mobile adults don’t realize just how much fine motor control, coordination, and strength it takes to get food onto a fork or spoon, and bring it to the mouth without spilling or dropping it (and it can be even more challenging with soft foods, which many elderly seniors with mouth issues may primarily eat).
Seniors with pain, weakness, or poor coordination in the hand, arm, or upper body don’t have the luxury of taking these things for granted!
They realize just how challenging it can be to feed themselves – and how much being fed by someone else can impact their emotional health.
Many seniors who must rely on others to feed them report feeling embarrassed, ashamed, awkward, or uncomfortable with the experience. Being fed by others can lead to self-isolation, depression, weight loss, and malnutrition. It can even take the joy out of eating for some.
Using the right specialized eating utensil can restore an elder’s ability to feed themselves independently – which can increase their self-esteem, morale, and happiness.
Which Type of Adaptive Eating Utensil is Best?
The exact type of utensil needed depends on each senior’s specific needs. There are many different kinds of specialized utensils out there, and there’s no single best eating utensil for seniors.
However, our overall favorite pick in this lineup is the EasyHold Silicone Assistive Universal Cuff, because it meets a wide range of needs for little investment. It’s a simple, soft, stretchy strap that can be used with standard silverware – or other items, like a pencil or toothbrush. It’s small enough to tuck in a pocket and take to a restaurant, and it’s comfortable to use and easy to clean.
It’s always a good idea to consult with an occupational therapist to determine exactly what type of adaptive equipment would be best in your unique situation.
If you already have an idea of the utensil type you need, you’re in luck! We’ve collected reviews of some of the best adaptive eating utensils around below.
If you’re not sure what you need, be sure to read through to the end. We’ll discuss the different types of adaptive eating utensils, and give you some information to clear up the confusion and help you choose the best eating utensil for the elderly person in your life.
Best Adaptive Eating Utensils for Elderly Seniors
1. Special Supplies Built-Up Adaptive Utensils 4-Piece Set
About: This Special Supplies set includes a serrated butter knife, a fork, a dinner spoon, and a soup spoon at an economical price point. The extra-wide, non-weighted handles make grasping easier and more comfortable for seniors with weak or painful hands, while the non-slip texturing further enhances grip.
These utensils are made from stainless steel and food-grade silicone, and they’re easy to clean in the dishwasher.
2. BUNMO Adaptive Weighted Utensil Set
About: These Bunmo Adaptive medium-weight utensils help stabilize shaky hands in seniors who experience tremors due to Parkinson’s disease or other causes. The extra-long handles feature a non-slip rubberized grip to make grasping easier for most seniors, including those with arthritis or dexterity challenges.
This set includes a fork, dinner spoon, soup spoon and sharp steak knife, which is rounded to make cutting easier, thanks to its rocking action.
This Bunmo set comes with a canvas travel pouch, making it convenient to take along to a restaurant or friend’s house for dinner.
These Bunmo utensils are made from stainless steel. They’re built to stand up to heavy use and dishwasher cleaning.
3. Vive Bendable Adaptive Utensil Set
About: These Vive Bendable Adaptive Utensils make eating easier for seniors with coordination challenges because they can be bent into custom angles to accommodate the individual’s unique needs.
This Vive set comes with a spoon, fork and sharp steak knife, which is rounded for an easy rocking cut. The non-weighted, large built-up handles are ribbed and contoured for a comfortable fit, making this set ideal for seniors with a weak grip due to arthritis or other conditions.
This Vive silverware set is constructed from stainless steel for durable long-term use. It’s dishwasher safe for convenient clean up.
4. Sammons Preston Right-Hand Angled Spoon
About: The Sammons Preston Right-Hand Angled Spoon makes eating easier for seniors who have a hard time using silverware due to coordination or range of motion challenges caused by stroke or other conditions.
This Sammons Preston spoon features a lightweight built-up handle, 1.25 inches in diameter, which is easier and more comfortable to hold for seniors with a weak or painful grasp due to arthritis or other causes.
This Sammons Preston spoon is dishwasher safe for easy clean-up.
Other options on this listing include the right-hand angled fork, the left-hand angled spoon or fork, and an angled knife, so you can select the specific options you need.
5. EasyHold Silicone Assistive Universal Cuff
About: The EasyHold Silicone Assistive Universal Cuff can be used to hold any standard utensil securely and comfortably in the palm of a senior’s hand, with no need to grasp or even use their fingers.
It’s handy for travel, as it slips easily into a pocket or purse, and is compatible with restaurant silverware. In fact, the EasyHold is compatible with most thin items, like toothbrushes, makeup sticks, pens, and pencils, or knitting needles.
Made from soft, stretchy silicone, the EasyHold doesn’t feel tight or heavy on a senior’s hand, yet it can hold most thin objects securely in place.
The durable, food-safe silicone stands up to repeated use and cleaning. It easily wipes clean with a sanitary wipe, and it’s dishwasher safe.
6. Kinsman KEatlery Weighted Utensil Set
About: In the world of adaptive utensils, most look noticeably different from standard silverware, however, Kinsman KEatlery Weighted Utensils stand out in that they don’t stand out at all! This elegant set has been a godsend for many seniors who feel sensitive or embarrassed about their challenges, or who may be resistant to regular adaptive equipment.
The Kinsman utensils are fashioned from polished stainless steel. The weighted handles were designed with a subtle ergonomic grip. Each utensil’s heavy, 7.2-ounce weight provides ample heft to counter the effects of tremors and stabilize a shaky hand, making it easier to eat without spilling.
The set includes a fork, butter knife, soup spoon and teaspoon. They’re also dishwasher safe!
7. GYENNO Parkinson Spoon and Fork
About: The GYENNO Parkinson Spoon and Fork is an innovative solution for seniors who live with hand tremors that interfere with their ability to eat. The stabilizing steady handle uses advanced built-in sensors to detect and counteract the tremors in the hand, so the utensil remains much more level. This can be a game-changer for seniors with Parkinson’s or essential tremors!
This set works best for seniors with milder tremors, but can also offer some relief for seniors with more severe tremors as well.
The unit’s stabilizing handle contains a built-in battery that lasts for three meals a day, up to 180 minutes on a single charge.
The starter kit includes the stabilizing handle, cover, charging cable, wrist strap, fork attachment, and the spoon attachment.
8. Maddak Universal Built Up Handle (4 pack)
About: These Maddak Universal Built Up Handles provide the grip-enhancing benefits of large-handled utensils to your existing standard flatware. The lightweight, soft, ribbed handles are 1.75 inches in diameter, with an ergonomic design that reduces pain and stress on joints for those with poor hand strength.
The Maddak handles can also be slipped over pens, toothbrushes, and most other long, thin items to provide an easier handhold for seniors with arthritis or limited ability to grasp. However, seniors with weak or painful hands may find it tough to insert and twist the flatware into the handle on their own, so they may make most sense for those who have a helper handy to get it set up.
The Maddak handles are not compatible with plastic utensils or sharp knives, but they will work with butter knives. They’re dishwasher safe, and sold as a set of four.
9. Vive Foam Tubing (9 pack)
About: Vive Foam Tubing can be easily cut to length and slipped over the handle of any standard flatware to create a comfortable padded grip for seniors who struggle with hand pain or weakness related to ALS, MS, Parkinson’s disease, neuropathy or arthritis, or other conditions.
The non-slip foam stays put – on the flatware, as well as in the senior’s hand. The closed-cell foam won’t absorb odors, and it’s easy to clean in the dishwasher.
Vive foam tubing can also provide grip-enhancing benefits on other thin items, like pens, pencils, cooking utensils, make-up or toothbrushes.
This pack comes with nine 12-inch lengths of foam – three of each color-coded size. The blue tubing works well for knives and thicker utensils, the red tubing is ideal for spoons and forks, and the yellow tubing is narrow enough for thin items like toothbrushes and pencils.
10. Sammons Preston Universal Cuff
About: The Sammons Preston Universal Cuff is a lightweight leather and latex elastic hand strap that slips over the palm. A small pocket holds the handle of a standard spoon, fork, pen or pencil at the ideal angle to enable seniors with a severely limited grasp to eat or write independently.
It was designed to support individuals with neurological conditions, including ALS, MS, Parkinson’s disease as well as those with arthritis, hand injuries, or other conditions that affect their ability to grip. It works with either the left or right hand.
This cuff is very small, and easy to tuck into a purse or pocket.
Note that the size is not adjustable, so be sure to choose the correct size by measuring the distance across the knuckles of the hand before purchasing.
Which Conditions Benefit from Adaptive Eating Equipment for Seniors?
Any senior who has difficulty cutting their food, or getting it onto their fork or spoon and then to their mouth on their own, might benefit from specialized adaptive eating utensils.
There are many conditions that limit the range of motion in the arms, or decrease dexterity in the fingers or hands. Any of these can greatly impact a senior’s ability to feed themselves independently.
Common health conditions that can affect a senior’s ability to feed themselves are listed here, but there are also many others.
Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS)
Soft built up utensils or universal foam can make it easier to grip with poor hand strength and control. A universal cuff can help if the grasp is severely weakened. Bent or curved utensils can help if it’s hard to bring the hand to the mouth, and rocker knives can make cutting easier.
Universal utensil foam or utensils with built up handles are often recommended for seniors with painful, weak, arthritic hands. The larger handle diameter is easier to grasp, and puts less stress on painful joints.
Brain or Spinal Cord Injuries
Cuffs that slip over the palm can be helpful for individuals with brain or spinal cord injuries who have difficulty controlling their upper body and arms.
Multiple Sclerosis (MS)
Seniors with MS experience a range of symptoms that can interfere with the ability to feed themselves. Built up utensils can compensate for weakened hand strength, and weighted utensils can counteract tremors. Rocker knives can make it easier to cut up food independently.
Parkinson’s Disease and Parkinsonian Disorders
People with Parkinson’s disease, and other parkinsonian disorders, may experience hand tremors, upper body stiffness, and slowed movements, along with other symptoms. Weighted utensils can help tame tremors, while built up handles can be easier to grasp with weakened hands. Curved or bendable utensils may help for those with limited range of motion.
Seniors who have lived through a stroke often experience one-sided weakness or paralysis. It can be hard to adapt to eating with only one hand. Rocker knives can help a lot with cutting, and cuffs can help keep the utensil in the hand without need for a strong grasp. Bent or curved utensils can help when range of motion is limited.
Weighted flatware can help stabilize tremors, making it easier to eat without losing food from the utensil.
Consult with an OT for Personalized Recommendations
Because every senior is unique, it’s recommended to work with an occupational therapist (OT) for personalized recommendations regarding adaptive equipment.
An OT may also be able to recommend other equipment that can enhance eating – such as specialized plates, bowls, mats or straws – or other gadgets that can make day-to-day life easier, such as special can openers, jar openers or reacher-grabbers.
Features to Consider in an Adaptive Eating Utensil
Ergonomic design simply means that the tool is specially designed to work with the human body. Look for adaptive eating utensils that are ergonomically designed to work for your loved one’s particular needs. Different features are intended for different needs.
A senior may need a variety of ergonomically-designed gear. Besides utensils, elderly seniors with range of motion or hand dexterity issues might also benefit from adult sippy cups and ergonomic cookware too.
Built-Up Handles Vs Weighted Utensils
Weighted utensils, and those with built-up handles, are easy to confuse because they often look similar. However, they are ergonomically designed for different uses.
Note that some seniors will need silverware that is both weighted and built-up, while others require only one or the other feature. Having a utensil that is too heavy or too large is no better than having one that’s too light or skinny, so don’t overlook this distinction!
Built Up Handles
Built-up handles are useful for seniors who have arthritis, or other conditions that impact hand strength and dexterity because the large-sized foam handle is easier to grasp. Since it doesn’t stress the finger joints as much, it can be less difficult or painful to use.
When selecting a built-up utensil, pay attention to the overall diameter. They typically range from 1.25 to 1.75 inches, with larger sizes tending to fit better into larger hands, and vice versa.
Built-Up Utensil Foam Tubing
Utensil tubing can substitute for a built-up handle – and it can be used on other objects (like a toothbrush or pencil) as well. It can be cut to the exact length needed. Utensil tubing is available in a variety of sizes and foam textures. It is lightweight.
Weighted utensils are useful for seniors who have trouble eating due to hand tremors, which can be common in Parkinson’s disease. The weight usually varies from around four to eight ounces. Look for something that is heavy enough to stabilize the hand, but not too tiring to use.
Curved or Angled Utensils
If you can’t twist your wrist, it’s hard to get food to your mouth without dropping or spilling it. Curved utensils reduce the need to twist your wrist and compensate for limited upper body range of motion, making it easier to eat successfully.
Curved utensils usually come in left or right-handed models, and are often angled at 45 or 90 degrees.
Like curved utensils, bendable utensils can help seniors who have a hard time bringing food to their mouth due to poor coordination or limited range of motion.
However, bendable utensils can be customized to the exact angle needed, so they can be very handy for seniors with severe impairments that can’t be helped by other options.
Pay attention to which directions the bendable utensils can be bent. Some can be curved to the side, while others can be angled up or down or twisted. A pair of pliers is often needed to work the utensil into shape.
Adaptive utensils often come with non-slip rubberized or textured surfaces, which are designed to make them easier and more comfortable to hold on to. This is an especially important feature for utensils that are prone to getting wet, due to spills, sweat, or other liquids.
Bring Back Independence in Eating with the Right Adaptive Utensils
Eating is a fundamental part of life – and not just to meet nutritional needs. Food can be a rich source of joy, and eating together is an important way to bond with loved ones.
Losing the ability to feed oneself can lead to malnutrition, depression, frustration, embarrassment, and social withdrawal – but using the right adaptive equipment can bring back independence and morale.
Talk to an occupational therapist to determine exactly what will be the best eating utensil for the senior in your life.
We like the EasyHold Silicone Assistive Universal Cuff as an inexpensive, easy, comfortable and effective tool for a wide variety of needs.
What works for you? Leave us your thoughts in the comments below.
Last update on 2022-01-29 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API