Simple things like candles, music, a place setting, a flower from the garden, anything that says … “this is special” becomes an obvious cue that a meal is prepared and ready to be enjoyed. But what if the meal couldn’t actually be accessed because the table was too tall, the lighting was too dull, the flower was dead, the music was too faint, the chair too far away, the cutlery was missing? Would it be as special, would you enjoy that meal, would you be able to eat and enjoy that meal? What would this do to foster the relationship with your food? Here are 5 utensils that make food preparation and eating easier and more enjoyable for our older loved ones.
Often our older loved ones are living with conditions that are invisible, and helpful aids to address those conditions can, unfortunately, be overlooked because their condition isn’t obvious. This is very common with our older loved ones when it comes to preparing and eating meals and snacks. Think about it, we can’t see things like allergies, dysphagia, or arthritis, so how do we know that someone needs help to make sure they can create, eat, enjoy and be nourished by food? What then happens to their relationship with food?
There are really serious outcomes of not being able to independently prepare and eat a meal or a snack the way you always have. It means less food is eaten, it means food is not enjoyed, it means eating can become unsafe, it means meal times might actually be missed altogether, it means the weight will be lost, falls become more common and visits to the hospital increase.
Asking questions and observing how our older loved ones prepare their meals and eat is the best way to find out how they can be helped to make sure they’re creating, eating and enjoying what they’re eating. And the fabulous news is there are so many helpful tools out there that can be incorporated into our older loved ones meal times to make sure food is prepared well, is enjoyed and every last little morsel is eaten.
1. My first tip is always to have a food companion to make conversation, have company and create that ‘ceremony’. This is the best way of making sure someone enjoys their meal, finishes their meal and comes back for more. And it’s also the best way to make sure a meal is prepared and consumed safely.
2. Gripware is a special dish that sucks to the table and has a larger lip at one end so food can be moved onto a fork or spoon more easily, and with one hand. This is useful for tremors, arthritis, chronic pain, lower mobility, weakness and when food is a small particle or pureed.
3. Rocker Knife is a machete shaped blade with a big handle that creates more stability when cutting as it rocks and bends. It’s helpful to make sure food is cut well and to the right size, and to minimise pain when preparing. Useful for tremors, arthritis, chronic pain, lower mobility, weakness.
4. Foam tubing non-slip grips that go over cutlery and utensils to make handling easier, and minimise pain. Making it easier to stir, mix, chop, prepare food with existing utensils and assemble food on cutlery for eating. There is also a variety of good grip cutlery that is thicker, non-slip and bendable so food can be manipulated more efficiently on the utensil. Useful for tremors, arthritis, chronic pain, lower mobility, weakness.
5. Silicone moulds are a beautiful way of making pureed food more appealing, as they mimic the shape and size of a particular food (not necessarily the food it’s intended to be). For example, a slice of meat, a serving of pasta, a serving of peas. This is a safe, and encouraging way to create an enriching experience for the diner, particularly someone with cognitive impairment. Useful for dysphagia, cognitive impairment, dentures/poor dental hygiene.
Some useful links:
Megan’s article on Carer’s Circle 3 ways to help your cared one finish their meal – and why this is so important –
Carer’s Circle article on Helping your elderly loved one take care of their health –
Photo credit: Diverse group of friends on Rawpixel
A version of this article “5 utensils that make food preparation and eating easier and more enjoyable for our older loved ones” originally appeared on Megan van Genderen website. Reproduced with permission.