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Does your relative find it difficult to grip and hold items such as knives and forks? Here we explore the large range of specially adapted kitchenware available to help less able people eat and drink.

With small adjustments to the traditional kitchen cupboard, there’s every chance your relative will be able to continue to eat and drink what they enjoy safely. 

On this page you can find information on:

1. Cutlery
2. Plates and bowls
3. Mugs and cups
4. Trays

Cutlery

Using standard cutlery may be very difficult for those with limited ability to move their arms or grip.

But don't worry, specially adapted cutlery is available in a variety of forms, including items with large, long or lightweight handles. You can also buy angled cutlery, or cutlery that serves multiple functions. For example, a splayed fork can be good for people who have the use of only one hand.

If your relative is finding it difficult to cut food on the plate, there are knives with a rocking edge that cut food into smaller pieces without using the sawing action of a standard knife.

Plates and bowls

It’s a good idea to look at the type of plates your relative uses. Plate guards and shaped plates can be particularly useful if your relative has problems scooping food on to forks or spoons, as can plates with a lip.

Plates and bowls designed to stay warm may also be beneficial if your relative needs extra time to eat.

Adapted plates, bowls and mugs don’t always have to be made of plastic - if you search around, you can find a range of eating utensils that are more socially acceptable and dignified for adults made of out pottery or china.

Make sure your loved one is also using suitable matting that prevents the plate or bowl from moving around while they eat, to make mealtimes easier.

Mugs and cups

Finding the right mug or cup is important to prevent spills and potential burns, in the case of hot drinks.

There’s a range of mugs and cups with different features that can help your relative drink safely and stay independent. When choosing one, consider what aspect of drinking your relative has a problem with, and what type of mug and cup would solve it.

  • For stiff or painful fingers, the handle is a good place to start. Think about whether the handle is large enough, or whether you need to look for a cup with larger handles that allow a firmer grip.
  • For lack of muscle strength, a double-handled cup can be picked up with both hands. There’s also the option to get a cup with a fitted lid to prevent drinks spilling. A straw can also help. There are cups with lids that have straw holes as part of the design. One-way straws can be useful, as they stop air from being sucked up, but extra-long straws and reusable straws are also available.
  • Some older people have problems with swallowing. If this is true for your relative, consider getting a cup that has a spout for adults. Some of these cups are also able to regulate the amount of liquid that comes out, which can be particularly helpful.

Trays

If your relative is beginning to find it uncomfortable to eat at a dining table, even on an occasional basis, having the right tray that is comfortable and secure is important. You can find trays that are suitable for a sofa, chair or bed, depending on your loved one’s needs.

Cushioned or bean-bag trays are designed to let your relative eat with the tray on their lap while sitting down. However, they’re less secure than something like a cantilever table, which can be positioned over a chair or bed and is generally a more stable option if your relative has limited mobility.

A trolley can also fulfil this same purpose if it’s adjusted to the right height to eat from.

On our Useful organisations and websites page you can find links to places where you can buy adapted eating equipment.

More information

  • Kitchen safety: what you should look out for to make sure your relative or friend stays safe in the kitchen.
  • Sheltered housing: what you need to think about if you’re considering sheltered housing for your relative.
  • Managing medication: the best ways to make sure your relative is taking the right medicines at the right time.

Page last reviewed: November 2016
Next review due: November 2018