Eating and drinking can be challenging when you have Parkinson’s making it harder to get good nutrition. Your hand tremor can interfere with drinking from a cup; food may fall off the edge of your plate or limited grip makes using standard cutlery difficult. If this sounds familiar, you may benefit from using adaptive equipment or aids to make eating with Parkinson’s easier and importantly more enjoyable.
Trouble swallowing with Parkinson’s?
People who have trouble swallowing are at risk of poor nutrition and dehydration. For this reason, it is important to seek help from a Speech Pathologist if you notice any of the signs or symptoms listed below.
- A feeling that food or drink gets stuck in your throat
- A feeling that food or drink is going the wrong way
- Long mealtimes or eating slowly (it takes >30 minutes to finish a meal)
- Coughing, choking or frequent throat clearing during/after eating & drinking
- Becoming short of breath or your breathing changes when eating & drinking
- Avoiding certain foods because they are difficult to swallow
- Unplanned weight loss
- Frequent chest infections with no known cause
A Speech Pathologist may recommend changes to the textures of your food or drinks and provide rehabilitation techniques and exercises to help you swallow safely. In addition to this, Parkinson’s specific adaptive equipment such as a dysphagia cup or special straw may also be recommended.
Adaptive equipment & Parkinson’s
Difficulty eating and drinking can be uncomfortable, stressful and frustrating. Investing in some adaptive equipment may help you manage better and ease some of the negatives you have associated with mealtimes. Below are some suggestions of items that may help you. Remember, Parkinson’s affects everyone differently and what suits one person may not suit another. For individual advice on the need for adaptive equipment connect with an Occupational Therapist and/or Speech Pathologist.
Adaptive equipment: Cutlery
If you have limited grip, weakness, tremor, stiffness or rigidity it can be difficult to use standard cutlery. With this in mind, there are a range of easy-to-use alternatives to make eating easier, for example:
- Cutlery with built up handles making them easier to grip.
- Weighted cutlery can make eating easier for those with hand tremors.
- Angled or bendable cutlery curves food towards your mouth, reducing the need to lift your elbow out from your body.
- Swivel forks or spoons are helpful if you have hand tremor or limited dexterity as they help maintain a level position as food is transferred to your mouth.
- An all-in-one knife & fork allows the fork to cut through food.
Adaptive equipment: Plates & bowls
- Plate guards can stop food from falling off the edge of your plate. The guard clips onto your plate and provides an upright ring around it. Alternatively, a high-lipped plate or bowl provides similar features.
- A non-slip mat can be placed under your plate to stop it from moving around the table while you eat.
Adaptive equipment: Cups & mugs
- Weighted cups can help with stability against tremor, but they may increase fatigue.
- A cup with a lid and a straw or spout can be helpful if tremor is an issue.
- A cup with two handles can make grasping easier. A handle on each side makes picking up, holding, and drinking easier and less messy.
- A spill-proof cup is handy if spillages are a concern. The No-spill Kangaroo cup can resist tipping/spilling if bumped or knocked.
- A nosey cup features a special cut-out that makes it easier to drink without tipping your head back. Nosey cups are available with or without handles.
Other helpful options for Parkinson’s
- If you have trouble pouring water from your kettle, using a kettle tipper can help reduce the risk of spills and burns. Be sure to check compatibility with your kettle.
- Jar or bottle openers can provide better leverage and turning force when opening jars/bottles.
Food is a fundamental part of our health, relationships, culture and well being. If Parkinson’s is causing you to have difficulties with eating and/or drinking you may benefit from using adaptive equipment and aids to make eating with Parkinson’s easier and a more enjoyable experience.
Speech Pathology Australia, Swallowing Fact Sheet