Tips to make eating easier

One of the most important lessons we teach our low vision patients is eating skills. The first step is to teach our patients to put their dinner plate on a placemat that is a contrasting color to make it easier for them to locate. Then, we tell them to get oriented to their place setting. Before starting to eat, it is important to know the exact locations of the dinner plate, silverware and drinking glass. We urge our patients to always return things back to their original location so they will know where these items are later in their meal. If someone with better vision is available it is helpful to have them use the clock method to identify where food is on the plate; for example, the meat is at 3:00, the peas are at 7:00 and the potatoes are at 10:00.  Solid foods, such as mashed potatoes or a piece of bread, can be used as a stop or barrier to help push food on to your fork. When spreading a food item like peanut butter, it is sometimes easier to use a spoon rather than a knife. Finding a serving spoon in a bowl sometimes is challenging. We suggest that patients run their hand around the rim of the bowl to locate the serving spoon.

As occupational therapists, we know of some particular adaptive equipment that is often helpful. Plate guards clip onto one of the edges of a plate ($10.95). When pushed against the plate guard, food will stay on a fork rather than be pushed off the plate. Some of our low vision patients also have arthritic hands which makes holding utensils very difficult. For these patients, we recommend that they order large handled utensils from an adaptive equipment catalogue company. These utensils are much easier to hold.

There are many other strategies to make eating easier. All of them lead to the same goal of increasing the independence and dignity of our low vision patients.