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Huntington's Disease Caregiving

Adaptive Equipment-Mealtime Help
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 Adaptive Equipment
To Help At Meal Time

Eating/Drinking Helpful Hints

At some point, a person with Huntington's Disease may have difficulty eating and drinking. Some of this difficulty is related to the weakness of the and swallowing muscles. Other difficulties are a result of weakening hand, arm and shoulder muscles. With chewing and swallowing weakness pHD's must make changes in their dietary consistency meaning they have to eat softer foods and avoid thin liquids. This section deals with adaptive equipment that will help pHD's who are still able to eat and drink on their own.

Eating utensils

Finger and hand atrophy or weakness may make it difficult to hold a conventional knife, fork or spoon. Utensils with built-up handles are much easier to use. There are several varieties on the market

Rubber Spoon - For someone who has a tendency to bite too hard on their utensils, there are some with rubber coatings that can be used.
 
Another idea is to use the foam rubber larger curlers (removing the plastic curler) and place those over the utensil. This makes them easier to grip, is soft on the hand and they can be washed or thrown away. We used pink, or course, for Kelly!
Some brands of bicycle handlebar grips fit ordinary household cutlery, the "fatter grip' can lessen choreic movements.
 
Plates
Use plastic plates that will not break when you drop them. Special plates with raised edges make it easier to eat. You can push the food against the edge to make it easier to get it on your fork.

Make sure any plates that you buy are microwave safe. Speaking of mircowaving a tip I use is to wet a paper towel, squeeze dry, and use to cover food to keep from splattering and keep moisture in!
 
There is a handy little device that clips onto plates to keep food from being pushed off.
 
Here's another similar type device:
Food Bumper   $3.60
 
Or they make plates with suction cups on the bottom.
 
Here's another one
 
Also, the microwave type plates with dividers help keep foods from getting mixed up on them.  This link has several Eating Aids
 
 
CUPS
Cups or mugs with handles are easier for pHD's to grab. Plastic cups are the best. The plastic travel mugs with lids work great.

So do the sports jugs. If you happen to tip over or drop one of these mugs, you end up spilling a lot less liquid. There are several special cups for Dysphagia.
 
You can also find sports drinking cup holders that can be placed around the neck where the cup sits on the chest and the straw is accessible by just bending the head down. Kelly used one of these when her hands were too shaky to hold a cup.
 
Straws
Straws are essential for pHD's. Straws are also helpful to drink with your chin tucked down, which helps prevent aspiration and choking.

There are some straws with clear plastic tubing with a wider diameter opening which requires less effort to drink more which are used by a hospital x-ray department for patients who had to swallow barium prior to x-ray.

Check with your local radiologist or hospital to see if you can obtain some of these straws or if they will order some for you. Most hospital social services or patient administrators will assist you in ordering special products to help with meals and baths, often ordering them for you if your doctor approves and your insurance covers them. If insurance doesn't cover them, typically they'll order and you pay them when the product is received.
Molds (Pureed foods)
One common dislike of pureed food is that most of it looks like a big blob of gunk on the plate!

Just because a meal has to be pureed is no reason not to make it appear appetizing!! One thing I did was to prepare the food normally, then show Kelly what it was before pureeing it. That way she got a visual picture of what she was going to eat.

You can also use molds for pureed foods
to make them appear more appetizing. For some idea visit
Food Molds
 
Trays
Sometimes it is easier for a pHD to eat sitting on a couch or recliner. A bed-type tray with edges large enough to fit over a pHD's lap can be used. Lining the tray top with a rubber mat or non-slide material will help keep plates from sliding.

Chorea
A velcro weights can be secured to the wrist, helping to steady the hand used for eating. These can be found at most sports stores or if you get the primary care physician to write a prescription for them, the cost is covered by insurance. Samples of these can be seen here:
Weights  However you could probably make your own by putting dried beans into a sock (or sewing if you can) and adding a velcro strap.

 
The ankles ones come in handy for people whose legs have chorea and who have a difficult time keeping them still, especially at meal time.

Clothing Protection
With unsteady hands accidents with foods are a natural. Protective coverings help preserve clothing and with clean ups.

Normal bibs can be used but are sometimes an embarassment for an adult. Attractive aprons can be bought, or even made. I stocked up on plain ones from arts and craft places like Michael's that could be left plain or decortated. Plus they have some really cute/cleaver ones in the BBQ departments especially for men.
 
Support
Bolster pillows to help person upright during meals can be placed on both or one side of the body if the person has a tendency to lean.

Those rolls of rubber you can put to line your cabinets also help by cutting pieces to place under buttocks or back to help keep the person from sliding during meals.

Or cutting the egg-crate foam rubber you can buy in bath/bedrooms sections of Walmart, etc. can be cut to fit to help from sliding.

Rubber mats under dish, drink, etc. helps keep them for sliding. I bought the rubber sheets you can cut to any size at Walmart.
 
 
Product Catalogs:
(Go to Google Search do a search for Aids In Daily Living)

Aids In Daily Living

Disability Catalog