Ensuring that someone with dementia is able to eat and drink is vital if they’re to stay healthy. However, dementia can cause challenges in this area, from forgetting to eat or eating too slowly, to visual problems making it difficult to see the food, a decrease in dexterity and co-ordination and problems with chewing and swallowing. We’ve picked out the best products to help you with the different dilemmas that you may encounter when helping someone with dementia to eat and drink well. Click on the links below to find out more.

Nutrition

Your dilemma
The person you’re caring for used to have a good appetite, and was able to maintain a healthy diet. However, recently, they’ve been struggling to eat enough food, and may have started to lose weight.
Products to help
- Thickening agents

These are useful if the person you’re caring for has swallowing problems – a common issue with dementia because cognitive decline in the later stages of the disease can mean you lose the ability to chew or swallow. The goal of thickeners is to make all liquids, including drinks and soups, a thicker consistency. Thicker liquids travel more slowly down the throat, which makes them easier to control. If someone with swallowing problems drinks water, juice, or coffee, it can travel down the throat so quickly that the muscles and nerves used for swallowing don’t act quickly enough, and some of the liquid can get into the lungs. Thickened drinks move more slowly, giving the body more time to control and direct the fluid toward the stomach.
- Fortified drinks
Having a regular fortified drink, that can provide extra vitamins, minerals and even protein and carbohydrates, can be useful if the person you’re caring for has a limited appetite or struggles to eat much. Protein shakes and fortified juices and smoothies can be very useful for ensuring they get all the nutrients that they need.
- Food deliveries
Dementia can make cooking your own meals that bit trickier – from following a recipe correctly to using kitchen items such as cookers or knives. If the person you’re caring for is struggling to make a proper hot meal, perhaps they’re relying on pieces of toast or cold foods that don’t require cooking, a ready-made food delivery could help them out. There are a range of different companies that can deliver frozen or hot meals (this varies depending on the company or voluntary service) to someone with dementia.
- Appetite stimulation
Often, people with dementia may find they start losing weight because they forget to eat. Machines that help to stimulate appetite by releasing specific odours –which will act as a trigger or reminder to eat something- can be useful.
- Liquidisers
If chewing and swallowing have become too difficult for someone with dementia, you may need to start pureeing their food to make it easier to swallow. This should only be done under the guidance of a nutritional therapist and speech and language therapist to ensure the food you provide is varied enough, is the correct texture or consistency and provides enough nutrients. You’ll need to use a blender, food processor or liquidiser for this.
These products are good for…
Maintaining a healthy diet and boosting wellbeing despite eating and drinking difficulties.
Good to know
Swallowing difficulties are known as dysphagia. A US study found 68% of people with dementia will end up with swallowing problems.

Cups & mugs

Your dilemma
The person you’re caring for may struggle to hold cups and mugs or pour out drinks safely, often spilling the drink, and putting them in danger of burns and scalds.
Products to help
- Feeder mugs

Feeder mugs let you take sips from a cup that has a special lid on it. This makes it easier to control the amount of liquid that you take in, and often prevent spillage if the cup is dropped.
- Ergo mugs
These are mugs that have been ergonomically designed so that they’re easier to grip and hold for someone who may lack coordination or strength.
- Thermal mugs
Dementia can slow down your drinking speed – often because you forget that you’ve made a cup of tea – which means hot drinks can go cold. Serving up drinks in a thermal mug can be useful so that the person with dementia doesn’t need to worry about wasting drinks because they keep going cold. Thermal mugs are also useful because the heat stays inside, and doesn’t make the exterior of the mug too hot, which could pose a scalding risk if you’re prepared for it to be hot.
- Straws
Sipping a drink through a straw requires much less skill than trying to bring a cup or mug to your lips and swallow, which is why they can be very useful for someone with dementia, who may not have the same strength or coordination that they used to have. It allows the person drinking to control how much liquid they take into their mouth. One-way straws, which contain a special valve to keep liquid in the straw are useful if they don’t have a strong sucking reflex.
- 2-handed mugs
Cups with two handles are useful if the person you’re caring for lacks the strength to be able to hold a mug in one hand. Having two handles helps them keep the cup steadier, particularly if they’re suffering from shakes associated with Lewy body dementia or Parkinson’s dementia.
- Glasses
Rather than providing real glassware, it may be a good idea to use plastic glasses if the person you’re caring for is regularly dropping or smashing items. Often, plastic glassware looks as real as regular glass, but is much more hardwearing, providing peace of mind for a carer that the person with dementia won’t cut themselves on broken glass.
- Tea cups
Serving up hot drinks in a tea cup may be useful for someone with dementia who enjoys reminiscing. Often tea or coffee is served up in large mugs, but putting it into a traditional pot and teacup could help to trigger memories and encourage them to chat and engage with people. Remember, most tea cups are made of china, so if you’re worried about someone dropping the cup, you may be better off with a plastic version, or one with two handles.
- Kettle pourers
A heavy kettle full of recently boiled water could pose a risk for someone who lacks the strength to pick up and pour the water out safely. A kettle pourer cradles the kettle in a position that lets you tip it forward to pour water out, without having to lift it.
- Water bottles
Having a water bottle near a favourite armchair or on a bedside table will ensure that the person you’re caring for can easily reach fluids so that they stay hydrated. Water bottles often come with a built-in straw to make it easier to drink, and some can be attached to wheelchairs so that you can stay hydrated while out and about.
These products are good for…
Ensuring the person you care for stays hydrated, which is vital for their health and wellbeing. They’re also useful for maintaining dignity when eating and drinking, and helping people to feel more independent in their home.
Top tip
Pick cups that are in bright, contrasting colours so that they are easier for the person with dementia to spot, and so more likely to pick up and drink from them.

Plates & bowls

Your dilemma
Cognitive decline has meant the person you’re caring for struggles to eat as quickly and as ably as they used to. They may take longer to eat a meal, perhaps because they have difficulties scooping food up onto their fork or spoon.
Products to help
- Ergonomic and portioned plates

These are specially shaped plates, designed to help someone with coordination problems push food onto their fork or spoon. They may have one side that’s slightly higher, so it pushes food onto the fork, rather than it being pushed completely off the plate. Portioned plates can also help with this, but are also used to keep food separate from each other, particularly if it’s been pureed.
- Plate guards and surrounds
Easily fitted onto a regular plate, a guard or surround will prevent food from falling off the plate and can be used as a barrier to push food against when scooping food onto a spoon or fork, making it ideal for people that use only one hand when eating.
These products are good for…
Boosting independence in the home by helping them continue to feed themselves. They’re also useful for maintaining dignity when eating.
Top tip
Offer a variety of colours in a meal and think about how you can make a plate of food look more colourful. For example, adding cooked carrot or sweet potato to regular mashed potato will turn it orange, making it easier to see (especially if you’re putting it onto a white plate) and adding in an interesting flavour.

Cutlery

Your dilemma
People with dementia may struggle to handle cutlery, particularly having the coordination to hold both a knife and fork. They may also have other conditions that affect their coordination, such as Parkinson’s disease, which could make it harder for them to spear foods with a fork or scoop them up and bring the cutlery up to their mouth.
Products to help
- Combination or one-handed cutlery

If the person you care for struggles to hold a knife and fork, particularly in their non-dominant hand, cutlery that can be used one-handed could help. Often the encompass multiple parts of cutlery – for example a Knork is a fork with a sharp knife-like edge that can be used for cutting. A Spork is a spoon, with short tines on the end so it can scoop up and spear food like a fork.
- Special grip cutlery
Ergonomic cutlery, which has been specially moulded to make it easier and more comfortable to hold, can be useful for any elderly person who is struggling to hold regularly cutlery. Many have slightly thicker handles, which are easier to grip. Alternatively, you can add foam tubing to the handles of cutlery to make them softer and easier to hold, or fix on a special handle, if they tend to drop their fork or spoon regularly.
- Angled cutlery and rocker knives
If the person you care for has restricted movement in their arms, wrists or shoulders, angled cutlery may make it easier to feed themselves. The head of the utensil is positioned at an angle to the handle, which reduces the amount of movement required to bring it up to your mouth. Some are mouldable, allowing an exact angle to be achieved, other varieties are set at a pre fixed angle or may be modular. Rocker knives have a slightly curved blade, so you can use a rocking action to help cut through food rather than a sawing action, which can be difficult if you lack strength in your hands.
These products are good for…
People affected by loss of strength or grip and coordination problems.
Good to know
Sometimes people with dementia will struggle with cutlery because they’ve forgotten how to use them. It may help to sit with the person and eat with them, so they can watch what you do and copy your actions.

Food preparation

Your dilemma
The person you care for is still quite independent in the kitchen, but sometimes struggles with chopping food or opening packaging, in particular, cans, jars, bottles, anything with a ring pull.
- Jar and bottle openers
The seals on many bottles and jars can be quite strong, so if you lack the strength in your hands that you used to, a special opener may help. Jar and bottle openers range from special rubber grips to stand alone openers.
- Tin openers and ring pull lifters
Like jars, opening up a tin can be tricky, especially those that require a can opener. It can leave you at risk of cutting yourself on sharp edges of the can. Electric can openers work with with minimal effort. Cans that are opened with a ring pull can be difficult to get your finger or nail under, so using a ring pull lifter, which slides under the ring to lever it up makes life easier.
- Enhanced chopping boards
These are chopping board which have added spikes or grips to help keep the food in place while you chop or slice it. Ideal for bread and vegetables.
These products are good for…
Maintaining independence in the kitchen for longer.
Good to know
A 2012 study found a link between hand grip and cerebral brain volume, and those with a strong grip were more likely to perform better on cognitive tests.

Keeping food warm

Your dilemma
The person you care for eats very slowly and you have to regularly remind them to keep eating because they often zone out and their food often goes cold, making it unpalatable.
Products to help
- Insulated plates, bowls and mugs

Eating very slowly is a common issue for people with dementia, so ensuring their food doesn’t get cold is important. Plates, bowls and mugs made out of special insulated material will help with this problem, ensuring the food or drink stays tastier and more palatable for longer.
These products are good for…
Giving the person you’re caring for the time to eat their meal at their own pace, without feeling rushed.
Top tip
If you need to heat food up because it has gone cold, be careful that it’s hot, but not scalding, all the way through. This is especially the case if you use a microwave as it doesn’t always heat food up uniformly, which could put the person at risk of scalding themselves.

Communication

Your dilemma
The person you care for has been struggling to communicate with you, causing frustration, particularly at dinner time. They want to be able to tell you what they want to eat, but can’t always find the words.
Products to help
- Food communication aids

These are usually books or flashcards with pictures of food as well as the words so people can pick a food or tell you a personal preference without having to get frustrated by the language barrier. Most food communication aids have clear, obvious illustrations or photographs of commonly eaten food.
- Planners & noticeboards
Meal planners are useful not just as an information source and for organising what a person with dementia will eat during the day, but to also act as a reminder for them to eat. They can walk into the kitchen and see a board with details of what they will be eating and where to find it.
These products are good for…
Informing and assisting people with dementia so that they feel understood and engaged.
Top tip
A great way to get someone with dementia to feel engaged is to involve them in meal planning. They could come shopping with you and pick out foods that you like, then help them to plan a meal with you.

Eating protectors

Your dilemma
The person you care for has coordination problems and struggles to eat a meal without spilling it on their clothes or pushing it onto the table.
Products to help
- Eating aprons and adult bibs

It is possible to find napkinware and clothing protectors that are able to cover up clothing without seeming babyish or undignified. Some look more like a fashionable scarf hung round your neck, although if you want a disposable apron or wipe-clean bib or apron, they are available too.
- Mats
Place mats can be useful not just to protect the table and catch crumbs, but as a guide for someone with dementia to see their plate and cup. Having the mat in a contrasting colour to their plate will help them to see them if they’ve got sight problems. You can also get mats that have the outline of the plate, cutlery and glass so the person with dementia can help you to lay the table, which is a good job to give to someone if they want to help out.
- Plate guards and surrounds
Easily fitted onto a regular plate, a guard or surround will prevent food from falling off the plate and can be used as a barrier to push food against when scooping food onto a spoon or fork, making it ideal for people that use only one hand when eating.
These products are good for…
Maintaining dignity and helping to promote independence when eating.
Top tip
If the person you’re caring for doesn’t like wearing a bib or apron to eat in because they feel embarrassed, why not try putting them into an old button up shirt (you could pick one up in a charity shop very cheaply), which they can then remove after their meal. It will still look like regular clothing but help to protect their clothes.

Hygiene

Your dilemma
You want to keep yourself clean and protect your clothes while helping the person you care for to eat their food. You want to maintain a clean and hygienic environment in the home before and after you sit down to feed them.
- Carer protectors
Choose aprons and gloves if you want to keep yourself clean and hygienic. In most cases, disposable version of these are the easiest to use and then throw away.
- Cleaning products
Clean off dirty mats, bibs and tables with an anti-bacterial spray or surface wipe.
These products are good for…
Maintaining a good level of hygiene.
Good to know
The person you care for may enjoy helping you to clean and wipe up after meals, so don’t be afraid to get them involved by giving them a cloth and spray or surface wipe.