Encouraging independence with eating

Encouraging independence with eating

Many people pefer to be as independent as possible when it comes to eating and drinking. Listed here are some hints on how you can be as independent as possible at mealtimes.

  • Ensure that the dining environment is set up correctly. Your dining chair should be supportive and allow you to sit in a comfortable and upright position, as this will help maintain a good posture for eating and drinking (Mastos, Miller, Eliasson and Imms, 2007). Read our advice on setting up the dining environment for more information.
  • A regular routine with familiar placement of items such as napkin, salt, pepper and a drink may help if the individual has memory problems. Eating a meal in quiet surroundings with minimal distraction may also help (Alzheimer's Association, 2017)
  • Specially designed cutlery or crockery can help, if you have difficulty using standard items. Read our advice on choosing cutlery, or our advice on one handed eating, for futher information
  • Choosing appropriate foods can also encourage independence. For example, if you have trouble cutting food, a casserole may be more appropriate than a whole steak. Thicker sauces and soups are also less likely to be spilled. A speech and language therapist can assess and advise on suitable techniques and foods if you have difficulty chewing or swallowing
  • Using plates or bowls with high sides or a plateguard can help prevent food being spilled (Alzheimer's Association, 2017). Cups and mugs with lids will help prevent drink spills
  • Be patient - don't criticise the person's eating habits or urge him or her to eat faster (Alzheimer's association, 2017).
Advice last checked: 26 February 2018 Next check due: 26 February 2021

All advice is either supported by references (cited in the text) or is based upon peer reviewed professional opinion. Our advice is impartial and not influenced by sponsors or product suppliers listed on the site.
Conflict of interest statement


  1. Alzheimer's Association 2007  Eating
    View reference   Last visited:  13/12/2013 Evidence type: 2
  2. Mastos, M., Miller, K., Eliasson, A.C. and Imms, C. 2007  Goal-directed training: linking theories of treatment to clinical practice for improved functional activities in daily life
    Clinical Rehabilitation   Vol.21(1)   p47-55 Evidence type: 3