“Sippy Cups”

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A sippy cup. Or, at least, that’s what my family used to call those cups little kids drank from. 

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They were colorful, childish, and had lids. And, when I first started working at my new community, a couple residents had them. I watched as the care aides handed two of my residents these sippy cups at breakfast, lunch, and then again at dinner. One resident in particular, a retired doctor, looked particularly perplexed by her cup.

Sandra was on a “finger foods” diet, which essentially meant that she struggled when using silverware. In order to help keep Sandra independent and eating without assistance, we gave her foods she could eat with her hands: sandwiches, chicken fingers, you name it—really anything that you could put on a bun or between bread. This was great for Sandra’s independence, but she also had trouble drinking from a regular cup. Her hands were unsteady, so she tended to spill her drink. Sometimes, Sandra was unsure of what to do with a cup, and instead of drinking it, she poured it onto her plate.

In light of this, Sandra was given a sippy cup to help her drink. She looked at it, confused, it seemed, and struggled with the idea that she needed to sip hard at the top of it. Not only that, but the cup was childish. It was bright, multicolored, and small, made for a child’s hand.

I hated those cups. My residents were not children—they were the complete opposite. I went out and found iced coffee tumblers, the ones where straws were attached and secured to the lids. The lids screwed on the top, and the tumblers were made for adults.

I bought the cups and brought them back to my community. This time, when Sandra ate lunch, she held the straw to her lips and sipped with ease.

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Images from Babble.com and Michaelfujita.com

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Rachael Wonderlin has a Master’s in Gerontology and is the author of two published books with Johns Hopkins University Press. She owns Dementia By Day, a dementia care consulting company.

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