Designer Creates Tableware to Help People With Dementia

I came across this post through one or another of the dementia sites that I check out. This is a great idea! If you live or work with dementia, you have likely heard to use red (or other contrasting color) for plates and cups so that a person with dementia can identify them on the table and to help stimulate eating. The tableware in this post has been designed by a designer after her grandmother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. Can I also just say that grandmothers are some of my favorite people in the whole multiverse and, as you can see from this example, truly inspiring ❤

The content of this post is a mix from mentalfloss.com and Eat Well, the name of this tableware set.

Have you used special tableware as part of your daily life or care? What do you think of this set? We would love to hear your experiences and opinions in the comments!

When designer Sha Yao’s grandmother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, she saw firsthand how the disease, and other neurodegenerative ones like it, can turn even the most basic tasks into seemingly-impossible feats.

With that in mind, Yao designed Eatwell, a seven-piece tableware set with 20 unique features specifically designed to meet the needs of those with physical, motor, and cognitive impairments. Yao exceeded her fundraising goal on Indiegogo last year and her designs won the top prize at the 2014 Stanford Design Challenge.

The set has bright, primary colors, which Yao chose because of a Boston University study that found that individuals with cognitive impairment consumed 24% more food and 84% more liquid when they were in brightly-colored containers.

Other features include bowls and cups with angled bases, allowing contents to naturally fall to one side (making them easier to scoop and drink), as well as ergonomically-designed spoons whose curvature aligns with the contours of the bowls. There are also holes with flaps at the edge of the tray where an apron, bib, or napkin can be tucked to prevent spill damage, plus wide-base drinkware that’s difficult to topple.

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, around 5.3 million Americans today have Alzheimer’s. An estimated 47.5 million people have dementia worldwide, according to the World Health Organization, and that number is only on the rise, making the need for innovations like Yao’s greater than ever.

At the heart of the efficiency and cleverness of the design is the basic desire to help people help themselves, which is especially personal for Yao.

“Raising awareness and addressing the needs of people with impairments will allow them to maintain their dignity, retain as much independence as possible, and reduce the burden on their caretakers,” she told Fast Company. “That’s what made designing the Eatwell tableware set so rewarding.”

To see more of the set, swing over to the official website, or view Yao’s fundraising video below.

I was inspired by my late grandmother who had Alzheimer’s disease. As her caregiver, I know the role of caregiving is not a simple one. Once people get Alzheimer’s, they will need all kinds of assistance in their daily lives. As the disease progresses and worsens for people with Alzheimer’s, the load the caregivers have to carry becomes heavier. Every time I looked at my grandmother, I wish I could have done something to help her. I believe there are many ways to improve the quality of life of our loved ones with progressive Alzheimer’s disease, as well as the lives of their carers.

Sha Yao with her inspiring grandmother

To better understand this disease, I volunteered in adult day care centers. From exploring the daily activities through observation and talking with caregivers, I discovered that eating was one of the most challenging daily activities.

Eating should be a simple task for most people. However, the cognitive and various sensory impairments of Alzheimer’s may result in a variety of eating problems. I realized there were many people who have the same problems as my grandma. They often ate less than they should, and accidents with spilled food and tipped cups were common.

For many families, meals are a time for sharing and reconnecting, and enjoying each other’s company. When the disease affects one member of a family, the mealtime experience can become stressful and challenges are created for both caregivers and their loved ones. What’s more, once the patients stop eating or have general problems eating enough, their health condition often rapidly worsens.

That’s the reason I created Eatwell, a tableware set with a very user-centered design that helps to increase food intake and maintain dignity for its users, while also helping to alleviate caring burdens by making the process of eating as easy as possible.

There are over twenty unique features in every EATWELL set. Every design detail and decision can be traced back to a finding or discovery made during the four year process.

I chose blue to be the inner color since there is no food that comes in the color of blue. I also chose to use red and yellow to help stimulate their appetite.

This tableware design applied research conducted by Boston University help users distinguish food better by using bright colors. According to the study, colors help a person with dementia to reduce visual impairment and consume 24% more food and 84% more liquid. It’s the first time I realized that simple design can make big differences!

The slanted bottom design can help users to gather food on one side without scooping.

The right angle side of the bowl is designed to help users collect food into the spoon more easily and also to prevent food from being accidentally scooped out of the bowl.

Both spoon heads are designed to match the curvature of the bowls to pick up the food easier.  One side matches the curvature of the wall while the other side matches the basin.

Every product in the EATWELL set has anti-slippage material on the bottom to prevent slipping or sliding.

To prevent the cups from tipping over, one cup has a rubber base that acts as a stabilizer.

Another cup has a handle that extends to the tabletop for added support. The handle is also specifically designed to benefit users with arthritis.

The set also comes with a tray that allows users to clip a bib onto the edge to help catch any dropped food and prevent clothing stains.

On the Eat Well website, you can order a 4-piece tableware set in red or yellow for $60 and an 8-piece set for $110.

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