When Sha Yao was caregiving for her late grandmother who was living with Alzheimer’s, she quickly realized daily activities had become major obstacles for her beloved family member. One of the biggest hurdles for her grandmother was a seemingly simple activity: eating.
The cognitive and sensory impairments associated with Alzheimer’s and other types of dementia often result in difficulty eating. People living with dementia commonly spill their food, are left confused by intricate patterns on dinnerware and frequently eat less than they should out of frustration.
“For many families, meals are a time for sharing and reconnecting, and enjoying each other’s company,” Yao, an industrial designer from Taiwan, writes on her website. “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.”
Yao was tired of seeing plates left full and stomachs left empty, so she sought to find a solution that would bring joy back to mealtime. The result of 4 years of tireless research and development is Eatwell, an 8-piece dining set that fosters mealtime independence for suffers of dementia.
Yao names 20 distinct features as integral to the design of Eatwell — all working together to give dementia suffers more independence during mealtime, while also leaving caregivers with less burden and worry when it comes to their loved one's eating habits.
Eatwell bowls are designed with slanted bottoms that help food collect to one side for easy scooping. The interior of the dining ware is also bright blue in color, an uncommon hue for food which helps users with dementia identify food in their bowls with ease. Spoons are intentionally designed to hug the side of the dinnerware, making collecting food easier and preventing spillage. Handles for drinking cups and utensils are made to allow for easy gripping and stability.
IMAGE: SHA YAO/EATWELL
The result of all these intentional elements working together is a dining set that has been found to allow users with dementia to consume 24% more food and 84% more liquid, according to Boston University research.
Yao tells Mashable the most challenging part of creating Eatwell was refining her designs to best serve people living with dementia. That challenge, she says, stemmed from the fact that the people she was looking to serve often couldn’t give her the feedback she desired due to their cognitive impairments.
“Since [people with dementia] have a completely different set of abilities than I do, I realized that I need to become very knowledgeable about the disease before I could really even begin to design something for them,” she says.
To get the feedback necessary to refine her designs, Yao volunteered at senior care centers in the San Francisco area, working one-on-one with people living with dementia and their caregivers to identify their needs.
Yao believes her careful designs are the future of easy eating for people living with dementia — and influencers in the field of design and assisted living agree. Eatwell won first place at the 2014 Stanford Design Challenge, beating out of 52 teams representing 15 different countries.
Post written by Katie Dupere via Mashable.com, Business