The importance of assistive technology in feeding



Jade Godier is the company director of Made2Aid, a product advisory service, and the organiser of RISE Expo. Jade also offers consultancy for product and business development within the healthcare sector. She has a wealth of knowledge and experience on ranges of equipment, its provision and suitability. www.rise4disability.com As humans, we have core basic needs that should be met to live a healthy and happy life.  These include food, water, sleep, shelter, social interaction and, lastly, a sense of purpose.
Stemming from empirical research I have completed, the most important elements to survive are food and water, forming the top outcome in every paper which has also come out on top of every list.
Nutrition is equally as important as the air that we breathe. As human beings, we have a range of different abilities depending on our physical and mental capacity, therefore, some people may require physical, medical or technological assistance to achieve this basic need.
Unfortunately, assistive technology isn’t always readily available. Instead, for those that need it, commonly, a care plan will be put in place where the client will be fed by their carer. Some people prefer this method of eating, however, others do not and feel their basic right to feed themselves has been taken away. This can transpire to malnutrition, reduced social interaction and a lost sense of purpose.
The reason for not having this technology available is down to one of two things: knowledge of the various equipment available and access to funding. I hope to explain and raise awareness of some options that could potentially reduce care package costs, offer independence to the user and even increase physical and mental wellbeing.
Assistive technology in feeding can range from:
Manual aids : Adapted cutlery, gripping aids, height-adjustable tables, manual mobile arm supports and spring/hydraulic or dampened assisted feeders.
These allow the user – who may have limited strength, fatigue, reduced grip, joint pain, poor co-ordination or tremor – to self-feed with the support of a non-electrical aid.
Electrical and robotic : Battery-operated cutlery; power-assisted feeding devices such as plate turners, motorised spoon arms or power assisted arm supports; computer-programmed robotic feeding devices and arms; and exoskeletal upper limb technology.
Power-assisted devices are predominantly controlled via switches or a joystick to control components for users with low tone, high tone, uncontrolled movement, extreme fatigue and/or rapid deterioration in strength in their upper limbs to raise their own or a robotic arm (with a spoon/fork attachment) to their mouth.
Medically-assisted feeding : Enteral feeding via the gastrointestinal tract may be required when there is an impaired ability to swallow safely or parenteral feeding which is the intravenous administration of nutrients for...

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