So much of our lives center around food. The importance of a family eating together has been well-documented and is part of our socialization as people. But what about someone who is not able to eat on their own? How does having a caregiver feed you everything that goes into your mouth affect that experience?
For someone with very limited mobility due to amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), cerebral palsy, multiple sclerosis, muscular dystrophy, or spinal injuries, there may seem like very few options to be able to eat on your own. Robotic feeding devices have been around for decades, but now the options are cordless, more compact, and less costly than in the 90s.
I have researched two options that seem like they could work for someone who right now feels like their only option is to have a caregiver feed them. I have tried to compare them in terms of cost, weight, charging, etc.
Bowls/compartments: There are 4 white compartments which hold up to 4 oz. each. The tray and spoon are dishwasher safe and can be used in the microwave to heat foods.
Cost: $5950 with options for leasing and renting
Weight: 7.7 lbs.
Positioning: The caregiver “teaches” Obi where to position spoon for client. This action is very simple, but Obi really needs to be used at a table or on a tray near the person to work properly.
Charging: It is battery operated; it can be fully charged in 1-1.5 hours and used 6 times before it needs recharging.
Funding: The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) considers this product to be a Class I medical device
What I like about this product: The Obi looks sleek and fun; something out of the future. When turned on, the Obi bows to the person. The set up looks easy to use and there are lots of funding options.
What could be better: It has to be used with 2 switches to use this device with the full potential and the other drawback is that a person who uses Obi needs to be at a table close to the person or used on a table tray that is close to the person.
Mealtime Partners system:
Bowls: There are 3 clear bowls which hold approximately 8 oz. each; the bowls are dishwasher and microwave safe.
Cost: $7845-$8545 depending on mounting systems. Mealtime Partners has several options for mounting systems.
Weight: 8 lbs.
Positioning: The spoon is positioned using mounting systems. A caregiver may find the positioning difficult to adjust at first but there are several options for positioning.
Charging: It is battery operated; charging takes 4.5 hours and can be used for 3 meals and 3 snacks before needing recharging.
Website: Mealtime Partners
Funding: The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) considers the Mealtime Partner to be a Class I type medical device
What I like about this product: I liked the clear bowls so that the food can be easily seen. There is a spoon touch senor which indicates when the user is taking food from the spoon. There are several options for switch access, and I really like that there are several ways to mount the system so that it has a longer reach and extra legs for height if the user needs that.
What could be better: This system seems clunky next to Obi system.
If you are still unconvinced as to the importance of these devices, please check out this story of a young boy with cerebral palsy who now can eat with his friends at school without the help of a paraprofessional.