I was inspired by my late grandmother who had dementia. 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 caregivers.
To better understand this disease, I volunteered in adult daycare centers. From exploring the daily activities through observation and talking with caregivers, I found that daily activities related to the everyday lives of people with Alzheimer's can be frustrating for their 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.
Our team put in a lot of work for research, sketches, mock-ups, and revising models based on feedback that we received from professional caregivers. After years of research and development, Eatwell won first place at the 2014 Stanford Design Challenge out of 52 teams from 15 countries. With the tremendous help and support from people who believe in this project, we delivered our first product set at the end of 2015. Thanks to everyone who shared their good feedback with us, and helped make Eatwell one of the "20 best inventions of the year" by Time Magazine.
It is the last gift for my grandmother, who unfortunately passed away.