Mealtime Partners, Inc.


Specializing in Assistive Dining and Drinking Equipment

 

The Mealtime Partner Dining System Description

The Mealtime Partner

This webpage provides detailed technical information about the design and use of the Mealtime Partner Dining System. For pricing information and/or to buy, click here. For help with selecting the best features to meet your specific needs call 1-800-996-8607 or email infor@mealtimepartners.com to reach a consultant who will be pleased to assist you.

The Mealtime Partner Assistive Dining Device (frequently referred to by users as the Partner) is a robotic eating aid that serves a wide variety of commonly accepted table foods that are normally eaten with a spoon or fork. Peas, mashed potatoes, breakfast cereal, pudding, fruit cocktail, and other similar foods are all easily served with the Partner. Larger foods like meats, pizza, cookies and salads are also easily served once they are cut into bite size pieces. It can serve a texture controlled diet equally well. The ability of food self-selection and the capacity to set ones own pace in eating can potentially ameliorate some of the undernourishment and/or gastric problems, as well as some of the risks of aspiration and choking that are associated with being fed, that often occur for people who are fed. (The Mealtime Partner is referred to as an assistive dining device because the term feeding device, or feeder, is typically associated with feeding animals and bringing dignity to disabled individuals who cannot feed themselves is an important part of the delivery of assistive technology for independent eating.)

Benefits of Independent Eating:

Users will experience the pleasure of independence when feeding themselves

They will select their own food and control the pace at which they eat

The risk of aspiration and reflux is reduced when the user can choose the pace at which they eat

Reduces the potential of "learned dependence"

Not being fed provides an increased capacity for social interaction during the meal (the quiet operation and offset positioning of the Partner enables typical conversation during meals)

Caregivers will enjoy the reduced effort needed for providing meals and snacks

 

Advantages of using the Mealtime Partner Assistive Dining Device:

Easy to use (no complicated coordination of switch activation with lights or sounds)

Very safe to use (uses a shatterproof plastic spoon and very low spoon extension force)

Multiple/versatile mounting and positioning methods enable use by any user who is able to chew and swallow normally

Quick and easy to learn how to setup and use (comes with an instructional video on DVD) 

The Partner is very patient - it will never rush the user (a spoon touch sensor tells the device when the user has finished taking food from the spoon)

Very reliable operation (will last for many years)

For children, versatile positioning and adjustable timing allow the Partner to grow with the child into adulthood

Technical support before and after purchase

 

The Partner succeeds in providing independent eating for individuals where other powered feeding devices have failed.

 

Key Features of the Partner:

Flexible mounting and positioning meets a diverse range of user needs, including wheelchair users, those who do not sit at a table to eat, and those with skeletal anomalies.

The Partner can be placed directly on a table using feet or legs, mounted on support shafts, or used with the very versatile Support Arm

Versatile control system utilizes any standard Adaptive Switches

Easily serves most ordinary table foods

Can also serve liquids and texture-controlled foods (soups, cereals, minced, and pureed foods, etc.)

Reliable food pickup

Controls the quantity of food on the spoon

Bottom of the spoon is wiped to minimize dripping

Three bowls of food can be served at one time. (Separate bowls prevent the food from being mixed.)

Bowls are quickly and easily interchanged to provide additional food

Bowls are transparent for easy food identification

Speed of eating is easily adjusted

Can serve food at a rate fast enough to satisfy the heartiest of appetites

Can serve food slow enough to allow time as needed to chew and swallow

Spoon will remain extended until the user has finished taking food from the spoon (a spoon touch sensor tells the device when the user is taking food from the spoon)

Can operate fully automatically or can be controlled with one or two Adaptive Switches selected to suit the user

For Adaptive Switch users, multiple user switch settings are available to accommodate a wide variety of user needs

Safety was a primary design requirement: the spoon is made with shatterproof plastic and extends out from the bowls with very low force and will immediately stop if it encounters anything in its path

Offset positioning provides the user with a clear view of the dining environment and allows functioning in the normal mealtime social setting

Easy to clean – all surfaces can be wiped with a damp cloth

Spoons and bowls are dishwasher and microwave oven safe

Lightweight and battery powered for portability

Will serve an entire days meals and snacks before requiring battery recharging (4.5 hour maximum recharge time). Partial recharge is OK.

Comes with one-year warranty parts and labor

Description of the Mealtime Partner

The Mealtime Partner assistive dining device is a battery operated robotic assistive eating device that allows people to feed themselves without using their arms or hands. The Mealtime Partner increases the user’s independence while lessening their caregiver’s workload. Food is placed in the three bowls that come with the Partner. The bowls rotate until the desired food is located under the spoon. The spoon then dips into the bowl, scoops up the food, and presents a rounded spoonful of food very near the lips of the user. The user must lean forward slightly and remove the food from the spoon. This requires a small amount of neck or upper torso movement. (Around 1.5 inches, the length of the bowl of the spoon.)  (Refer to User Profile for more details.)

Positioning: The Mealtime Partner is an adaptive eating aid designed to accommodate a diverse range of user seating and positioning needs. This is accomplished by mounting the Partner in a variety of ways: on its Support Arm, on a straight Support Shaft (2", 4", 6", 8", and 10" lengths), mounting it on legs (2", 4”, and 6” legs are available), placing it on an over-the-bed hospital table, or, for small children, placing it directly on a dining table.

The Mealtime Partner is positioned in front and to the right of the user (from the user’s perspective). The bowl position and transparent design permits the users to easily view the contents of each bowl during the meal so that they will know what food selections are being offered. The offset positioning provides the user with a clear view of the dining environment and allows functioning in the normal mealtime social setting without their view being blocked.

Bowls: The Mealtime Partner supports three bowls at one time although extra bowls of food can be prepared and the bowls quickly interchanged as food is eaten during the meal. Each bowl is clear and is designed to serve one cup (0.24 liters) of food. The depth and shape of the bowl provides the proper placement of food on the spoon as it scoops. The use of the appropriate Bowl Cover controls the quantity of food on the spoon. Bowl Covers are available with three different wipe edges: low, medium and high. They accommodate serving diverse food textures and provide for user preferences in the quantity of food served. The bowl and bowl cover design not only allows the quantity of food to be controlled but also minimizes food dripping from the spoon.

Foods: The Mealtime Partner assistive eating device serves a wide variety of foods that are usually eaten with a spoon or fork. Peas, mashed potatoes, breakfast cereal, pudding, fruit cocktail, coleslaw, etc. Larger foods like meats, sandwiches, pizza, cookies, salads, etc., require cutting into bite size portions so that the spoon can get under and lift them from the bowl. The bowls are designed to accommodate normal hot or cold foods and are both dishwasher and microwave oven safe.

Adaptive Switches: Users can control the robotic dining device using two adaptive switches, one adaptive switch, or fully automatically (using no adaptive switches), according to their functional and/or cognitive needs. The adaptive switches must be selected and positioned to suit the needs of each individual user. To find the most appropriate switches, users may want to investigate the wide variety of switches that are available and can be purchased from many different companies, including Mealtime Partners, Inc. (Mealtime Partners Adaptive Switch selection.)

Two Switches: Most users will operate the Mealtime Partner using two adaptive switches as this access method offers the greatest control of the device and the quickest way of moving from one specific food choice to another. In the two-switch mode, one switch controls food selection allowing the user to move rapidly from bowl to bowl, while the second switch controls the spoon movement. The user has total control of both food selection and the pace at which each spoonful is served. However, for a few individuals, exerting effort, even the small amount necessary to activate adaptive switches, is very demanding. For those users the Partner can be operated using one adaptive switch or with no switches.

One Switch: When operating the Mealtime Partner with one adaptive switch, the user depresses the adaptive switch to begin food selection. The three bowls rotate from bowl to bowl pausing briefly at each food selection. When the desired food is under the spoon, depressing the adaptive switch will stop the bowl movement and initiate the spoon action. The spoon will then continue serving food from the designated bowl until the switch is depressed again. After the switch is depressed again, the spoon will retract and the bowls will once again rotate from bowl to bowl. Also, if the spoon remains untouched by the user for a specified period, the spoon will automatically return the food to the bowl it came from and the bowls will resume rotating. Using one adaptive switch requires a minimal physical effort for the user, while providing faster access to the food of choice than gained through the automatic mode. 

No Switches (or fully automatic): The automatic mode of operation provides for the person who either cognitively and/or functionally cannot use an adaptive switch. It does not require any effort on the part of the user other than taking the food from the spoon, thus it allows very frail users who fatigue easily, to conserve their energy. In the automatic mode the Mealtime Partner bowls rotate to a food selection and the spoon presents the food to the user. If the user does not touch the spoon, the food is returned to the bowl it came from, the bowls rotate to the next food selection, and the spoon serves that food to the user. This pattern of operation is continued until the food is taken from the spoon. Once the spoon is touched, the Mealtime Partner continues to serve that food selection until the user stops eating that food. When the user stops eating the food, it is returned to the bowl it came from and the bowls rotate to the next food selection. The food presentation sequence described above is restarted.

The Mealtime Partner is a powered feeder that provides an extremely wide range of functionality and, therefore, is an eating device for disabled people who have a wide range of disabilities. As a user becomes more proficient, or their condition worsens, the Mealtime Partner functions can be adjusted to meet their changing need. 

The Mealtime Partner will serve three full meals and three large snacks before requiring recharging overnight (4.5 hours maximum recharge time). It is highly reliable and covered by the best warranty in the industry. Warranty information.

The Mealtime Partner is a daily living aid that is ready to use straight from the box. However, as mentioned earlier, all of the timing can be altered to suit the user’s preferences using the control panel.

(See Optional Mounting Shafts and Optional Legs.) For complete pricing information, see All Products.

The Partner is a disability product that is designed to be accessible to a wide range of users with differing abilities. It has a variety of operational modes that, when combined with adaptive switches, can make the device function in many different ways. This enables the Partner to be utilized by individuals who could not otherwise use equipment controlled by adaptive switches. It is recommended that those users seek the help of an Occupational Therapist, Speech Language Pathologist, or Assistive Technology Practitioner to choose appropriate switches and help determine how the device and the switches should be positioned, and the optimal control settings. 

 

The Mealtime Partner meets the Medicare and Medicaid definitions of Durable Medical Equipment (DME). The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) considers the Mealtime Partner to be a Class I type medical device. The Mealtime Partners has successfully completed all governmental electrical safety and electro-magnetic compatibility (EMC) compliance testing. (More about Compliance Testing.)

 

This page last updated on 11-24-2017.