A spoon has made it to market designed to help people with Parkinson’s regain independence.


An estimated seven to 10 million people worldwide are affected by Parkinson’s disease. The disease can manifest in the form of involuntary movement that can be debilitating. A few years ago, stabilization technology was implemented in silverware and the results were amazing. This technology allows Parkinson’s patients to gain more independence by feeding themselves while living with uncontrollable limb movement. Multiple companies now make a Parkinson’s spoon that helps thousands of people who are suffering from this disease.

What Parkinson’s Disease?

Parkinson’s disease is a disorder of the central nervous system that leads to cell loss in several areas of the brain. One of those areas is called the substantia nigra which produces dopamine—a chemical that transmits signals to facilitate coordination of movement. Without dopamine, neurons fire without control and patients struggle to control their movement. It is due to the impact Parkinson’s has on a patient’s movement that it is considered a movement disorder by clinicians.

Symptoms

Symptoms of Parkinson’s disease typically vary from patient to patient, but according to the Michael J Fox Foundation, they generally fall under two main categories: motor, and nonmotor symptoms.

Motor symptoms are what people are more familiar with and they include; bradykinesia—the slowness or loss of spontaneous and voluntary movement, rigidity—unusual stiffness of a limb or other body part, resting tumor—the uncontrollable movement of a resting limb that stops during a voluntary movement, and postural instability—difficulty with standing or gait.

The nonmotor or “dopamine-non-responsive” symptoms include; cognitive impairment, mood disorders, problems sleeping, low blood pressure, constipation, speech and swallowing problems, a lost sense of smell, drooling, and unexplained pains.

The Impact

While no cure has been found for Parkinson’s, The Michael J Fox Foundation is dedicated to finding a disease-modifying therapy. The treatments currently in existence are deep brain stimulation and medication. According to Naqvi, both options can prove to be quite costly to the average American as the yearly cost of medication is $2,500 while surgery can cost up to $100,000 per patient.

Due to the nature of Parkinson’s, a patient’s personal and professional life are often heavily impacted. According to Naqvi, around 56 percent of Canadians patients rely on assistance, and 84 percent of them rely on family, friends, and neighbors.

Additionally, losing a job due to the condition is hard enough but Parkinson’s disease patients also deal with: lowered sexual health, problems with dexterity, possible loss of ability to drive, and increased levels of fatigue.

Increased fatigue makes an everyday battle even harder as a patient’s body becomes tired from working overtime to accomplish the simplest tasks such as pouring orange juice, taking a shower, and answering the phone.

The disease impacts a patient’s emotional and mental state as it takes away some of their independence while also impacting their interpersonal relationships. Which is why it is important to find any and all ways to help patients enduring this life altering condition.

The Liftware Steady Parkinson’s Spoon

Liftware is one of the first companies to bring a new form of technology to market designed to “help people with hand tremor or limited hand and arm mobility retain dignity, confidence, and independence.”

Of their two products, the Liftware Steady is designed specifically for people with Parkinson’s disease and is designed to enable the person to eat independently. This Parkinson’s spoon has an electronic stabilizing handle with a selection of attachments that include a spork, fork, an everyday spoon, and a soup spoon.

The website explains that the Parkinson’s spoon has stabilizing technology, which learns the user’s tremor patterns to learn the difference between unwanted tremors and intended movements of the hand. It then stabilizes while in use so the attachment shakes 70 percent less than the user’s hand.

The stabilizing handle contains sensors to detect hand motion and a small computer to determine which movements are unwanted tremors. The computer then directs two motors in the handle to move the attachment in the opposite direction of any detected tremor.  

The Liftware Steady Parkinson’s spoon connects to a dock for easy charging which is included in their starter kit along with the handle, an attachment, and a travel pouch.

The Gyenno Parkinson’s Spoon

Gyenno’s smart Parkinson’s spoon has the tagline “less shake, less stress” on its website where they boast an ability to offset unwanted tremors by 85 percent through their 360-degree stabilization solution.

Similar to the Liftware Steady, the Gyenno Spoon learns the user’s tremor patterns to better predict unwanted movement for optimal stabilization. The spoon uses cloud technology to store the user’s tremor status and to generate an algorithm of their hand tremor habits.

What’s Next

Innovative technology like the Parkinson’s spoon indicates that technology has the potential to change the life of a patient by giving them autonomy. The regained possibility of eating independently can have such a profound impact on someone who now struggles with the smallest daily tasks. It would not be hard to imagine a future where tremor resistant steering wheels also made it to market. It is exciting to see the innovative developments technology is bringing to the healthcare sector and the promising future it is paving the way for, especially regarding conditions like Parkinson’s that leave people needing all the help they can get.