New research from charity Carers UK and Designability, a specialist in assistive technology for disabled and elderly people, has highlighted that products which help people eat and drink are seen as stigmatising, expensive or impractical.

The study gathered information from an online survey of 265 carers and in-depth focus groups.

Results showed that unpaid carers have to manage individuals’ physical issues such as difficulty with swallowing, risks of choking and monitoring whether they are drinking enough. Carers also described the challenges of motivating the person they care for to eat and drink enough by providing appealing and appetising food.

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However, one of the main issues from the research outlined that some carers found products that are designed to aid people eat and drink stigmatising, unaffordable or ineffective.

This leads to a call for designers to improve the lives of carers and their clients by providing innovative products that are attractive, useful and affordable. From help with shopping, choosing the right food and preparing it, to products that help with eating and drinking or help prompt and monitor.

Madeleine Starr MBE, Director of Innovation at Carers UK, said: “As more of us provide support for relatives and friends, often juggling caring responsibilities with work or parenting younger children we need products that fit with the new realities of our busy lives.

“This research lays down a challenge to designers and technologists to explore practical solutions to help those with diverse care needs to enjoy a healthy diet.”

Better product designs would allow carers to carry out their duties more effectively, remove the stigmas associated with disability products and encourage those in care to eat and drink more.

Jess Ridgers, Product Designer at Designability, added: “This research shows that there are many opportunities for inclusive design to inform the development of more and better products to help carers support others to eat and drink well.

“We hope that our findings will be the start of a bigger conversation leading to innovative solutions.”

Carers UK is a charity led by carers, for carers, and aims to improve the lives of carers by providing advice, information and support.

Designability is a national charity with a mission of transforming the lives of disabled people and those living with a long term-health condition by creating life-changing assistive technologies.

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