Dining With Ease and Dignity
by Anne Royer,
Founder of The Meal Lifter
Several years ago, we invited our family to a 90th birthday celebration for my mother-in-law. I was puzzled when she quietly sat and didn’t eat. When I asked if she was alright, she whispered that because of her Parkinsons disease, and the associated tremors and weakness, she was not able to raise her arm without food falling off the utensil, causing her great embarrassment.
To remedy the situation, I stacked several books below her dinner plate, which allowed her to pivot on her elbow from plate to mouth without lifting her arm. It worked extremely well and subsequently we created a prototype that allowed her to remain in independent living longer than her condition would have otherwise permitted.
Over the course of using the prototype, other residents and nursing staff inquired if the device was commercially available. After extensive research, we discovered that no one had ever offered this type of eating aid. With the express desire of helping individuals eat independently, we experimented with various sizes and configurations, and eventually created a device that we trademarked and patented as The Meal Lifter.
The Meal Lifter™ is a simple platform that raises the dinner plate several inches, securing the plate in place, and reducing the distance from plate to mouth. Pivoting on the elbow rather than lifting one’s arm makes it demonstrably easier to feed oneself. The device minimizes the amount of food that may otherwise fall off of the utensil, making eating more enjoyable, while providing greater nutrition, ease, and dignity. We’ve learned that nursing aids in senior housing facilities often use books or magazines to raise the dinner plate; however, The Meal Lifter provides a much more sanitary and dignified method of assisting the individual.
In visiting with the Alzheimer’s Foundation, we have also learned that dementia patients often experience a reduced field of vision and subsequently are not able to comfortably see the dinner plate. By raising the plate (preferably red) with The Meal Lifter, they are able to see their plate. Further, by wrapping their arm around the device, the individual has greater control and confidence.
We presented the device to Direct Supply, which is the largest distributor of equipment and supplies to the senior housing market, and they are now selling Meal Lifters through their catalog. We also offer the devices and dinner plates through our website, www.meallifter.com. The device is off-white, molded, unbreakable plastic that secures a 9” dinner plate. The device is washable, stackable, and dishwasher safe.
Based on the support and encouragement we’ve received from the local Parkinsons and Alzheimers organizations, the Michael J. Fox Research Team, Teepa Snow, Essential Tremors, as well as senior housing operators, neurologists, gerontologists, rheumatologists, and physical and occupational therapists, we expect The Meal Lifter will become a new paradigm for those who have difficulty feeding themselves.
What began as an altruistic endeavor has now become a business enterprise grounded in our philosophy of assisting individuals in eating with Greater Ease and Dignity.
Anne Royer attended the University of Kansas and initially studied Occupational Therapy. However, she subsequently decided not to pursue that field, and instead followed her life-long interest in fine arts as a painter. Anne and her husband (and business partner) Robert, lived in Santa Fe, New Mexico for 25 years and during that time Anne studied with a number of accomplished artists and honed her artistic skills. She has since pursued painting and designing art for children’s products. Anne and Robert are parents of two adult children and grandparents to three wonderful grandchildren.
They returned to Kansas City several years ago for business purposes, and serendipitously, Anne created The Meal Lifter eating aid to assist her mother-in-law who suffered from Parkinsons disease. The Meal Lifter has since evolved into a full time altruistic and business venture.