We were approached by the speech and language therapy community team who were dissatisfied with the commercially available range of assistive devices for drinking. None of these solutions catered for the patient with limited ability to administer, suck and/or swallow fluids and they were reliant on carer contact. Clinicians encountered a range of issues due to these difficulties. Mouth ulcers, urinary tract infections, and dehydration were all compounding the challenge these patients faced with their original condition and affected their quality of life.
Our challenge was to produce a device that addressed this need. The solution we developed in consultation with this clinical team was a powered peristaltic pump with a range of programmable parameters. The bolus size and rate are able to be programmed and additional features such as delivery delay and an audible signal can be set up to suit each user. The benefit of using a peristaltic system is that fluid is only passing through silicone tubing, hence reducing the burden and risks posed by cleaning. The unit is also designed to be compatible with the range of switching and support solutions available to assistive technologists and with which they are already familiar.
The unit is currently being trialled with spinal patients at Burwood Hospital with a view to expanding the trial to other patient groups in the community in the near future.