Parkinson's Disease affects muscle control, and when it extends to the epiglottis, it causes difficulty swallowing—also known as dysphagia. When it causes someone to inhale their food or liquid accidentally, dysphagia can cause aspiration pneumonia, a life-threatening condition characterized by inflamed or infected airways and lungs. When people tip their heads backwards to drink, the probability of accidentally inhaling liquid increases dramatically. This holds true for patients with dysphagia, where the chances of inhalation are already higher than normal. Aspiration pneumonia is the leading cause of death for patients with Parkinson’s Disease, which is why there is a need for a drinking system designed specifically to prevent aspiration pneumonia.
The Parkinson’s Cup is designed to make every sip like the first sip out of a normal cup—by keeping the liquid level high, the cup ensures that patients don’t have to tip their heads farther back and raise their chances of inhalation as they work through a drink. The design features a 3D printed cup with a plastic lining, which is pushed up by a moveable platform to lift the liquid inside as it’s consumed. The result is reduced risk of liquid entering the airway and traveling to the lungs. Considering the prevalence of hand tremors in patients with Parkinson’s, the cup also features a lid, which protects from spills and regulates the liquid flow to ensure that sips never become accidental gulps.
The prototype is complete and was successfully tested by end users at the Peterborough Senior Center.