There’s help for those with Parkinson’s to live more independently

Technology is supposed to make life better, sometimes easier. Often it seems to do just the opposite, like when your computer or smartphone slows to a crawl just when you need it most or that the battery on the tablet you bought not so very long ago dies before the end of the day.

So, it is heartening when you come across a product that has the potential to really make life better for a great number of people.

A company called Lift Labs, acquired by Google back in 2014, is now on the market with a product designed to help people suffering from Essential Tremor or Parkinson’s Disease live more independent and normal lives. The product is called Liftware. It is an electronic handle for eating utensils that counteracts hand tremors and stabilizes movement.

How does it work? Technical Lead Anupam Pathak says the group of engineers and scientists makes use of the same type of technology that helps digital cameras eliminate blurry pictures. In photography, it’s called optical image stabilization. In this case, Liftware uses a small computer to direct two motors in the handle.  When a tremor is detected, the utensil attachment moves in the opposite direction, greatly improving its stability.

In an 11 patient clinical study involving patients with Essential Tremor, a common aging condition, Liftware reduced the effects of tremors on eating by 76 percent.

Pathak says statistics show about 20 percent of people over age 60 will develop hand tremors and that Liftware is capable of significantly improving their quality of their lives. The acquisition of the company by Google is already benefiting customers. With the goal of making it more accessible to more people, the original price of $300 has been lowered to $195. Pathak says that couldn’t have been achieved without the resources of Google. Unfortunately, Medicare currently does not cover the cost. But there may be help available for those who are in need and can’t afford the price. Pathak says that Google, for instance, has donated devices to the Michael J. Fox Foundation and the International Essential Tremor Foundation.

Pathak says, “If people can’t afford a Liftware device, they can reach out to the foundations and apply to get one on a need basis.”

The starter kit comes with a soup spoon attachment and everyday spoon and fork attachments are also available for about $35 each. The battery in the device is designed to last between three and six meals on a single charge. The handle is placed on a base for recharging, much like an electric toothbrush. It can also be plugged into computer or other USB wall adapter. At the moment it is available only through the website. They offer free shipping in the U.S., a 30-day money back guarantee, and a storage pouch is included as well.

There may be more to come.

Pathak says, “We are very much working in this space of the aging population. In the next 10 to 15 years, we’re going to have a very large influx of retiring people. With that comes a lot of health challenges. We are very much focused on making sure people remain independent.”

He adds that Liftware is just one example of how technology can be used to help those people live more easily and maintain a sense of dignity.