Mealtime Partners, Inc.

Specializing in Assistive Dining and Drinking Equipment


Frequently Asked Questions

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Q: Can a person with a bite reflex use the Mealtime Partner Dining System?

A: Maybe. This is a judgment call based on the severity of the bite reflex. The Mealtime Partner Spoon is shatter proof so that the spoon will not break and cause injury even if it is bitten hard. However, if the bite reflex is prolonged, the Partner will detect that something is holding the spoon and will not retract (until the bite is relaxed). Sometimes during a prolonged hold time, the Partner will display an error message indicating "Spoon Cannot Retract" and will go into the Pause mode. The caregiver should press the Pause button to resume operation after the bite is released.

Also, note that the spoon will require replacement more frequently than usual for persons with bite reflex.

Q: Why does the food come off of the spoon after it has been picked up?

A: This will happen if the food is too large for the bowl cover that is being used. To correct this, first, try changing to the next size up cover. If you are using the low cover, try the medium cover. If you are using the medium cover try the high cover. If the problem still persists with the high cover, the pieces of food are too large for the Partner to serve. The solution to this problem is to cut the food into smaller pieces.

Q: How do I choose which Front Mounted Drinking System to buy?

A: Because the Front Mounted Drinking System can be purchased with 5 different lengths of Flex Arm (6-inch, 12- inch, 18-inch, 24-inch and 30-inch), how to select the appropriate length is sometimes asked. When selecting the most appropriate length Flex Arm, the first step is to decide where the Cup Holder must be positioned to provide comfortable access to a drink for the user. The next step is to identify where on the wheelchair (or table, bed, etc.) the Clamp will be mounted. To accomplish this, measure the distance from the Cup Holder to the Clamp location and add a few inches. This will give an approximate measurement for the Flex Arm. Choose the length of Flex Arm that is the next size upward, for example if the distance from the Clamp to the Cup Holder is 20 inches choose the 24 inch Flex Arm.  The Flex Arm can then be bent into a shape that will reach the correct spot. For more information about the Front Mounted Drinking System please read our January 2012 Newsletter which describes the Front Mounted Drinking System in great detail, and our March 2012 Newsletter where this question about the Front Mounted Drinking System is answered in more detail.

Q: How do I select the appropriate Mealtime Partner Dining System?

A: A Mealtime Partner Dining System consists of the Mealtime Partner Dining Device (which will be referred to as “the Partner”) and mounting hardware to position the Partner for the user. There are three available mounting systems: extension legs, mounting shafts, and the Support Arm. Also, the Partner can, in some cases, be used without any additional mounting hardware because it comes with four feet and can sit on a table top without mounting.

Selecting the appropriate mounting system. The seating and positioning of the person who will use the Partner normally dictates how the system should be mounted. Additional considerations, when selecting the best mounting system are: involuntary body movement, range of motion of the upper body and head, whether the user fatigues easily, and, the environment where it will be used.

Using Legs. If the person using the Partner sits on a regular dining chair or has a seating system that allows them to sit at a table with their knees under the table, mounting the Partner on legs should be considered.

The extension legs simply replace the short feet that come with the Partner. Extension legs consist of a set of four legs of the following lengths: 2 inches, 4 inches, and 6 inches long (i.e., 12 legs in all). To install the extension legs, unscrew the four original short feet from the Partner, and screw the longer legs onto the same threaded shaft.

The advantages of using legs are that they are inexpensive; they are easy to install and require no further adjustment after being installed; and, they can be interchanged as the user’s positioning changes.

The disadvantages of using legs are that the user must be able to sit at a table to eat with their legs/knees under the table; the user must be able to sit at the table controlling their body position for an entire meal; and, the user must be able to move forward around 4 inches to comfortably use the Partner when it is mounted on legs.

Additionally, when mounting the Partner on legs is appropriate for the user, the environment in which the system is being used should be considered. For example, if the dining system is being used in a school cafeteria, the activities of other students should be considered. If they move around quickly (and roughly, as children will often do), the Partner might be knocked off of the table. Under these circumstances, even though legs are a good mounting choice for the user, it is advisable to use mounting shafts instead, because they allow the Partner to be firmly fixed to the table and thus it is protected from accidentally being knocked off of the table.

Using Mounting Shafts. For many people, their seating system prohibits them from getting close enough to a table to get their knees under it. Because they are seated in powered wheelchairs that are bulky and too high for the arms of the wheelchair to fit under the table, or they require a laptray on their wheelchair for posture or stability, they simply cannot get close to the table edge. For those individuals, and people who have skeletal anomalies that prohibit them from sitting facing forward, mounting the Partner on legs will prohibit them from accessing the device. They should choose either the mounting shafts or the Support Arm. If the user has good trunk and upper body control and movement, using a mounting shaft is the best choice because of the advantages stated below. The appropriate length shaft allows the Partner to be mounted at the correct height for the user. The shaft also allows the Partner to rotate out from the edge of the table so that the spoon is positioned for easy access by the user even though they are sitting out from the table.

The mounting shaft system consists of a single mounting shaft and a Table Clamp that accommodates the shaft. A full set is comprised of five Mounting Shafts, one each of the following lengths: 2 inch, 4 inch, 6 inch, 8 inch and 10 inch. Mounting Shafts work in conjunction with the Mealtime Partner Table Clamp. The Clamp is secured to the edge of the table-top. Once it is attached, the appropriate length Mounting Shaft is installed in the socket on the top of the Clamp. The Partner is mounted on the top of the Shaft. Thumb screws on both the Clamp and the Partner can be tightened to fasten the shaft in place, while still allowing the Partner to rotate on the shaft.

Using a Mounting Shaft to position the Partner is of value to individuals who sit at a table to eat but who have involuntary movement that causes them to move the Partner when it is mounted on legs and placed on the table. Additionally, shaft mounting is useful for those who sit close to a table but whose knees do not go under the table. It is simpler to position than the Support Arm and allows for Partner positioning to be slightly away from the table.

The advantages of using a Mounting Shaft is that a set of mounting shafts is relatively inexpensive and using a shaft is the quickest and easiest mounting method to install (and/or interchange).

The disadvantages of using Mounting Shafts are that they provide rigid mounting. (However, the Partner can still rotate on the shaft, providing some safety if struck by a user, but the shaft itself will be secured rigidly in the table clamp). Secondly, they are only available in 2 inch incremental lengths so the user must adjust to the height that is best for their use. No height adjustment can be made within the 2-inch increment.

Using the Support Arm. Individuals who have limited range of upper body control or who fatigue easily from the effort of controlling their body movement should use the Partner mounted on the Support Arm. The Support Arm allows the Partner to be positioned so that the spoon, when extended out from the device, is positioned very close to the user’s bottom lip. With the Partner positioned this way, the user only has to lean forward slightly to take food off of the spoon, thus the user exerts very little effort.

The primary advantage of using the Support Arm is that it has infinitely variable positioning (within its total range) and can meet the needs of most users regardless of their positioning. The user must only be able to move around an inch forward to get the food off of the spoon. Also, additional safety is provided with the Partner mounted on the Support Arm because it will “break away” should the user fall forward into the dining system. This is appropriate for individuals who have seizure disorders.

The disadvantages of using the Support Arm are that it is the most expensive mounting method, it requires frequent adjustment, it is bulky, and some caregivers find it difficult to position.

Using No Mounting System. Some small children are able to use the Partner without a mounting system. The Partner can simply be placed on the table using the four short feet that come with the device. The child sits on a booster seat or highchair that positions him/her at the appropriate height to eat using the Partner. However, as the child grows, longer legs may be necessary for them to be able to continue using the same table height.

It should be noted that if a child begins to use a wheelchair to fulfill their mobility needs and plans to eat while in their wheelchair, the positioning of the Partner must be reviewed. Sitting in a wheelchair to eat changes the child’s positioning, their seat height and their movement patterns. Therefore the dining system mounting method should be reevaluated at that time.


FAQ's last updated 1-17-17.

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