Making yourself a cup of tea is one of those everyday tasks that signify independence. I celebrated that day my daughter was 'grown up ' enough to make me (and herself) a hot drink and I still remember how exciting it was to get a kettle in my bedroom as a teenager. Indeed one of the qualifying questions in the UK's new Personal Independence Payment government benefits assessment is the (in)ability to make your own cup of tea.
As Dementia affects judgement and short term memory, tasks such as making a cup of tea can become overwhelming and sometimes unsafe. Overfilling the kettle, putting an electric kettle on a gas stove, not putting the kettle lid down, walking away whilst the kettle is boiling and not remembering to return and, of course the implications of lifting a heavy kettle of boiling water can be problematic.
As a well-being / activity coordinator in a residential care home I am passionate about promoting daily life skills amongst the people I work with. Our home manager had already set up a hot drinks table in the resident's lounge so that they are able to prepare their own hot drinks. However the supply of hot water has been an issue. We were using a thermos flask dispenser which keeps the water hot but is physically demanding to pump, putting it beyond the abilities of most of the residents.
A chance conversation with a friend whose son has autism and is able to make his own cups of tea has led to a revelation (and revolution!). I have been so impressed with the change that this gadget has created in our home that I felt I had to share it.
There are several manufacturers of hot water dispensers but having only roadtested one I can only review the Breville 784. The premise behind these single cup dispensers is that they only boil one cup of hot water at a time and dispense it into a waiting cup / mug with a single, easy to press button. This appeals to both energy conscious consumers and those of us looking for an easier and safer alternative to the traditional kettle.
How does it work?
- The Breville has a 2 litre reservoir at the back. It opens at the top with the same sort of push button as a regular kettle. Once filled it will supply about 5 mugs of water before it needs to be refilled. You can either fill it insitu from a jug / bottle, or remove the reservoir and take it to a sink.
- The hot water dispenser needs to be kept plugged in. When you want a cup of hot water you place a cup or mug under the spout and press the 'on' button on the top of the machine, a few red lights come on to signify something is happening!
- Almost immediately you hear water being boiled and after a minute or two hot water is dispensed from the spout into your cup. Job done!
- There is also a stop button should you change your mind, or if the cup is overflowing.
- This model has a turn button to allow you to vary the amount of water dispensed. We haven't highlighted this to the older people using this machine as it seems to complicate things too much. We have set it to the correct level.
How successful has it been?
I have only bought one machine so far as I wanted to allow the residents and staff to try it first. I imagine we will get a second dispenser to minimise the refilling required. However I don't think it'll be long before I'm at the shops again as the Breville has received nothing but praise. Staff like it as it is easy and efficient. Residents have not only show their opinions with words. After just two days individuals who haven't made their own hot drink since they moved in with us are now making a cup of tea, and not only that: Mrs B proceeded to make tea for all the people in the room. I can't explain how exciting that was to see. There is some initial teaching, and ongoing reminding on how to use the machine but it is as simple as;
- put a mug underneath (with tea bag or coffee granules)
- press the button
I will admit to having had some concerns about safety with regards boiling water but we think nothing of handing someone a mug of boiling water in the form of a cup of tea and walking away. I will, of course, add a note of caution here. We know our residents well, along with their abilities. We will be constantly reviewing the people living with us and whether it is still a suitable option. If you are thinking about purchasing one of these machines please do so with care and after considering the person / people who will be using it. If in doubt try it under supervision.
There are plenty of other machines on the market with different capacities, some with the option to vary the amount of water dispensed, others not. This particular model is on sale at Argos at the moment.