I think most people would agree that making a home safe and comfortable can allow an individual to remain at home and retain independence as they age and their abilities change. Even the smallest renovation can change the life of someone with a disability and mean the difference between comfort and discomfort in one’s own home. Grab bars, stairway railings, lever door handles, non-slip coatings to flooring, and threshold ramps are low cost modifications that greatly improve safety. More extensive modifications may include widening doorways, installing elevators, stair and porch lifts, replacing tubs with walk-in showers, lowering counters and cabinets, and increasing lighting.
Keeping someone independent, however, often extends beyond making physical changes to a home. It's not uncommon that additional resources are required both in services and equipment. Assistive Technology devices are a group of products that improve a person’s ability to live and function independently. These products can be as simple as a cane or a weekly pill organizer, or as sophisticated as a voice-activated computer system or sensor.
In fact, the area of assistive technology has grown so quickly and there are so many products and devices available to meet every need, that it can be very confusing to the uninitiated.
Categories of Assistive Technology Devices:
Independent Living Aids. These products help people perform activities of daily living, such as bathing, dressing, and preparing meals. They include everything from reaching tools and jar openers, to shower seats, bed rails, night lights and easy to read alarm clocks, low vision aids and low hearing aids, neck pillows, back pillows, bluetooth devices -- the list is endless.
Medication Aids. Pill organizers (from the simplest to the most high tech), timers and pill crushers.
Mobility Aids. Canes, walkers, scooters and wheelchairs, both manual and electric. Walkers improve stability and should be tested to ensure they are sturdy, lightweight, at the correct height for the individual, and can be moved easily. Manual wheelchairs require some arm strength or leg strength and skill to move the chair while electric wheelchairs are useful for those who can move around on their own but lack the strength to wheel themselves. Scooters are useful for those who can walk very short distances and get around by themselves.
Technology. Advances in computer and phone technology have greatly helped seniors to live independently while maintaining connection to family, friends and support services. There are modified phones with large buttons, headsets, speakerphone capabilities or visual displays. Updated computer technology includes voice recognition software and modified keyboards. There is also simplified equipment that allows for email, photos and other documents without having to use a computer.
Crisis Monitoring. Personal emergency response systems (PERS) call the appropriate contacts and emergency services when a monitor center is alerted via an emergency button worn as a pendant, bracelet or belt. Occupancy monitors use pressure sensitive pads that activate when someone moves to get up. Webcams and other sophisticated computerized systems allow for long distance monitoring for distant family members.
Most of these products are available at drug stores or medical supply stores and you also can easily browse online for products. And while some assistive devices are paid for by Medicaire, ie walkers, wheelchairs and scooters if prescribed by a physician when determined to be medically necessary, most are not. If you are looking for funding you’ll need to check Medicaid waiver programs, health insurance, the Department of Veteran Affairs and some public service organization like United Way and Easter Seals.
If you are uncertain exactly what products or equipment to choose, there are a few agencies which keep a complete list of assistive technology devices and can help you determine which is right for your particular circumstance. In addition to the national programs, every state has a State technology assistance project that has information about assistive technology, financial assistance to purchase equipment, and loan programs. ABLEDATA can connect you with someone in your state.
For more information, you can contact:
ABLEDATA 800 - 227 - 0216
Center for Assistive Technology 800 - 726 - 9119