What Are Assistive Devices?
An assistive device is a product which helps to make the activities of daily life easier for the disabled or older people. There are lots of products which fit this description, ranging from simple plastic tools to high-tech solutions. On this website, we will explore devices which are helpful to seniors who are living at home, enabling them to lead an independent life, and keeping the risk of accidents at a minimum.
Examples of some products:
- Grab bars on bathroom walls, for the shower or bathtub, and next to the toilet.
- A raised toilet seat with armrests or other means of support.
- Non-slip mat for the bathtub or shower.
- Bath boards.
- Sturdy plastic seat for the shower or tub, plus a hand-held shower nozzle for bathing while sitting down.
- Walk-in showers – It is more convenient and safer for the elderly with limited mobility than a conventional bath with shower.
- Chair raiser – helps a person to get up from a low chair or sofa.
- Seat lifts – helps to raise a person from a sitting position, gradually and steadily, up to a standing position.
- Hand rails for both sides of stairways.
- Stair lifts – for elderly who live in split level house, stair lift offers a safe means of travelling up and down stairs.
- Sensor-activated lights.
- Walking aids such as walking stick, tripod, walking frame and rollator for better support and balance.
- Reaching aids – devices which help a person to reach for an item safely, without stretching or over-balancing.
- Alarm for warning fall, and getting help.
How to choose the right device?
Some assistive products are simple to use, relatively inexpensive, and can be acquired easily. For example, a non-slip mat for the bathtub and shower. But some products are much more sophisticated and require large investment, and need training to use them properly. Therefore, it is strongly advised that you seek professional advice before purchasing such equipment.
Depending on the type of device needed, your doctor or the community nurse can refer you to an occupational therapist or a physiotherapist. They are specialists who will help you to assess your needs and get the appropriate device for you.
An occupational therapist is qualified to assess the daily living needs such as stairlift, bathroom accessories and wheelchair. He or she will advise possible solution for the individual, be it equipment or home modifications. A physiotherapist will assess movement, strength and balance training equipment, as well as walking aids. Where appropriate, the therapists can provide information on grants that may be available to help with the cost.
All these therapists are based in hospitals, community care centres, and with various voluntary agencies. Some therapists also provide private consultation.
Assistive technology offers new possibilities and enables you to continue a desired independent living. However, collaborating with an advisor to find the right solution for your problems is not always straight forward. There are many advanced and complicated assistive devices in the market, for example, electric wheelchairs or computerized communication aids. But the elderly may have problem using the equipment. Very often it is necessary to try out different devices and adaptations before finding the most suitable one.
As assistive devices can often be expensive, budget limits and availability of funding are important factors to keep in mind when considering the suitability of equipment.