Assistive technologies are devices created with the intention to make the lives of the elderly or disabled and those who care for them (namely, you as their caregiver) easier. This article will describe what assistive technology is and offer a few tips for how to find the right options for you and your adult loved one.
What is Assistive Technology?
As we briefly touched on, assistive technology is any tool that helps an elderly or disabled person live more comfortably or independently. While it sounds high-tech, it doesn’t have to be. There are some low-technology devices included in this classification as well such as wheelchairs, pencil grips, hearing aids, or canes. There are different devices for different impairments. For example, a physical impairment creates different needs than a cognitive impairment like Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia.
15% of the world’s population, or one billion people, are currently experiencing some form of disability. There is a wide gap between the demand for innovative assistive technology and the available supply. But this sector of technology is rapidly expanding and improving to close this gap all the time, so it’s worth learning how to look for it.
Note for clarification: the term “assistive technologies” is used interchangeably with others like, “independent living aids,” and “adaptive technologies.”
So how do you find out which independent living aids are right for you or your adult loved one as technology advances?
How to Find the Right Assistive Technologies for You
As we’ve previously discussed, there is an ever-growing number of these adaptive technologies. While this is exciting, it can also be overwhelming to figure out which ones are right for your specific situation or adult loved one’s needs.
Here are some basic tips you can use to evaluate independent living technologies for your unique situation:
Define the Problem. Before looking into specific options, clarify your most pressing concerns or problems. A well-intentioned mistake many caregivers make is to seek out new technology before evaluating what needs it solves (if any). For example, are you concerned that your loved one will improperly dose their medication while you aren’t looking? Maybe a bigger concern is that they’ll stumble and fall, or that they’re feeling isolated. Instead of focusing on all of the technologies that are out there, evaluate your environment and concerns first. Once the problem is clear, it will be easier to find the best solution.
Ask Peer Groups. When you’ve started researching how to solve a problem with assistive technology, seek out others who have been in your shoes. Ask around and see what technology they’ve found helpful. It’s also useful to ask what hasn’t worked the way it was expected and why. By gathering other opinions you’ll have a good idea of what types of assistive technologies to look for when you start shopping around.
Ask Experts. Another good source of information and recommendations is the medical care team of nurses and doctors who are familiar with your situation. Chances are good that they have seen these technologies and how they apply to situations like yours before, or can at least provide additional context around the types of technologies that are out there.
Consult your Loved One. Some available technologies are useful in theory but impractical in practice. There’s no better judge of what’s realistic than your adult loved one themselves. Ask if they’re willing to give a technology a go before deciding to try it. In some cases, you’ll find the knowledge gap wider than you would have thought, (for example, an adult loved one who has never used a smartphone before may find a solution leveraging that device to be more work than it’s worth).
Focus on the Simplest Available Solution. More features are not always better. If you’re looking to solve a specific problem, a complicated solution may end up making things worse. Simplest is usually best (and is often cheapest and quickest).
Consider Yourself. No matter how many devices you find to make daily life a bit easier and safer, caring for an aging and/or ailing adult loved one will never be an easy task.
If you’re a caregiver in Orange County, CRC OC is here to support you. Think of us as your free local support system armed with the knowledge, training, resources, community, and experience to walk through it beside you.
Check out our free resources for Orange County caregivers by clicking here. Please give us a call at 800-543-8312 to find out more about how we can support you.