Assistive Devices For Increased Independence
Seniors Maintain Independence with Assistive Devices for the Home
Do you dread food preparation? How about getting ready in the morning? Do you find yourself digging around frantically for your phone when it rings, only to find it right as the ringer stops? Too often, seniors living at home struggle needlessly with daily activities like cooking, dressing, and finding things, not to mention other needs that occasionally pop up like digging the TV remote out from under the chair.
Most seniors are fiercely protective of their independence but don’t realize that with some assistive devices and a few changes in place, living at home can be a lot easier and safer. A 2015 survey of over 7,000 seniors conducted by the National Health and Aging Trends Study found that 60 percent of seniors used at least one assistive device, and 20 percent used two or more devices. The study also found that the need for more senior help from assistive devices and additional personal care increased as the respondents aged.
“Alexa, What’s an Assistive Device?”
When we think of assistive devices, we usually assume a walker, cane, or crutches, but there are multiple other devices to make daily activities much easier. The field of senior care devices and technology is growing. Voice-activated artificially intelligent devices like Alexa or Google Smart Speaker are becoming more common for the elderly, and they aren’t just used for entertainment and convenience. Amazon’s Alexa can remind us to take our medication, help us call a family member, and even lock the doors. Effectively using an artificially intelligent device can take time, but 70% of those over age 60 currently use these devices daily.
There are many more basic assistive devices that are simpler, less expensive and very popular. These more practical age-related assistive devices help maintain independence and often keep seniors in their homes longer. If you are a senior or care for one, here's a list of some useful devices you may not yet have considered:
Jar and bottle openers
Nonslip dishes, mixing bowls, and cutting boards
Large-handled cutlery and silverware
Knob and tap turners
High rimmed plates
Under-cabinet lighting for better visibility
Alarms with flashing lights or large displays
Reacher or grabber tools
Bed rails to help get in and out of bed
Foam bed wedges
Furniture risers to raise the bed height
Nonslip floor mat
Full-sized nonslip shower and tub mat
Shower grab bar
Toilet seat riser
Buttoning hook for dressing
Hooks and storage at accessible levels
Adaptive Technology Devices:
TV headset or portable speaker
Home monitoring system
Voice-activated lights and alarm
Medical Alert device
You may not be aware that most cellular phones have an accessibility menu which can customize your loved one’s phone by magnifying text, creating real-time text (with an app,) or flashing a LED light to signal in incoming call.
When selecting tech devices for yourself or your senior, you may want to choose a basic model. Too many buttons can be overwhelming to operate. Simplicity is key to adaptation and consistent usage.
Things to Remember When Choosing an Adaptive Device for Your Senior
The most important part of choosing an adaptive device is having a detailed conversation with your senior and getting their buy-in. What tasks are becoming a struggle? Are they comfortable trying an assistive device, and if not, would they consider trying it for a trial period? Would they be receptive to a little training or demonstration to help them get comfortable with it?
Respect your loved one's autonomy and do not push too much. Be patient as they try to get comfortable with one or two new devices at a time. Perhaps point out the advantages to having their daily tasks become more manageable, thus maintaining their independence. Keep in mind, discussing your worries about their challenged abilities may not go over well. A little time and few more inconvenient or difficult incidents might be the motivation your loved one needs to try something new.
It is possible to have a professional assess your loved one's home and suggest ways to make it easier and safer. Local agencies for the aging or physical and occupational therapists can offer these services.
Even with all this help, your elder might need more help, socialization, or safety. Keep an eye out for worsening medical conditions, falls, isolation, or signs of depression. Is the home becoming increasingly messy? Do you see signs of poor hygiene or frailty? Are they losing weight? It may be time to investigate living situations that will improve their quality of life.
At Melrose Meadows, our community members tell us they feel like they're home. As Resident Margaret K says, "There's no place like home - and Melrose is just that. Friendly staff, great entertaining programs, and cheerful residents all add up to 'home.'"
Plus, if the TV remote goes missing, there’s always someone around to safely retrieve it from under the sofa.