If eldercare responsibilities are becoming more difficult, you might want to explore assistive technology as a way of easing the caregiving burden while enhancing quality of life for your parent. What is assistive technology? It's any device that helps your parent live more independently. Assistive technology geared toward senior living can range from simple walking canes to complicated global positioning systems (GPS). The most common assistive device is the wheelchair. Assistive technology is a rapidly growing field. The Center for Aging Services Technologies lists existing and emerging assistive technology products in fourteen different categories, including remote monitoring systems, medication management products, and mobility devices. Many assistive technologies involve home modification as a means of providing more comprehensive eldercare such as ramps,remote control doors, and easy-to-maneuver blinds all fall under the category of home modification within assistive technology. It's important to do some homework before selecting assistive technology. Your caregiving experience has already equipped you with much of the knowledge you need to make informed decisions about senior living products for your parents. Based on an article by Sandra Fusion in Today's Caregiver Magazine, here are some guidelines:
- Determine what level of assistive technology is needed based on your observations as well as input from eldercare providers such as your parent's physician or rehabilitation specialist.
- Ask yourself whether your parent's need for assistive technology is short-term or long-term. Will eldercare needs change over time?
- Establish how much can be spent on the senior living product. Will your parent's health insurance cover the cost? Can an eldercare service like the National Family Caregiver Support Program provide the technology for free or a reduced rate?
- If the technology is complicated, is there training available for you and your parent? It's important for both of you to understand how to use it properly and safely, unless your parent is too impaired to learn how to use it. In that case, it's even more vital for you to understand exactly how the product works.
To find senior living products, ask your parent's eldercare providers for recommendations for local medical equipment companies or related websites. If your parent has mild cognitive impairment, Alzheimer's disease, or a related dementia, consider visiting The Alzheimer's Store, a division of Ageless Design. The online store offers a wide range of assistive technologies to enhance eldercare, including a unique anti-scalding device for faucets and weighted silverware to help your parent eat independently, even with unsteady hands. What types of assistive technology have you found helpful in easing your caregiving responsibilities and enhancing your parent's quality of life? Post a comment to this blog and share your successes with the community. Also, be sure to join our email list to receive regular updates about new articles on eldercare topics. --Carrie L. Hill, Ph.D