How Adaptive Equipment Can Be Beneficial for Seniors
According to the AARP, 75% of retirees hope to remain in their homes as they age, but only about half think it will be possible. The fact is health and mobility can eventually make activities of daily living challenging. For seniors who don’t need long-term care services, adaptive equipment and products can help them stay self-sufficient and maintain independence for as long as possible.
Types of adaptive equipment
There are different types of items that can be helpful when aging in place.
Durable medical equipment is a type of medical supply. It’s used in the home and isn’t usually useful for someone who isn’t sick or injured. Mechanical lifts, adjustable hospital beds, nebulizers, crutches, and commode chairs are examples of durable medical equipment.
Assistive technology is any equipment or technology that enhances life for a person with disabilities. Speech readers or a power wheelchair operated by puffs of air are examples of assistive technologies.
Broadly speaking, general innovations in technology that are beneficial for seniors also fall under this category. For example, there’s a trend toward installing new home assistance devices such as Google Home and Amazon Alexa. These devices use voice control, making using and navigating the app much simpler. Asking a smart home system to control lights, heating and cooling, entertainment, security, or to quickly make a phone call helps with mobility, poor vision, and eliminates the need to learn how to operate something new.
Other innovative assistive technology devices are now readily available in the market. Electronic gadgets that are small wearable personal alarms are especially useful if an older loved one has had a fall and can’t get up. Home systems can include activity sensors to track movement patterns and alert family members if anything unusual is recorded. Smart doorbells and locks improve security, while water overflow sensors and smart lighting improve the safety of the home. There are even devices that help seniors with medication dosage and remind seniors when it’s time to take their medication.
Adaptive equipment is a self-care item or product for individuals with short- or long-term disabilities. The most common types of adaptive equipment are used for essential activities we do every day, called activities of daily living (ADLs).
Adaptive equipment is also used for instrumental activities of daily living or IADLs. These are the second- tier tasks that enhance our daily lives beyond basic survival. It’s a very broad category with a long list of items to help with driving, communication, cognition and memory, sports, leisure activities, safety, and more.
Adaptive equipment for personal safety includes:
● Night lights
● Medication organizer or dispenser with electronic reminders
● Touch-tone phones with large buttons or voice-activation capabilities
● Talking clocks and watches for seniors with hearing impairments
● Low-vision aids to help with reading
● Sturdy railings along all stairways
Adaptive equipment for dressing includes:
● Dressing sticks
● Long-handle shoehorns
● Button loopers and zipper pulls
● Velcro fastenings
● Elastic shoelaces
● Sock aids
Adaptive equipment for bathing and toileting includes:
● Step-free or walk-in shower or bathtub
● Tub chair or tub bench with a back
● Bathtub or shower transfer bench
● Handheld shower head
● Grab bars near the toilet and shower
● Shower chair
● Toilet seat riser
● Leg straps to help with lifting legs
Adaptive equipment for eating includes:
● Over-bed table
● Universal cuff to hold utensils
● Wrist-stabilizer splint
● Nonskid bowl
● Plate guard
● Specialized utensils and dinnerware
● Arm supports
Adaptive equipment for mobility includes:
● Adjustable bed with bed rails
● Walking frames, canes, and other mobility aids
● Baskets and other accessories to assist in carrying
● Manual and power wheelchairs
● Stairlifts and lift chairs
How to choose the right adaptive equipment.
A senior may need an adaptive device for a short time, such as after surgery, or permanently as part of daily life. For guidance in deciding which of these items may be beneficial in your situation, talk to a physician or occupational therapist. A licensed occupational therapist will also be able to assess the home environment to provide a personalized recommendation.
You can order equipment from medical supply vendors, therapy centers and health care providers. Before you shop for what you need, find out if your health care provider lends out commonly used supplies or has a relationship with a vendor that would help with pricing. Some medical supply companies also offer rental programs for expensive equipment such as wheelchairs.
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