Helpful Assistive Technology Devices for Caregivers
Taking care of someone with cognitive problems caused by conditions such as dementia, multiple sclerosis or Parkinson’s disease is challenging. If you’re a caregiver, you may sometimes feel overwhelmed by the number of everyday problems you need to overcome. The good news is that assistive technology devices can make certain aspects of caregiving less stressful. There are a number of useful gadgets offering solutions to all kinds of problems, from minor day to day struggles to more serious incidents.
Basic Assistive Devices
If you’re caring for someone whose cognitive problem causes physical disability, simple low-tech devices can be surprisingly helpful. Basic items such as a reacher (a pole with a claw on the end) for getting objects from high shelves, or tin openers with thick easy-to-grip handles, can have a big impact on a person’s life. They allow people with disabilities to do more for themselves, giving them a little more of their independence back as well as reducing the number of tasks the caregiver is responsible for.
Young children with autism or older people with dementia sometimes go wandering, and can end up disorientated and lost. This can put them in danger, so ID jewellery is becoming increasingly popular. The person could simply wear a bracelet or pendant inscribed with their medical information so that if they are found alone, whoever finds them will know they might need assistance.
There are also more technological solutions to this problem. For example, MedicTag offer a wearable USB device with a flash drive. By plugging this into a computer, professionals can gain access to the lost person’s medical information. Wearable radio tracking devices, which often come in the form of bracelets or can be inserted into the soles of shoes, are also available. They allow the lost person to be tracked down remotely at any time.
Emergency Alert Devices
Emergency alert devices generally have two parts – a base unit which connects to a phone line, and a bracelet or pendant with an alarm button for the person with cognitive problems to wear. In an emergency, pressing the button alerts the company’s operator, who then notifies local authorities. Some of these devices can also contact an operator if they detect that the person has fallen.
Sometimes cognitive problems can impair speech, leaving sufferers struggling to convey their needs to their caregivers. To overcome this, there are handheld devices – such as personal digital assistants (PDAs) – which allow people to communicate using a touch screen and a synthesised voice.
If a physical disability prevents someone from making use of such devices or computers in general, there is special software and hardware which can adjust those devices to fit particular needs. For example, some equipment can be controlled by eye movements, which is incredibly helpful for those who cannot speak or use their hands.
Often caregivers have a lot to keep up with, from various medications and times they should be administered to frequent doctor’s appointments. A PDA or even your smartphone can help you handle a complex schedule. You can use such devices to create diaries, reminders and alarms so that none of your essential caregiving duties go forgotten.
If your loved one is prone to wandering, you might want to have simple motion detectors installed on doors so that you know when they have left the house. Sensors can be helpful in various other places to. They can be used to inform you when the person has left their bedroom, or pressure sensors can be placed under mattresses to alert you when the person gets out of bed.
As with sensors, cameras can help you to stay aware of where your loved one is and what he or she is doing. You can set them up anywhere in the house and keep an eye on them using the internet. A less intrusive way of using cameras is to set up a webcam on a computer to allow you to check in with video calls when you’re away from the house.
If you’re a caregiver, making use of assistive technology can have a major positive impact on the lives of both you and your loved one. Do a little research to find out which companies offer the most useful devices for you, and if you have trouble setting up electronics ask a friend or relative for help. Some gadgets will cost more than others, but often the improved quality of life they can offer makes them worth the expense.