The area of assistive technology has grown tremendously in recent years, and many manufacturers now provide a wide range of products and devices. It can be confusing, however, to determine which products might be right for your loved one. Here are a few basic tips to help you in this task:
Focus on the actual tasks your loved one wants or needs to do when choosing devices. While this might seem obvious, it’s easy to get drawn into buying a product that looks good but doesn’t really address your loved one’s needs.
Generally, it is best to pick the simplest product available to meet the need. Simpler devices are often easier to use, less expensive, and easier to repair and maintain than more complex devices. For example, if someone does not have difficulty remembering to take their medications, but gets confused about which pills to take at which times, a weekly pill organizer that can be filled by a caregiver would solve the problem. Purchasing an automated pill dispenser with alarms to remind the person to take medications would be more complicated than necessary and would certainly be more expensive than the simpler pill organizer.
Ask experts that provide care to your loved one, like rehabilitation specialists or physical and occupational therapists, about which type of technology might be best.
Ask other people with disabilities what products they have found to be helpful.
Ask to use the device on a trial basis to see if it is truly going to meet your loved one’s needs.
Ultimately, your loved one’s opinion about a certain piece of assistive technology is the most important. The device needs to be comfortable, attractive, and simple to use.
The following website provides comparisons of assistive devices and is a good resource for consumers trying to decide which equipment and devices to purchase:
Technology for Long-Term Care
(213) 371-2354, www.techforltc.org
Where can you buy Assistive Technology?
With so many vendors and manufacturers producing assistive technology, it can be confusing to decide which products to buy. There are a few public agencies which keep a complete list of assistive technology products and manufacturers and can help you find the right products for your loved one. Because these agencies do not sell equipment, they are a more trustworthy source of information than contacting manufacturers directly. The following national agencies can be contacted by phone or you can browse online for products:
Center for Assistive Technology
& Environmental Access
(800) 726-9119, www.assistivetech.net
(800) 227-0216, www.abledata.com
Project LINK, Department of Occupational
Therapy, University of Florida
(877) 770-7303, www.hp.ufl.edu/ot/projectlink
In addition to the national programs above, every state and territory has a State Technology Assistance Project that has information about assistive technology, financial assistance to buy equipment and assistive technology loan programs. ABLEDATA (see contact information above) can connect you with someone in your state, or you can contact the following agency which oversees the State Technology Assistance projects:
Rehabilitation Engineering and Assistive Technology Society of North America, (RESNA)
(703) 524-6686, www.resna.org/taproject/at/statecontacts.html