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2020 Assistive Devices for the Elderly: Feel Comfortable With Independent Living

Reviewed and Updated by Kelsey Davis,

As you age, simple tasks like buttoning your shirt, getting out of your chair, and putting on your shoes can become increasingly difficult. Assistive devices can help restore your confidence, improve mobility, and increase safety in your home.

The first step in making your day-to-day life easier is understanding assistive technology, durable medical equipment, and the role of Medicare.

What Is Assistive Technology?

Assistive technology (AT) covers a wide platform of devices for older adults who may need just a little bit of help. Assistive, adaptive, and rehabilitative devices all fall under the assistive technology umbrella.

These products help those who would rather live independently at home rather than utilizing home care services or assisted living.

Benefits of Assistive Devices

Assistive devices help seniors maintain their functional independence. This, in turn, promotes their well-being. Communication aids, pill organizers, spectacles, memory aids, prostheses, or wheelchairs assist family members with cognitive decline or physical challenges with their daily activities. 

Caregivers can improve an elderly person’s range of activities of daily living by carefully selecting the most appropriate assistive devices for safe, independent living.

For instance, encouraging the use of personal care products for good hygiene, grooming, and dressing can help older people maintain their dignity, raise their self-esteem, and improve their mobility by allowing them to take care of themselves.

Assistive technology can be used in various settings, such as living at home, in a nursing home, or in an assisted living facility.

Common Assistive Devices

High-tech mobility devices, such as walking canes, stairlifts, power wheelchairs, and scooters, can help seniors maintain their mobility. Mobility aids may also include low-tech assistive devices like transfer benches and bed rails because they reduce the risk of falls.

Meanwhile, adaptive devices are designed to make an available technology more accessible. For example, adaptive switches will allow an elderly person to activate switch-adapted electronics.

There are also assistive listening devices, called Frequency Modulation systems, that connect hearing aids to media such as tablets, smartphones, computers, and music players. Additionally, screen magnifiers are software products that interface with the graphical output of a computer to enlarge content on a screen. 

We’ll split assistive technologies into health, home, and comfort categories. You can purchase these products online and in-store from companies like Amazon, Walmart, and Target. Some health devices can be priced as low as five dollars.

Health Devices

Health devices act as an extra layer of protection and are a great way to prevent falls and accidents. For example, grab bars in the bathroom can help you get in and out of the shower and keep you stabilized and balanced. Consider purchasing:

  • Activator poles to keep you stabilized and balanced.
  • Grab bars to keep your balance in hallways, stairwells, bathrooms, etc.
  • A bed cane to help you get in and out of bed.
  • A shower bench so you can sit and avoid falling in the shower.
  • Toilet rails to help you sit down and keep your balance.
  • Stairlifts so you can go up or down stairs with ease.
  • Wheelchair ramps so you can easily get into and out of your home.
  • Slip-free stair strips to keep you from slipping on slick surfaces.

Home Devices

Home devices are a fantastic way to increase independence and confidence in your home and make it easier for you to be home alone. For example, if you need a walker or cane to get around comfortably, an automatic swing door opener allows you to open the door hands-free. Common home devices include:

  • Video doorbells so you can see who’s at the door before you get up.
  • Fall detectors to alert your friends and family if you take a tumble.
  • A power failure alarm to alert you of lost power and provide emergency lighting.
  • An automatic swing door opener so you can open doors hands-free.
  • A talking thermostat so you can hear the temperature settings.
  • Voice-activated lights to turn your lights on and off without getting up.

Comfort Devices

Sometimes the smallest tasks can cause the largest frustrations. For example, you may be easily annoyed if you can’t button your shirt yourself or hear the television well. Common comfort devices include:

  • A buttoning hook to help you button shirts and pants.
  • A zipper pull so you don’t have to fumble with small zippers.
  • A modified keyboard so you can see the letters on the keys more clearly.
  • Robotic vacuums so you can have clean floors without lifting a finger.
  • A table tray so you can eat anywhere in your home.
  • A mattress lift so you can get in and out of your bed with ease.
  • A sound amplifier to help you hear conversations, television shows, etc.

Assistive Technology Devices

Georgia Tech describes high-tech assistive technology gadgets for seniors who want to remain independent as complex devices with digital or electronic parts that can be computerized.

They point out that these devices are often expensive, usually require training, and take some effort to learn. Some examples of helpful things for elderly people that have a small learning curve are power wheelchairs, digital hearing aids, and voice-activated telephones.

Durable Medical Equipment

Durable Medical Equipment (DME) includes equipment like hospital beds, oxygen equipment, sleep apnea devices, glucose monitors, and some of the assistive devices mentioned above. DME devices are covered under Medicare Part B. You will be responsible for 20%.

The equipment must be durable, used for a medical reason in your home, and have an expected lifetime of at least three years for Part B to cover it.

Medicare Advantage (MA) plans can also cover DME and assistive devices. The difference is that MA plans are able to offer additional benefits that Original Medicare does not. This includes benefits like hearing, dental, and vision coverage.

Some MA plans even offer group fitness classes like Silver Sneakers or an over-the-counter monthly allowance. If you’re looking for additional coverage and benefits beyond Original Medicare, a Medicare Advantage plan may be perfect for you!

How to Choose an Assistive Device

With so many products for elderly people living alone, it can often be difficult for a caregiver or senior to make a decision on what to buy. For instance, a senior who asks, “How do I choose a walking aid?” has to select between wheeled frames, walking frames without wheels, folding frames, indoor trolleys, and outdoor trolleys.

Consequently, the right decision requires a clear assessment of needs and then matching those needs with available features.

If deciding on a walking aid is complex, imagine how much more bewildering it must be for caregivers to select the best smart device for elderly patients? For instance, when it comes to smartphones, GreatCall offers a variety of options, such as the Jitterbug Smart 2 and the Jitterbug Flip.

Again, it’s about matching needs with features. Some expert advice from someone familiar with technology is helpful.

What to Consider Before Purchasing

A family caregiver helping a loved one decide what assistive device to purchase must consider factors like independence, specific needs, personal goals, simplicity, and so on. Before making a purchase, it’s useful to talk to a professional or people who have purchased the device, consider the cost, and ask if a trial is available.

Implementing assistive technology in the home may require some structural modifications to a room. When considering interior home modifications, such as relocating switches, installing emergency alarms, or lowering bench heights, it’s usually practical and cost-effective to only modify necessary areas in an apartment or house. 

Assistive technology devices for elderly people can be classified into two broad groups, high-tech AT, such as smartphone systems and sensors, and low-tech AT, such as pill organizers and canes. Usually, people who need assistive devices require both kinds. 

In addition to mobility AT, personal care AT, and communication AT, there are a number of assistive technology devices for seniors with cognitive decline. For instance, seniors with Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s disease with significant memory loss can benefit from wearable timers that have set and forget features for managing things like turning off the stove after cooking or running water in a bath.

They will also benefit from smartphone apps that remind them of to-do lists or appointments.

Where to Buy Assistive Devices

A caregiver or senior can buy assistive technology from online tech stores. In 5 Assistive Technology Stores for your Techie with Special Needs, author Lauren Lewis recommends five top online stores that sell assistive devices: EnablingDevices.com, Boundless Assistive Technology, Enable Mart, Infogrip, and Able Net. Her article covers each store’s specialty.

Assistive Technology and Devices Coverage

Assistive technology and devices can improve your life in several areas. If you are interested in learning more about things to help at home, such as increasing your independence, improving your quality of life, supporting your health, and restoring your confidence, let us help you!

We have licensed agents across 38 states that are contracted with all of the major carriers and can help you find a plan that makes it easier for you to afford assistive devices for elderly parents or patients. To get started, call 833-438-3676 or click here.

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