Assistive Technology for Caregivers
By Alisa Brownlee
Many caregivers can benefit from the advances in assistive technology and adaptive equipment. It can make life as a caregiver easier and less stressful both physically and mentally. As November is National Family Caregivers month, we’d like to share some of the types of assistive technology available to caregivers of people with ALS.
“There’s an app for that!” If you have an iPad or tablet, there are many apps that can assist caregivers. From pill reminders to GPS coordinates so you always know where your loved one is, apps can help you provide care. Remember, the less stress on you, the better you can take care of yourself and your loved one.
- Adaptive clothing is designed for people who have difficulty dressing because of a disease or physical disability. Pants feature cut backs, which makes using a toilet easier, and shirts often offer Velcro in the front for easier dressing. Many web-based companies sell a variety of clothing options for people with disabilities.
- Sliding transfer systems for the bathroom are most often made of PVC piping that is used by simply rolling the bather into position next to the tub, interlocking to the tub frame, releasing the shuttle seat from the rolling chassis, and sliding the transfer over the tub. After the bather is positioned over the tub, the caregiver can remove the rolling chassis for unobstructed access to the bather. No permanent installation is required.
- Portable showers can be vital if a person with ALS does not have easy access to the bathroom, especially when the only bathroom is on a different floor. Portable showers can be attached to any faucet, have waterproof sides, allow enough room for a wheelchair to roll in, and have a pump to allow water to flow out and into a sink.
- Bidets offer people independence in the bathroom. Bidets can be added to any existing commode and can even be used if the person does not have hand function.
Alert and Safety Systems:
- Personal pagers or alarms notify caregivers that a person with ALS needs attention. These devices allow the caregivers to be in other parts of the house or outside and receive an alert.
- Emergency alert devices, such as the “I’ve Fallen and Can’t Get Up,” generally have two parts: a base unit, which connects to a land line or a cell phone, and a bracelet, pendant or switch with an alarm button for your loved one. These systems typically require a monthly subscription. In an emergency, pressing the button alerts the company’s operator, who then notifies local authorities, a neighbor, family or friend. The operators are given a chronological list of people to call: the first number on the list doesn’t necessarily have to be to 911. Some devices can also contact an operator if they detect that the person has fallen. Emergency alert devices are for home use only.
- Computer software, apps, and “nanny cams” are designed to provide the means for a caregiver to remotely monitor a person with ALS. This is especially useful if the caregiver works away from the home and wants to check on their loved one throughout the day.
- Home Automation systems can allow people with ALS to remotely open doors, adjust thermostats, and turn on a TV, DVD player, radio or many other devices. These systems can be used by those with limited or no hand function. Many cable companies now have full home automation packages that are accessed using a smart phone or tablet device.
- Portable ramps for thresholds or stairs can provide access for a person with ALS without permanently modifying the home.