Assistive technology is a catch-all term that refers to any product that helps us do a task more easily or do a task that we otherwise could not do. Examples include robotic vacuum cleaners and washing machines.
They also include technologies that:
- Keep us connected, like video calls;
- Keep us safer, like smoke alarms or fall detectors;
- Keep us entertained, like the Nintendo Switch.
They can be very simple, such as a rail in the bathroom, or quite complex, such as emergency call pendants. Today there is a huge selection of assistive technologies designed to help older adults and people with dementia at home.
The one downfall is that assistive technologies can be expensive and it can be difficult to choose the right product since there are so many options. The following steps will help you decide whether a product is ‘right’ for your circumstances.
- Identify the problem you need help with. Assistive technology can be helpful only if the product meets your specific needs and circumstances.
- Seek assistance. Health care providers such as occupational therapists, are skilled at working through your needs, clarifying what you want to achieve and recommending equipment or changes you can make to reach those goals.
- Explore the range of products available. Independent Living Centres (ILCs) are province and territory based independent services that can provide suggestions and assistance when choosing assistive technologies. In some instances, commercial providers may allow you to try products before you buy them. Canada’s ILC’s can be found at the following link or by calling their toll-free number 1-877-713-3373. Some provinces may have more options available than others.
- Assess the product. Determine the strengths and weakness of the products that you are considering. Ask if there is a simpler solution.
- Consider the cost. In addition to the initial cost, ask if there are installation fees, how much electricity it might use, or if you need training to use the product.
- Evaluate. After using a product for a while, consider whether it is achieving what you wanted it to achieve. You may want to try something else or contact the supplier and talk about the issues you’re having with the product. Many providers of assistive technologies are interested in improving their products and can offer helpful suggestions.