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February 11, 2020
If you are caring for someone with a disability that’s life-altering or a senior loved one, they may need some help to ensure a high quality of life. This can come in many forms from wheelchairs to hearing aids and hygiene equipment, but finding the right equipment for your budget can be tricky. Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to pick the right solutions for you while saving money.
What is Assistive Technology?
Assistive technology is a product, software, technology or piece of equipment that assists disabled individuals with how they live and navigate the world. While the term assistive technology may imply highly sophisticated tech, this can range from something as simple as a walker to health tracking apps or hearing aids.
Types of assistive technology you will find include:
Computer hardware and software
Adaptive Equipment vs Assistive Technology
The two leading fields in assistance are adaptive technology and assistive technology. While both are used in helping disabled or elderly individuals, there are specific differences and applications for each type of technology. Adaptive technology acts as an add-on to existing tools that help disabled individuals use specific technologies or tools.
Types of Adaptive Technology
Adaptive technology helps disabled or elderly individuals use technologies or tools without having to replace the ones they already have.
Handheld amplifiers: Helps individuals with hearing impairments.
Screen readers: Increases the readability of text through magnification or modification.
Closed captioning programming: Processes audio and relays it into text for reading.
Screen magnifiers: Magnify what is on screens or books to increase readability.
Adapted keyboards: Keyboards with larger keys or specific arrangements to aid with disabilities.
Types of Assistive Technology
Assistive technology helps with day to day life functions like getting around, seeing and hearing.
Wheelchairs: Helps seniors and disabled individuals get around if they have limited mobility.
Prosthetic devices: Serves in place of any parts of the body which have been lost or removed.
Hearing aids: Increases hearing capabilities.
Ramps: Allows users to avoid stairs and access buildings.
Automatic door openers: Makes moving around the house easier.
Grab Bars: Provides assistance for tasks like getting out of bed.
Types of Assistance
Assistive technology is designed to help people with their day to day tasks and communication. Whether it’s getting dressed or helping with vision, these technologies are designed to provide much-needed assistance.
While there are a plethora of types of assistance, they can be categorized into three major sections which include:
Self-care assistance helps people with their day to day needs like dressing, bathing, cooking, eating, and cleaning. These can range from simple hand-held tools to more complicated devices depending on your wants and needs. Examples of self-care assistance devices include:
Personal hygiene tools: These are tools that help your loved one with getting clean, brushing their teeth.
Dressing equipment: These tools make putting shoes and clothes on easier.
Adaptive hygiene tools: These help with standard hygiene equipment by making them easier to grip and use.
Adaptive appliance: Things like microwaves or stoves have special features to help disabled individuals.
Medical aids: Make the administration of medicines easier, like taking medication or using ointments.
Tools for gripping and reaching: Grabbers and handles that make getting around the house easier.
For people with limited mobility, mobility assistance tools give them the ability to move throughout their home and life with ease. Whether you need assistance at all times or in specific situations there is a tool for you. Examples of mobility assistance devices include:
Scooters & Wheelchairs: Help you get around if you have limited mobility.
Walkers: Provide stability for individuals that struggle walking.
Canes: Improve stability for individuals.
Stairlifts: Helps people get up and down the stairs even if they have limited mobility.
Crutches: Brings stability when balance issues exist for any number of reasons.
Sensory assistance tools help people that struggle with sensory input, which includes hearing and vision loss, as well as strength loss. With today’s technology, these devices have made access to sensory assistance much more accessible, streamlining and improving the process of assisting people with hearing or vision impairments. Examples of sensory assistance devices include:
Visual aids: Things like specialized glasses or magnifying glasses.
Hearing aids: These can be hand-held devices, headphones or hearing aids that are permanent.
Remote communicators: Increase the range in which users can hear your voice or others.
Electronic Readers: Devices that read text off of screens and pages out loud.
Phones with accessibility settings: Most modern smartphones provide a wide range of accessibility options from teletext to visual aids.
Finding the Right Tool
Assistive tech isn’t cheap and while insurance may cover some equipment, the reality is that you will have some out of pocket costs. When choosing assistive technologies to use it’s a good idea to prioritize needs along with budget constraints.
Talk to a professional
Consult your doctors and medical professionals about the right assistive technology for you. While it is your choice at the end of the day, understanding what areas need the most help and how these technologies will interact together will be beneficial. A few questions you can ask professionals include:
Does it meet my needs?
What type of warranty is offered?
Do you have a trial period?
What type of training is required?
Consider needs and goals
When selecting assistance, consider what parts of your loved ones life could be improved and what they can accomplish with these technologies. Try making a list of goals and needs along with how they can be achieved. These goals can be things like increasing mobility, getting dressed easier or improving your quality of life.
Get advice from others
Talking to others who have similar disabilities or who are aging can lead to advise that will save you time and money. Look for resources specific to your loved one’s needs and reviews on products that you’re considering.
Consider your budget
When considering what to buy, it’s a good idea to consult with an insurance provider to see if they cover the device or if there is a sale available. It may also be a good idea to make a list prioritizing what you need most vs what you can make compromises with in regards to features and cost.
Take advantage of trials
Making sure devices and equipment are compatible with your life, budget and home will save you precious dollars. Look for manufacturers that offer trial periods, demo devices or in-store demos to make sure a product is a good fit for you.
How to Buy Assistive Technology
There are a few factors to consider that will make purchasing assistive technology cost-effective and successful. Some examples include finding a reliable seller, understanding return policies, and potential maintenance needs. Regardless of what equipment you require there are a few ways to make the buying process effective and affordable.
Put quality first
For devices and equipment that’s used daily and intended to last for years, it’s a good idea to compare prices to the quality of goods. While something may be cheap you may end up spending more money on repairs or replacements than you would have by investing more from the get-go. Look for reviews online and specifically look for reviews that cover use over long periods of time.
Look to the experts
Look at resources from non-biased, expert reviewers that provide reviews and overviews of the best equipment. You can find a great list of resources from the National Center for Accessible Education Materials.
Consider the learning curve
Consider how long it will take to learn how to use new assistive technology along with what type of support and training will be provided. This includes in-person, in-home or online education. It’s also important to consider what devices will need more hands-on assistance and training.
Research the return policy
Before making purchases, research the return policy with each company to ensure that they are flexible if something doesn’t work out. Look for companies that offer warranties and stand behind their products.
Consider used options
For mobility equipment like wheelchairs, used products are a viable option. On the other hand, self-care and hygiene products should typically be bought new for sanitation purposes. Be cautious when considering used software as some versions can be out of date and no longer compatible with devices.
Demo and trials
Most manufacturers have demo devices or showrooms to get you important hands-on experience with products and ensure they are a good fit for you or a loved one. Each company is different and some make require you to make a reservation or appointment for a demo or fitting.
Setting Up Assistive Technology
After finding the right assistive technology for you it’s time to coordinate the installation and training of equipment. With time and money spent you want to make sure they are properly set up and enriching one’s life.
There are a few ways to ensure that the installation process goes smoothly along with a few ways to avoid any headaches that can pop up in the process.
Choose professionals with expertise in senior and disability care
When getting new equipment or devices, be sure that professionals with experience and understanding of disabilities are installing and setting up the equipment. You want someone that understands the special consideration that needs to take place when delivering and installing equipment.
DIY isn’t always the best option
While some may be capable of installing equipment, it’s a good idea to consult with the manufacturer about any precautions or specialization that’s required. While you may be able to install basic tools, installing things like a chair lift or adjustable bed should be left to the professionals.
Consider installation challenges created by disabilities
When getting ready to install a device, be sure to consider if the person using it will need assistance with setup and training. If it’s getting delivered to someone or, you yourself will be installing the equipment make sure you will be able to do so and if not ask for some assistance.
When acquiring assistive technology learning how to use it is a key part of the process. This can be as simple as reading an instruction manual or as complicated as getting hands-on training. Fortunately, there are plenty of resources at your disposal which includes:
Utilize resources provided by manufacturers
Take advantage of the training materials provided for each device to ensure you get the most use. These can range from in-person to training manuals or online videos and guides. It’s a good idea to have someone close with you or a loved trained on how to use the equipment and help the user if they have trouble or forget.
Looks for guides and tips on the internet
Many manufacturers and online resources have guides and videos online to teach people how to use their assistive technology. Save these links for quick access in case you need a refresher or someone that’s not familiar with the technology needs to help.
After getting trained, test the user on the steps to make sure they have them down and coach them through any areas they struggle with. With equipment that may be expensive, you want to make sure you’re loved one gets the most use out of their assistive technology and are using all of its features.
Assistive tech typically requires a bit of maintenance from keeping devices and equipment clean to just making sure nuts and bolts are tightened over time. Depending on the equipment you can either do basic maintenance yourself or at times will be required to have someone fix it.
Review the maintenance process
Check with the manufacturer if there are any maintenance requirements. Also, ask about how to perform maintenance. If professional work is required for the fix, be sure to find out if someone can come out to the location and fix the equipment.
Have the manufacturer train you on care
Fixing equipment yourself or without guidance can be costly, make sure you get directions directly from the manufacturer.
Look for proactive solutions
With most equipment and devices, a bit of maintenance goes a long way to prevent mechanical failures and you or a loved one not getting the assistance needed. By reviewing routine maintenance procedures you can save precious time and money on equipment.
Ways to Save on Assistive Technology
When buying assistive technology, the costs can be troublesome, but fortunately, there are ways to save money in the process. Combine insurance, Medicaid, and potential grants to help save money.
Look for grants and nonprofit resources
Grants and nonprofits are a wonderful resource for finding financial assistance when purchasing adaptive equipment. You can find a full list of resources here.
Check medicare and Medicaid coverage
Medicare and Medicaid provide discounts and rebates for specific equipment and disabilities. Make sure to take full advantage of these programs to save as much money as possible.
While most insurance won’t cover in-home or handheld assistive devices it’s good to explore and exhaust all of the options they offer. Even if they don’t cover specific equipment they may work with manufacturers to offer discounts.
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Additional Resources for Purchasing Assistive Technology
Take a look at these resources to help fund and select assistive technology:
When selecting assistive technology that’s best for you or a loved one, cost and effectiveness should be prioritized. The first step is to understand what assistance is needed most and to research how they can save money on these purchases. By taking full advantage of an insurance provider’s coverage, leveraging national programs like Medicaid and applying for grants should be able to get the technology they need while not breaking the bank. If you plan on grabbing some items from stores like Amazon, check out these coupons.
We hope that you found this blog helpful. Our content is not intended to provide medical, financial, insurance, physical fitness or healthcare advice. For specific advice about your unique circumstances, consider talking with a qualified professional. Capital One Shopping does not endorse or guarantee any information or recommendation listed above.