As we age we may find that things are no longer as easy to do as they used to be. Sometimes it may seem impossible, or be so risky that we stop doing them. But did you know there are many adaptations and technologies now available to help enable you to keep doing the things that matter the most?
Many changes or equipment will cost very little, and could help delay the need to move into a residential aged care facility for months or even years.
Advances in assistive technology have resulted in some amazingly simple, yet effective, products available for use in the home market. These products can be surprisingly useful as we age.
Supporting a family member who is living alone, especially if they are living with dementia, can be particularly stressful. An example of assistive technology that can help in this situation is a system that uses a series of sensors placed around the home, including on doors, to monitor the movement of a person throughout the day and night.
Data from the sensors is fed back to you and alerts such as ‘not up and about’, or ‘door left open’ can be set. The result is you and other family members can monitor what is happening with your loved one without actually having to be present, and you can have peace of mind that everything is ok.
Initially piloted with social service authorities in the UK, now over 80% of UK local authorities use this technology for assessment and care planning. The system has supported many people to stay living at home longer, saving hundreds of thousands of dollars in inappropriate long term care admissions.
While not all equipment is as sophisticated as a sensor system, there are many useful assistive technology products available locally – some from your local department store, others from specialised suppliers.
One particularly common issue as we age is our short term memory may not be as good as it used to be. Devices such as medication prompters, diaries and appointment prompters on your phone and even apps that can help you find your car in the car park can all be useful aids to memory. Other devices around the home can reduce the risk of forgetting. These include irons that sense when you are not using it and turn off after a short period, cook top alerts that sound an alarm if you have left the stove on and flood detectors to warn you if your bath is overflowing.
Motion activated night lights are a great idea if you have difficulty finding the toilet or bathroom at night, or may be at risk of falling if the hallway is dark.
Although some may curse the advent of smart phones and our ever-increasing reliance on them, mobile phones can be very useful in finding missing items, or even missing people.
Small Bluetooth tags can be attached to easily or regularly misplaced items such as a handbag, keys, wallet or phone. Once attached to the item, an app downloaded to a smart phone can help you to quickly locate a misplaced item.
If you usually take your mobile phone with you when out, phone locating apps can make it easier to locate you, should you become disoriented or lost.
Difficulty in wayfinding and orientation is not uncommon for people living with dementia. To enable you to continue to enjoy going for a walk, doing the shopping or taking the dog out, a range of Bluetooth and GPS enabled devices such as watches and pendants are also available.
These GPS products and apps can provide peace of mind while helping to maintain independence, in addition to providing potentially lifesaving information to authorities in the event you do go missing. Although the cost of some of these devices is still quite high, they may prove to be priceless in the event you become lost.
For anyone wishing to stay in their home as they age, the assistance provided by some of these products could be just what you need to continue living independently.