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Assistive Technology for Caregivers

By Alisa Brownlee

assistive-technology-article-imageMany caregivers can benefit from the advances in assistive technology.  It can make your life as a caregiver easier and less stressful both physically and mentally. Below are the types of assistive technology that can assist caregivers of people with ALS.

Personal Care:

  • 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.
  • Shampoo basins or trays that enable caregivers to wash someone’s hair either in bed or from a wheelchair
  • Shower/bath devices like grab bars, transfer boards or bath/shower chairs
  • Sliding Bath System
    • 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. This can be vital if the bathroom is on a different floor, and the person with ALS is not able to get to bathroom. 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, as many can be switch operated.

Alert and Safety Systems:

  • Personal pagers or alarms that notify caregivers when 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. These 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 typically require a monthly subscription. In an emergency, pressing the button alerts the company’s operator, who then notifies local authorities. Some devices can also contact an operator if they detect that the person has fallen. Emergency alert devices are for home use only.  For more information, visit www.webmd.com. 
  • There are computer software or apps designed to provide the means for a caregiver to remotely monitor a PALS at home.  This is especially useful if the caregiver works and wants to check on their loved one throughout the day.

Home: 

  • Home Automation systems can allow the PALS to remotely open a door, adjust thermostats, turn on TV, DVD, radio, etc.  These systems can be used even if the person with ALS does not have hand function.
  • Portable ramps for thresholds or stairs.  Portable ramps can be removed when the user is finished with them.

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