When many people hear the term “Assistive Technology,” their first thought is something like a smartphone, voice-activated appliances, or a futuristic “smart” home. Though these times have challenged all of us to rely on technology a bit more, there are often physical products and equipment that can help people remain independent and complete everyday tasks. Here are some “low-tech” assistive technology items that can help people with dementia in staying independent and safe.
Know that this is not an all-inclusive list of items that can assist someone with dementia. Almost anything can serve as assistive technology with a little creativity!
In the Home
People with dementia sometimes experience vision changes in depth perception and distinguishing objects. To help someone with dementia safely navigate through the home, reflective tape can serve many purposes. Reflective tape can be used on the edge of stairs to help someone distinguish the edge of the step. It can also be used to mark boundaries or pathways. Grip tape can be used on stairs or other surfaces that can easily become slippery to help avoid falls.
Consider rope lighting on baseboards down a hallway or staircase to increase visibility. To help navigate the home, label important doors and rooms (pictures can be helpful here) such as “bathroom” with photo of a toilet, “bedroom” with photo of a bed, etc. Especially in mid to late stages, these labels can help someone with dementia navigate their own environment more independently.
If your loved one with dementia is fidgety or experiences more harmful or negative behavioral symptoms such as picking at their skin, unraveling seams on clothing, excessive nail biting, etc. you may consider fidget toys such as a marble fidget, fidget spinner, or even cloth scraps to fiddle with. Having these types of things readily available can help prevent scratches, inadvertent self-injury, or destruction of clothing or other items.
In the Kitchen
There are many options in the kitchen to make it easier for someone with dementia to continue to participate in a collaborative activity such as cooking or baking. For example, cut-proof gloves or nylon knives can help someone with dementia be able to participate in food preparation and keep them safe. You might also consider safety caps for the knobs on your stove to prevent accidentally turning on/leaving on burners and ovens.
There are also items that can be used during mealtime to keep people eating and feeding themselves independently. Things like skid-resistant plates and bowls will not slide away from the person as they eat. Weighted silverware or “steady” self-balancing silverware could also increase independence.
In the Bathroom
If someone with dementia (or anyone, for that matter) has a difficult time managing their medication, day-by-day pill boxes can be a great tool! With a little help from a caregiver, family member, or friend, these boxes can be very helpful in the early stages of dementia.
If your loved one is having a difficult time hanging on to a toothbrush or brushing side to side, a wide-handled toothbrush or an electric toothbrush may be an option. Even something as simple as picture directions with the steps to brush your teeth or a timer could help complete the task.
Stay tuned for next month’s article where some “high-tech” assistive technology will be discussed!
WisTech and Independence First