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Marcia S

The right technology can help
The right technology can help

Healthcare Professional

The right technology can help

From wheelchairs to bathing aids, assistive technology has long been a staple of caring for stroke survivors. However, for those with cognitive impairment, less attention has been given to the support technologies offer for memory and concentration

Depending on individual needs and preferences, those who have survived a stroke can potentially benefit from personal assistance; strategies; everyday technologies (ie, wristwatch, SmartPhone); and specialized technologies (e-pill alarm watch). Which one, or combination, is most appropriate for an individual requires an early and comprehensive assessment. For example, an Apple iPhone has many helpful features for individuals with cognitive disability and specialized applications can be obtained, but the phone has a small screen, small keys, and the complexity may make it less useful for some individuals with cognitive disability, those who have poor motor control, and poor eyesight. An alternative is the Jitterbug® phone which has a simpler interface, large keypad with yes/no action buttons (ie, no confusing icons), and a speaker with an ear pad that is also compatible with hearing aids. Many other examples of products are given in a new book, "Assistive Technologies and Other Supports for People With Brain Impairments" by Marcia J. Scherer, PhD, MPH, FACRM, professor of physical medicine and rehabilitation, University of Rochester Medical Center, NY. Dr. Scherer discusses an array of assistive and cognitive support technologies, advises methods of implementation using real-life situations (including her own mother who had a stroke and then two decades later developed dementia), and provides other resources for stroke survivors, and their caregivers and families.

In general, everyday technologies tend to be more affordable and look like products everyone else uses, thus avoiding the stigma of using support from a device. However, they most likely will not be paid for by health insurance and, because they are made for the "average user" they may not be as useful for those with particular needs. The advantages of specialized technologies are that they are likely to be paid for by health insurance, the products tend to be very durable (can withstand being dropped, having moisture get inside, etc), and they have strong support services and warranties. They tend to work better for persons with complex needs. But because they are specialized, they look different from everyday technologies and their cost may be high.

How can integration of an assistive technology create a higher quality of life for elders? Successful integration is the key phrase. When older adults are provided with the support that best matches their needs, priorities, doesn't interfere too much with their daily routine, and helps them realize benefit from use, then their functioning, confidence, and sense of control tends to increase. This is fundamental to subjective quality of life. The most effective support may be personal assistance, strategies, or technologies--most commonly, a combination of these. Too often we see non-use, abandonment, or frustration with support devices. When this occurs, it usually arises from a poor match of person and technology or other form of support. This can easily be prevented by getting to know the individual and using a systematic process for support selection. The book describes a complete process for accomplishing this (with accompanying questions to ask) as well as following-up to determine realization of benefit from use of the support.

"Assistive Technologies and Other Supports for People With Brain Impairments" was published by Springer Publishing Company, New York, NY, in January 2012 ((ISBN13: 9780826106452).


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Display of the Faces of Stroke stories does not imply National Stroke Association's endorsement of any product, treatment, service or entity. National Stroke Association strongly recommends that people ask a healthcare professional about diagnosis and treatment questions before using any product, treatment or service. The views expressed through the stories reflect those of the authors and do not reflect the opinion of National Stroke Association.

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