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Brain & Nervous System Health Center

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Assistive Technology for Cognitive Problems: 10 Gadgets and Strategies for Caregivers

Being a caregiver for a person with cognitive problems that may be caused by dementia, autism, Down syndrome, multiple sclerosis, or Parkinson’s disease is challenging. If you’re a caregiver, you may be so overwhelmed that it’s hard to think of solutions to everyday problems, like taking medication on time or knowing when your charge is getting out of bed. It might seem easiest to carry on doing things the same old way, even if it’s not going so well.

Assistive technology can make your life a lot less stressful and offer your loved one greater safety and independence. You may find some assistive technology solutions to problems you didn’t even know you had.

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Take a minute to think about what’s working and what isn’t. Then consider if any of the assistive technology devices and gadgets listed below might help. Ask your loved one’s doctor or other caregivers for advice on what works. Depending on the nature of the cognitive problems, you could also get information from your local Area Agency on Aging or a disease-specific nonprofit group.

Here’s the rundown on assistive technology -- from alarms to smart phones to voice-recognition software:

  1. Assistive devices. Start with the basics. If your loved one has a physical disability, as well as a cognitive problem -- MS, for instance -- look into low-tech assistive devices. Try a reacher (a pole with a claw on the end) for getting objects off a high shelf. Even simple items like a can opener with thick, easy-to-grip handles can have a huge impact on a person’s life. They allow a loved one to do things that would otherwise be impossible without your help. That’s good for both of you.
  2. Emergency alert devices. These generally have two parts: a base unit (which connects to a phone line) and a bracelet or pendant with an alarm button for your loved one. They also require a monthly subscription. Pressing the button in case of an emergency alerts the company’s operator, who then notifies local authorities. Some of the devices can also contact an operator if they detect that the person has fallen.

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