Charlotte Observer, North Carolina.
Sunday, April 16, 2006.
Many seniors rely on things such as walkers, telephone amplifiers
Any tool that helps elderly or disabled people do the activities they have always done but must now do differently is an assistive or adaptive device.
The tool may be something as simple as a walker to make moving around easier or an amplification device to make sounds easier to hear. It could be a magnifying glass to help someone with poor vision read or a motorized scooter to aid mobility. Anything that helps someone continue to participate in daily activities is considered assistive technology.
Assistive technology consists of different categories of devices and services such as the following:
Communication equipment that enables a person to send or receive messages, such as a telephone amplifier.
Materials such as audio books or Braille writing, magnifying tools for reading or viewing a computer screen, or closed caption on a television for people with hearing impairments.
Home modifications to construct or remodel living space by building a ramp for wheelchair access or installing grab bars for safety.
Mobility aids that help someone get around, such as a cane, walker, lift chair or wheelchair.
For many seniors, assistive technology makes the difference between living independently or having to seek assisted-living arrangements. An assistive device may be critical to the ability to perform simple activities of daily living such as bathing or going to the bathroom. Assistive devices enable older adults to reduce their dependence on others, including paid helpers, and to avoid nursing home placement.
Evaluate the need before purchasing assistive technology, as many devices are expensive. A less expensive device might be just as helpful. You may also be able to borrow equipment from an aging agency.
Will you need the device for a short time or a long time? If you are recovering from surgery or receiving physical therapy, the need for assistive equipment may be short term.
Medicare Part B will cover up to 80 percent of the cost of assistive technology if the items purchased meet the definition of durable medical equipment.
Durable medical equipment are devices that are typically used to serve a medical purpose and are generally not useful to someone without an illness or injury.
To find out if Medicare will cover the cost of a specific piece of equipment, call 1-800 Medicare (1-800-633-4227).
Medicaid may pay for some assistive devices for those who are Medicaid eligible. Also seniors who are eligible for veterans' benefits may receive assistance for assistive devices.
Individuals with impaired hearing may want to consider purchasing an amplifier. These are small amplifiers with headphones for individual use. Amplifiers are sold at stores such as Radio Shack.
The Council on Aging in Union County's Equipment Loan program takes donated items and offers them to older adults who need them. The agency has walkers, bedside commodes and other assistive devices. Call (704) 289-1797 to ask about specific equipment.
GOT A QUESTION?
Please send your questions or concerns on issues of aging to Prime Time, The Union Observer, 132 S. Main St., Monroe, NC 28112. E-mail to email@example.com or send faxes to 704-289-4669. Or you can call Council on Aging in Union County at 704-289-1797.
Linda Smosky is the executive director of the Council on Aging in Union County.
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