How to Introduce Helpful Assistive Devices to Your Patient, Parent, or Spouse

If your husband or wife, patient, or parent has difficulties moving around the house, you have first-hand knowledge of some of the things they go through just to perform simple tasks. Brushing teeth, shaving, rising in the morning–simple things for you can often seem like insurmountable jobs for the person you are caring for.

The various ways you can approach this depend, of course, on many different factors: their personality and yours, the tasks they wish to accomplish, and their environment. However, here is one suggested way to deal with this issue:

1. Identify Basic Needs

Mobile or not, able or not–we all have the basic tasks we need to do in order to get ready for the day. Brushing teeth, shaving, sleeping, eating are universal human needs.

But the person you are caring for may not necessarily require help with all of those things. Rising from bed may not be a problem, but hand tremors may prevent them from brushing teeth or shaving (We suggest: weighted holders for toothbrushes and razors). Or it could be the opposite case, where the person has general weakness which prevents them from rising in bed (We suggest: bed caddies to help them sit up) though hand tremors are not a problem.

2. Identify Wants and Desires

After you have taken care of basic needs, you will want to progress to wants and desires. It is necessary that a person brush their teeth and bathe, but it’s not a necessity that they use to the computer to type e-mails to their children and grandchildren. However, being able to do so will enrich their lives (We suggest: a typing aid to help them press keys without using their fingers).

Is it absolutely necessary that they be able to write notes on Christmas cards with their own hand? Of course not. You or another caregiver might be able to help them with that. But for persons with weakened hand strength, the ability to do so independently may empower them to do other things by alone (We suggest: pen assistants which hold the pens for them, saving their finger strength).

Eventually, you begin to see that there is a hazy line between needs and wants. For many people, some of these “optional” assistive devices may actually be more important than those devices that help with the basics.

3. Communicate and Evaluate

Does it work? Do they like it? Would a different type of toothbrush holder be easier to handle? Have they mastered one typing aid well enough that they can double their speed with another typing aid?

Communication is the only way to evaluate how well these devices work. The person may be putting on a good “front” while using a particular device, but it may actually not be appropriate for them. Or they may find that a different type of assistive device may be better.

Ask questions and listen. No one was born a perfect caregiver; no one innately has these skills. These are learned skills (We suggest: Educational videos to help you learn caregiving) that take time to master. There is a learning curve. Remember that patience goes both ways.