Using Assistive Technology to Maintain Function and Independence
By David Young-Hong and Don Fredette
Technology has made significant contributions to the health and welfare of individuals living with multiple sclerosis (MS). At The Boston Home, a 96 bed not-for-profit residential facility serving individuals who have progressive MS, we have been using assistive technology for over a decade to empower our residents to help regain control over their mobility and environment.
Assistive Mobility Aids At the Boston Home, many of our residents use the Waverly Glen© ceiling lift system to help them get out of bed and conserve their energy for more important daily tasks. A lift such as SURE HANDS© is designed to be user-operated, allowing people with mobility limitations to get out of bed independently at their own leisure.
Powered wheelchairs and scooters are also highly utilized at The Boston Home. Residents use a number of high-tech devices to operate this equipment, ranging from hand controls, to head and breathe controls, to a single switch. These alternative “driving” methods give residents devices that can meet their changing physical needs.
Augmentative & Alternative Communication(AAC) For some people with MS, fatigue can make speaking clearly difficult. Voice amplification devices such as a Chatter Vox© are effective, low-cost devices that have helped our residents with low voice volume project their words, making for improved communication.
At The Boston Home, we also use Speech Generating Augmentative & Alternative Communication (SGAAC) devices that help our residents with communication challenges voice their thoughts in a more typical conversation-style manner. The Mercury II AAC© and Dynavox© are examples of SGAAC devices that allow our residents to express themselves by typing on a keypad and then having the device “speak” their message.
Electronic Aids to Daily Living Electronic Aids to Daily Living (EADL) provide our residents with a universal device that can control several electronic devices in their environment. Televisions, bed controls, lamps/lights and even computer functions can be controlled using an EADL.
Quartet Technology’s Simplicity-All-In-One System is a great example of an EADL that can control multiple home electronics (TVs, DVD players, stereos, etc.) in addition to door openers, bed controls and computers, providing the user with the potential to control their full surroundings at the touch of a button.
At the Boston Home, technologies such as these have allowed our residents with MS-related challenges to regain control over their communication and environment. However what works for our residents may not be what’s best for you. The greatest thing about technology is that it can be adapted to suit your needs, so be sure to speak with your physical/occupational/speech therapists to determine what technologies can help you live better with your MS.