For many Aussie seniors, maintaining their independence throughout their retirement years can often prove to be more challenging than anticipated. Thankfully, modern assistive technologies like chair lifts, motorised wheelchairs, and adjustable beds, have allowed seniors the option to stay in their own homes for longer rather than having to move to assisted living facilities.
That being said, adapting to life with assistive technology isn’t always as easy or simplistic as you’d expect it to be. For instance, the integration of these technologies into the home can often require renovations and a reorganising of furniture. Alongside this, seniors must also consider measures to keep these assistive devices in good working condition, including the development of maintenance schedules, and even the securing of contents insurance for the home, in the event that any higher-cost devices become damaged or perhaps stolen.
So how can you ensure that your assistive technological (or AT) equipment and devices can be as impactful as possible in your home? This guide for Aussie seniors and their families is designed to remove a lot of the confusion from this process, so read on to kickstart the integration of AT equipment and devices into your home.
Identify the types of assistive technologies you’ll require
First, you’ll need to identify exactly which assistive technologies you’re looking to introduce into your home. This is key for determining whether or not any of the devices or equipment you’re after require installation or set-up conducted by professionals. For example, stair lifts are typically installed on a track that’s attached to the stairs of your home. These particular AT devices need to be cut to size and attached to a secure power source for reliability. Working with a professional installation team can help ensure that your stair life is installed safely and correctly.
Keep in mind that a wide range of devices and equipment fall under the umbrella of ‘assistive technology’ as well, and not all assistive devices will even require a professional installation. Aids like ramps, shower rails and stools may be installed independently if required, or through carers or support initiatives if applicable. Similarly, pressure and motion sensors for automatic light switches and other automatic AT equipment should ideally be installed by a licensed electrician for peace of mind.
Assistive technologies can also include devices or equipment that don’t need to be installed in the home, such as motorised wheelchairs and other mobility aids. Although these are likely to be used more outside the home than inside the home, it’s still highly recommended that you prepare a convenient and highly accessible storage location for these aids when they’re not being used. If you require wheelchair storage by your front door, identifying this need early can help you find the most appropriate solution for your home and circumstances.
Assess cost-effectiveness of your selected assistive technology
Of course, assessing the cost (including the operational costs) of your AT equipment is crucial in determining which technologies are going to be most suitable for your lifestyle and care needs. Typically, the NDIS and other disability care and support providers categorise AT devices into three different cost tiers, these being low, medium, and high cost equipment. Understanding which tier your AT equipment falls under can help you determine what level of cover you can expect to receive from the NDIS with regards to funding that equipment, or if there may be a most cost-effective alternative that you could utilise.
Remember that in order to be eligible for financial assistance from the NDIS with regards to your AT, the support devices will need to meet their guidelines for reasonable and necessary aids. This is roughly defined as aids that are related to alleviating impacts of an individual’s disability, and enhancing their quality of life in a cost-effective manner and alongside other supports that that individual is utilising. Other supports can include government services, family assistance, professional carers, and even support groups or other initiatives within that individual’s local community.
Finalise insurance, safety, and security considerations
Once you’ve identified which AT devices and equipment you’d like to incorporate into your home and lifestyle, it’s time to start thinking about how best to keep these devices secure and in good working order in your home. As we mentioned, developing maintenance and servicing schedules for electronic AT devices is key. Similarly, taking measures to ensure power cables are firmly secured is also important, as loose wires and cables can create tripping hazards for all household occupants.
Securing all the relevant insurance (like home and contents insurance) to cover your AT devices and equipment is also imperative, as doing so may save you from having to bear the costs of replacing equipment in the event of theft or damage. Be sure to read over your insurance policy in detail prior to finalising, just to ensure that you’re receiving all the cover you need.
Other security measures you may utilise include installing security cameras around your home, as well as motion sensors, which can be particularly useful for detecting falls or other issues for seniors who are living alone.
Secure financial aid for household utility bills
Finally, both the NDIS and Australian energy providers are well-aware that some assistive technologies can add to the overall costs of your household’s quarterly utility bills. Electronic AT devices and equipment like CPAP machines, motorised beds, and even temperature and pressure monitoring devices, can add a couple of dollars and cents onto your household’s daily usage costs. Naturally, all that extra energy usage can add up, which is bad news for pensioners or any other individuals who are on a fixed income.
Thankfully, there are financial aid schemes that you may be eligible for, either through the NDIS or directly through your energy provider. For instance, any individuals using life support technology in the home can claim a special life support concession that may cover a portion of your electricity and water bills. Similarly, individuals who are using medical cooling equipment to help combat symptoms of conditions like fibromyalgia and Parkinson’s disease, may be eligible to receive the medical cooling concession.
You can find a list of other energy concessions and benefits that you may be eligible for through the Department of Health & Human Services or on your relevant state government websites.
In making all the considerations outlined above, you’ll find that adapting to life with your new AT devices and equipment should feel generally free of obstacles. Just be sure to get acquainted with all the documentation required by the NDIS when seeking funds for your AT equipment. Similarly, familiarising yourself with the application process for all the government concessions that you may be eligible for can also further simplify this transition, both in the immediate as well as over the long term.