Smart Canes, Walkers, & Wheelchairs to Empower Mobility
Smart Canes, Walkers, & Wheelchairs to Empower Mobility
Innovative technology has changed our lives by making daily tasks easier than ever before. The tech market has introduced products like security cameras, cookware, and drones that can be controlled by a smartphone from any remote location. Your personal digital assistant can help you play music, change your thermostat, or keep your clothes tumbling in your dryer. While a voice-controlled refrigerator is a nice convenience, many people are happy to see the introduction of new and assistive technology for seniors that target the specific needs of aging.
Seniors face unique challenges, and aging can be accompanied by illnesses or injuries that make living independently more difficult. In many cases of limited mobility, Medicare recipients can benefit from durable medical equipment, or DME. DME includes supplies, like a walker, cane, or wheelchair, that are ordered by a physician for use in your home. While this equipment is helpful for many seniors aging in place, consider the possibilities when “smart” technology puts a fresh, new spin on them.
How can medical equipment be transformed by new and innovative technology for older adults? Let’s take a look at some of the inventive ways canes, walkers, and wheelchairs have been updated with improvements in safety, stability, and ease.
Canes have always been considered a pretty basic piece of medical equipment, so how could they be improved? Changes to traditional technology should make sense for the user or their loved ones. Sensors and a GPS module can be integrated into the handle of the cane to track the user, alerting a caregiver or loved one to the user’s location, or letting someone know if the user has left a particular area. This can be very effective for caregivers who worry about a senior with memory issues or health concerns.
Sensors on the cane handle can also send an alert to a caregiver or loved one if the person using the cane has fallen. Some smart canes can also be equipped with emergency functions, enabling the user to call for help with a touch of a button, while others include features that allow the user to call, text, or e-mail contacts that can be pre-set. Canes are often used for mild relief from pain or weakness in a leg or hip in an effort to improve stability and balance. Canes are also used in the later steps of rehabilitation programs after illness or injury, and it’s crucial at this stage that you don’t have a stumble that sets you back in your recovery. Consider this assistive technology for seniors and give them (and their caregivers and loved ones) an added layer of protection and support.
Walkers have been historically so low-tech that people would cut and attach tennis balls to the back legs of the walker to prevent slipping. With the acknowledgement of this unsafe and unsanitary practice, rubber and plastic tips were often used until “walker glides” arrived on the market. These accessories held up and made walking on carpet, tile, and hardwood much easier.
Even with these changes, walkers had some catching up to do. With the help of innovative technology for older adults, walkers have evolved. For instance, some smart walkers have electronic brakes that connect to a microprocessor. Users are able to brake easily, regardless of their hand strength, which is helpful for those with weakness due to injury or arthritis.
More advanced walkers go beyond improvements in braking, featuring high-tech depth-sensing cameras and hidden sensors, collecting important data that your physicians and physical therapists can use to improve your treatment and therapy. Virtual images can measure pressure, footprints, and motion to determine problems with your gait that can be examined and corrected. Outward facing cameras can help prevent falls by identifying danger in your path, and some custom tools will even recommend local spots of interest and any congestion nearby.
Wheelchairs using smart technology can make an impact on seniors’ maneuverability at home or on-the-go. Some features can include:
- Anti-collision sensors
- Voice command and confirmations
- Speed and motion control
- Pre-determined track following
Innovative accessories can be added to the wheelchair to help pinpoint an individual’s needs and track their progress, especially if they are recovering from an illness or injury that has caused the limited mobility. The tech market has designed smart “pads” that can be placed under the seat cushion of a wheelchair. These pads communicate with a smartphone to track the user’s posture, weight, and activity, such as lifting up from the chair. Features can be customized to meet the individual needs of the user.
Does Medicare Cover (Smart) Durable Medicare Equipment (DME)?
New and innovative technology for seniors can help protect them, improve their mobility, and help them maintain their independence. If you or a loved one can benefit from assistive technology designed specifically for older adults, do some online research to find products with the features, services, and costs that meet your needs and preferences. While Medicare covers the cost of some durable medical equipment (DME), it may not help pay for more innovative equipment, so talk to your doctor and insurance plan for more information.
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