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Adaptive Equipment

When it comes to adaptive equipment, the name of the game is SAFETY!

So your aging parent lives independently, but he/she is a bit unsteady on the feet.  If you can almost see the fall coming, then adaptive equipment can help.  But what kind of equipment does your parent need? And, is adaptive equipment enough?

To answer those questions, it helps to think broadly about the activities that present the greatest risk of injury.

The New ADLs, according to Maria

The New And Improved List of Activities of Daily Living

To age well and avoid injury, your aging parents must be able to move about their home and community, and tend to their personal needs, safely.

Thinking about your aging parent’s ability to do the following will help you determine the most appropriate adaptive equipment:

Walking and Climbing

Walking is essential to a number of daily tasks that your parent must perform including dressing, grooming, grocery shopping, housework, and meal preparation.  And if your aging parent happens to live in a two-level home (or in New York City 😉 ), he/she had better also be able to climb!

Adaptive equipment for walking

If your parent has difficulty with balance, a cane, walking stick or even a walker may help significantly. If he/she is unable to stand, an electric scooter may be required.  However, getting Medicare to pay for one will depend on whether your mom or dad meets the eligibility requirements.  In short, he/she must have Medicare Part B, the cooperation of a primary physician, be able to operate the manual controls, and transfer in and out of the scooter safely.

If your aging parent has too much upper body strength, Medicare may say that a wheelchair – rather than a scooter – will do. Tricky, right?!

Do you still think that your parent may qualify for an electric scooter? If so, he/she may need more than adaptive equipment to live safely. Skip ahead to read more about what to do when additional help is needed.

To climb or not to climb…

So your parents’ kitchen is downstairs but the bedrooms are upstairs?  What kind of a crazy design is that?!  Seriously though, if you’re concerned about your parents climbing the stairs you can do one of the following: 1) help them sell their home and buy a one-level ranch; 2) work with them to reconfigure their living space so they can avoid the stairs; 3) install a stair lift chair. That’s about it.

Bathing and Toileting

Did you notice that both of these activities take place in the bathroom? That’s right! And this is the reason why there are more falls in the bathroom than in any other room in the house.  Since most people don’t have a phone in the bathroom, a medical alert bracelet or pendant that can be worn in the bathroom makes a lot of sense.

Reducing falls in the bathroom

To reduce the risk of falling in the bathroom I would suggest the following pieces of adaptive equipment: 1) grab bars for the shower walls; 2) a handheld shower head; and 3) a shower chair.  A rubber bathmat in the tub and some carpeting on the floor (instead of throw rugs!) are also good bets.

Toileting and Incontinence

Whether you realize it or not, toileting requires strong calf muscles and good balance.  A raised toilet seat can assist your aging parent with toileting and additional grab bars near the toilet can help too. Perhaps even better than adaptive equipment here is exercise to increase muscle strength and improve balance.

Many older adults also experience mild to severe difficulty in controlling bladder and/or bowel functioning as they age.  If your parent suffers from this, talk to his/her physician to identify and treat the underlying causes.  Kegel exercises can also help.

Why talk about incontinence on the adaptive equipment page?

Well, incontinence is connected to toileting. Plus, older adults run the risk of injuring themselves on route to the toilet in their mad dash to prevent leakage.  Male and female incontinence supplies can help here.

Is adaptive equipment enough for my aging parent?

Great question!  If your aging parent has significant difficulty with walking, climbing, bathing or toileting, home care (and/or physical therapy) – not just adaptive equipment – may be required.  For example, if your parent can’t walk, he/she may find it difficult to get to the cabinet to retrieve medications.  If toileting is challenging, feeding herself or using the telephone unassisted may also be impossible.

Many older adults are able to continue living in their homes with the help of adaptive equipment and a home attendant or other helper.  If home isn’t the best environment an assisted living facility or nursing home may make more sense. Take the next step and head on over to the Planning Care page of this site for more information.


Do you have questions about the information I presented on this page?  If so, get in touch!