Assistive Aids and Devices after Brain Injury

After a brain injury, people often have difficulties that affect their independence and ability to participate in their favorite activities. These difficulties may be cognitive, physical, or both. Fortunately, there is adaptive equipment and strategies that can be used so life can still be productive and enjoyable.

An injury to the brain can affect movement and sensation, often just on one side of the body.  Adaptive equipment and techniques can help patients with physical limitations complete daily activities more independently.

Some assistive aids include:

  • Long-handled shoe horns and sock-aids
  • Velcro or elastic shoelaces so shoes can be put on without being tied
  • Velcro or snaps on clothing to replace zippers or buttons
  • Dycem (a sheet of sticky material) or a sheet of non-adhesive shelf liner can be used to hold items in place while stirring food or sanding wood
  • A rocker knife can be used to cut meat with one hand and a pizza cutter can cut softer items
  • A one-handed can opener can be found in discount stores
  • Foam tubing can be used to build up pencils and paint brushes
  • Smart phones and tablets have apps that can convert speech to text for people who have difficulty typing or convert text to speech for those with difficulty speaking
  • Recreation equipment can also be adapted; fishing poles, knitting aids, and card holders are just a few examples

One of the most common cognitive areas affected after a brain injury is the memory. There are several strategies to help with this.

Suggestions to help memory include:

  • A calendar posted in an easily visible location to keep track of and to prepare for upcoming events
  • Some people benefit from a daily schedule to help them stay on track and complete daily activities
  • Post checklists in key locations, such as in the bathroom with steps for the morning routine or by the back door with a list of items to remember when leaving the house to help ensure activities are completed
  • Checklists can be laminated so that a dry erase marker can be used to check off items
  • Pill organizers are helpful for medication management.  Loading them once a week saves time and makes it easy to see if the medication was taken.  Keep in a location where it is easily visible, such as beside the toothbrush and toothpaste
  • Set up a “memory station” where wallets, keys, phone, and other important items are kept so they are easily found when needed
  • Keep items in the house and at work in the same places so they are easily located
  • Label cabinets and drawers

These are just a few suggestions of equipment and techniques available to help people successfully manage their day. Information on equipment or strategies can be found on the internet, at a support group, or by contacting a rehab facility. With a bit of research and brainstorming, many people with brain injuries can increase their independence and quality of life.

Elizabeth Raymond, OTR/L, CBIS

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