Motor neurone disease (MND) leads to a person’s muscles becoming weaker over time.
Different kinds of aids and equipment, usually referred to collectively as assistive technology (AT), can help with maintaining independence, communication, comfort, safety and participation in work and social activities.
Home modifications are also important to consider. Exactly which type of AT or home modifications are needed, and when, depends on a person’s physical needs and how quickly their MND progresses.
Assistive Technology (AT) can help with:
There are a range of aids and equipment available to support people in their daily activities such as:
MND advisors or occupational therapists (OT) from your local MND association can provide information regarding what AT you may need. MND advisors can also assist with referral for an assessment to an OT, physiotherapist or speech pathologist regarding what sort of AT is best for you.
Assistive Technology Australia provides lots of useful information and photos of what aids and and equipment are available.
There are a range of devices to help people to communicate if they lose their ability to speak.
If a person’s hands are too weak to use special keyboards or a mouse, computers, smart phones and tablets can be operated via special switches and scanners. Switches are operated by small movements of muscles that are still functional. Muscles used for switches might include those in the eyebrow or arm or an eye blink or sipping and puffing with the mouth may be an option.
Voice amplification can help those whose voice is weak but not slurred. That is, when speech volume, how loud a person’s voice is, becomes affected and gets softer and more difficult to hear.
Early referral to a speech pathologist is important to provide the opportunity to discuss options for voice banking before you experience any significant changes to your speech. Voice and message banking are areas that are becoming more freely and easily available with advances in technology.
It is also important to talk about communication technology with an appropriate health professional before making a purchase. That way, it is easier to ensure the technology is suitable and will provide the most efficient ongoing support.
Where and how communication technology is accessed does vary from state to state. Talking with your MND advisor is a good place to start for who to contact, useful options and guidance.
The types of communication technology available include:
Your MND association can assist you with accessing assistive technology by linking you with allied health professionals for an assessment and providing AT through their loan or rental equipment service. The MND associations provide a range of commonly used equipment and disability aids for people with MND who are registered with them.
How you access the equipment and what the associated costs are will depend on your age and the state or territory you live in. People under the age of 65 eligible for the NDIS can have funding for assistive technology included in their NDIS plan. This funding can be used to rent commonly used assistive technology from their MND association. A person’s NDIS plan may also include funds to purchase individualised or customised assistive technology if needed. For those without an NDIS plan commonly used assistive technology may be accessed from their MND association at low or no cost to people with MND.
Specialised personalised equipment may need to be purchased or hired from other sources.
Health professionals play a vital role in figuring out a person’s equipment needs – and often before a person knows what they may need or want.
Health professionals also make sure the equipment is safe and appropriate for a person’s needs. Talking with a health professional about equipment helps to:
Before decisions are made regarding specific equipment, it is essential that an accurate assessment be carried out by an appropriate allied health professional. A professional referral request will also be required in most cases for NDIS participants and/or to access aids and equipment from the MND association assistive technology service.
The allied health professionals that are commonly involved with assistive technology provision include:
Home modifications are often required to support someone with MND to stay living at home.
Home modifications may include things like:
What is required depends on the individual circumstance. A comprehensive home assessment is usually required for home modifications. An assessment is conducted by an OT and will outline what is needed to so that that a person with MND can be cared for at home as safely, and efficiently, as possible.
How home modifications are funded will depend on your age and the state or territory you live in. People under the age of 65 eligible for the NDIS can have funding for home modifications included in their NDIS plan. For those aged 65 and older eligible for My Aged Care a Home Care Package may include limited funding for home modifications.