Have you heard of these devices? Have you ever wondered what they allow you to do, at work or in everyday life? Discover the benefits we have identified, in essential tasks and their role in social recognition and the relationship with carers.
Use all the functions an arm provides
- Grasping and manipulating objects: the arm allows one to interact with it’s environment, to move, or to use an object. This function allows one to grasp things that are at, below or above the shoulder. When you progressively lose the motor function of your arm, as in the case of muscular dystrophy for example, you can no longer interact with objects that are placed too high, too low or too far away. Care must be taken, as handling large, heavy, dangerous objects such as cleaning products or boiling water because when the residual strength of the upper limb is not sufficient, it can be risky. Assistive arm devices address this problem by compensating for the lack of strength.
- Verbal function: without realising it, we speak with our hands, we support our words with more or less ample gestures. We mime while we speak. We can also get attention or signal our presence to a person who did not notice us or who is far away. Technical aids make it possible to make more visible gestures.
- Defence: legs permit running, but arms can press an emergency button, make a call to alert someone, open a door to escape. Robotic assistants are designed to accompany all gestures, slow and fast, and to be more reactive.
Gain autonomy in daily activities
- Essential daily activities: upper limb compensation devices allow people to bring food to their mouths and therefore eat or re-eat on their own. Tooth brushing and washing can be done independently. One also finds the freedom to do things like scratch nose, chase away an insect, put glasses back on, turn on the light … gestures we have forgotten importance of, that are nevertheless essential for independence and well-being.
- At work: typing on a computer becomes possible again, picking up the phone and putting it to your ear instead of having to put it on speakerphone, and this way having a private telephone conversation. In addition to being more independent, it saves time.
- Free time: board games can feel different when you can hold your cards or move your pawn by yourself. With an equipped arm you can paint, draw, turn the pages of a book. The compensation of the arm makes it possible to develop independence.
Trying to do all these activities when the arm’s residual force is not sufficient causes fatigue. Upper limb devices allow for greater freedom and energy.
Improve social recognition
In class, you have to raise your hand to participate. With an upper limb assistant, the child can raise his or her hand on his or her own and whenever wanted. Children can then actively participate in the life of the group and share their ideas to teachers and classmates. The technical aid allows the child to keep the communication function that the arm provides and prevent isolation.
At the polling station, being able to reach the ballot box to cast a vote is symbolic. Assistive technology provides the necessary support to perform representative actions for citizens.
For some people, personal development and self-affirmation are found in the acts of daily life, in work or leisure. The new independence obtained thanks to the equipment allows the person to be heard, to get social recognition from his peers and his entourage.
Keep joints and muscles moving
“Will I lose more of my motor skills with a technical aid?”
Getting an assistive device can generate fears such as losing more strength by becoming dependent on the device.
“As far as we know, no thorough study has been carried out on the subject. However, from my experience, I would say that the use of an upper limb function assistant will not accentuate the loss of movement function: quite the contrary! A person with muscular dystrophy, for example, will have a tendency to lock up his joint without moving. Being able to explore space on different planes thanks to a technical aid will therefore be beneficial on the osteoarticular and muscular levels.”
Dr. Guy Letellier, ESEAN APF France Handicap, After-care and rehabilitation facility in Nantes
Arm technical aids do not carry out the movement instead of the user: they accompany him. It is also necessary for the person wishing to be equipped to still have residual strength to be able to initiate the movements. This impulse is also a muscle training that helps to maintain strength in the limb. The assistance provided by the technical aid also means that the arm can explore other planes and work on its osteoarticular mobility.
Create a different relationship with the carer
The carers of people living with a loss of mobility in the upper limb are present every day to assist them in all situations. At the end of the day, this means a lot of demands. With an ageing and increasingly dependent population, there is a need to relieve the carers. Arm assistance devices allow the caregiver to:
- Save time: the person being cared for no longer needs assistance with small, short, essential tasks, which at the end of the day consume a lot of time.
- Save energy: Some tasks and manipulations require strength, which can also exhaust the carer physically and mentally.
Equipping a person with an assistive technology can therefore lighten the workload of the carer. They can then devote more time to creating a relationship based on exchanges and complicity and improve the quality of life of the person being cared for in general.