Empowering occupational therapy practitioners with a playbook of functional tasks to use with their geriatric clients

Personalizing an Assistive Device

Personalizing an Assistive Device

One of the frustrations that I hear from my physical therapy and nursing colleagues regularly is that the clients they are working with are not consistently using the assistive device that has been recommended to them. Often my colleagues have reminded the clients regularly and even made reminder signs for the clients but they still do not consistently use the assistive device.

When I hear these frustrations, I assess the factors that might be contributing to the client’s perceived noncompliance. The client may be choosing not to use the device but they may also have deficits in memory or self-awareness. If they have memory deficits, they may not remember that they have an assistive device or how to use it. If they have deficits in self-awareness, they may not recognize the need for an assistive device or identify with the device. Clients who have both of these deficits can benefit from personalizing an assistive device.


Increase the likelihood that client will use a walker (or other assistive device) as recommended for safe functional mobility


Great for 1:1 treatment – Good for Concurrent/Group treatment

Time Frame

10-60 minutes

Materials Required

  • Client’s assistive device
  • Craft supplies including paper, streamers, scissors, glue or tape, markers, etc
  • Items of personal significance for client such as pictures, trinkets, or materials related to a theme
  • Laminator and supplies or page protectors
  • Zip ties


  • Identify the recommended assistive device for safe functional mobility for the client
  • Interview the client and/or family members, friends, and staff to determine interests, hobbies, significant life roles, and former occupations of the client.


  1. Collaborate with the client or family to determine the theme for the assistive device.
  2. Ask the client to select meaningful materials to include on the assistive device.
  3. Work with the client to use the selected materials to personalize the walker. Make sure to include the client’s name in the personalization.
  4. Evaluate the finished product with the client. Ask for feedback and make any changes requested by the client.

Special Notes

Themes for the assistive device can be very simple such as writing the client’s name in big letters on their favorite color of paper and hanging it on the device. Alternately, themes can also be more complex such as creating a “nurse’s cart” with medication bottles filled with sugar free candies for a former nurse. Other examples of themes include family pictures, pictures of airplanes for a former pilot, or a cane that looks like a golf club.

The more personalized the device is, the more likely the client will be to use it. Additionally, the more invested the client is in the process and the more ownership they have over the process, the more likely the client will be to identify with the device and use it.

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