Abandonment of assistive technology

A woman learning to use her prosthetic leg walking outside her house, supported by one of the MDS staff members.

What is abandonment?

Abandonment occurs when a person stops using a device. There may be a number of reasons for this. On average, 30% of AT is abandoned within one year of receiving the product.

For the user, abandonment of AT can result in a lost opportunity for improving quality of life, and can lead to frustration and poor psychological outcomes.

For the service provider, there is a loss of resources and increased environmental waste, particularly when abandoned AT is unable to be recovered, reused or recycled.

As the rates of non-communicable disease and disability increase, and global populations age, it is likely that there will be more demand for AT products. Therefore, the issue of abandonment is a significant social and economic issue thneeds tosto be considered by service providers.

What causes abandonment?

Abandonment results from an interaction of four major factors, which include:A man sits on the floor of his traditional home, looking outside at his garden. Behind I'm, in the corner at the edge of the image are two wheelchairs folded up and not being used.

  1. Personal factors: age, gender, acceptance and understanding of diagnosis, changes in health, mental health, changes in personal situation.
  2. Device factors: poor design or assembly, quality of product, durability, appearance, weight, transport difficulties, function.
  3. Environment factors: social support, discrimination, physical barriers.
  4. Service delivery factors: user participation, user training, follow up support, poor prescription, poor fitting, poor adjustment, device causes pain.

What can services do to reduce abandonment?

Satisfaction with a service is as important as satisfaction with a device in reducing abandonment.

Strategies that can help to prevent abandonment include:

  • Client-centred approach: promoting the user’s involvement in all decisions leads to greater satisfaction and fewer issues.
  • Quality service delivery: having structured approaches to service delivery and ensuring quality support leads to greater use of AT.
  • Follow up: home visits and follow up help to support changes in the user’s condition and any need for maintenance, user training or device adjustments.
  • Quality products: talking with suppliers and donors to advocate for appropriate, quality products minimises device issues.
  • Peer support: connecting people with other users helps them in decision making and with acceptance of their AT.
  • Client education: Better education allows clients to make informed decisions reducing the likelihood of abandonment.
  • Professional development: continuing training of personnel will give them the necessary skills for quality service delivery.
  • Advocacy: integrating AT, accessibility and inclusion into public policies will help overcome social and environmental factors that increase abandonment.

For more information email our Programme Director, Lauren Flaherty.