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Am J Public Health. 1997 Mar;87(3):384-92.

The great efficacy of personal and equipment assistance in reducing disability.

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  • 1Institute of Gerontology, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor 48109-2007, USA.



Personal and equipment assistance are common strategies to reduce disability. This study sought to determine how often assistance reduces or even completely resolves health-related difficulties in everyday tasks.


Data are from the NHANES I Epidemiologic Followup Study. Adults aged 35 to 90 reported difficulty doing 12 everyday tasks on their own without assistance. Those stating that they had much difficulty or were unable were asked if they had personal assistance and/or equipment assistance, and their degree of difficulty with assistance. Use and efficacy of assistance are studied by gender, age, intrinsic (unassisted) degree of difficulty, and type of assistance.


Most people use assistance for the 12 tasks; "personal assistance only" is the principal type used for upper-extremity and body transfer tasks; "equipment only" ranks first for lower-extremity tasks. Assistance reduces difficulty for the great majority of persons (75% to 85%) and completely resolves difficulty for about 25%. Equipment only proves to be the most efficacious strategy for reducing and resolving limitations.


Equipment's success may be due to greater perceived gains when people accomplish the assistance by themselves.

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