How to Find and Get the Right Medical Equipment for Your Loved One
When it comes to accessing medical equipment and supplies for your loved one, you may be surprised by the number of routes you can take (and the variety of equipment and supplies available to you). Depending on your loved one’s needs, fulfilling medical supplies may be prompt and efficient, i.e. in the case of receiving oxygen, IV, or NG tube supplies in overnight shipments straight to your door.
For less “dire” items like a cough assist, wheelchair, or hospital bed, however, you may end up waiting weeks or even months depending on the local medical equipment company you are required to work with. There are other ways to find assistive devices for your loved one outside of medical equipment companies too, with the help of the internet and local agencies.
Don’t miss this quick guide to finding the right medical equipment for your loved one:
In the case where your loved one needs medical equipment that you would like health insurance (i.e. Medicare Part B or Medicaid) to cover, you will need a doctor’s order. Essentially, your loved one’s primary care physician or specialist needs to examine your loved one and then “write a prescription” for the equipment and fill out any accompanying paperwork that must go with it. For example, in order to qualify for a Medicare-covered wheelchair, your doctor may have to assess and determine that your loved one:
Has difficulty getting around the home even with a cane or walker
Is unable to independently perform daily tasks (like dressing, bathing) on their own
Has a condition, disease, or injury that requires a specific type of wheelchair in the home
Can manually operate the wheelchair themselves or has a caregiver who can help at all times
The necessity for a doctor’s order goes for other condition-specific durable medical equipment (DME) like a hospital bed, cough assist, yankauer, CPAP machine, patient lift, walker, cane, nebulizer, blood sugar monitor, etc. You can find more info about what durable medical equipment is covered by Medicare Part B here.
Some equipment Medicare covers completely and others they may cover only part of. In the case of the latter, you make monthly co-payments, either in a rent-based or lease-to-own model, i.e. you pay a certain amount over 12 months and then officially own the equipment yourself.
Local Lending Program
Did you know nonprofits in your area may have a program where you can borrow medical equipment and assistive devices for free? These community-building initiatives rely on donations of equipment from local residents who no longer use or need them, and then they clean them up, repair them, and lend them back out to people in need.
Google your closest Council on Aging or check with your local senior resource center or Christian ministry to see if there is a lending program you can take advantage of. They often offer a range of DME including bedside commodes, wheelchairs, walkers, overbed tables, canes, and potentially even hospital beds. Depending on their “warehouse”, they may also stock helpful items like nutritional drinks, adult incontinence supplies, and cleaning supplies.
It’s important to remember as caregivers that time is worth money too. Your time wrangling appointments, doctor’s orders, specialists, DME companies . . . it all adds up, and if the headache isn’t worth it or if your timeline is short (i.e. you need something fast for your loved one), you might want to simply shop for medical equipment out of pocket. You don’t need to spend an arm and a leg to find quality equipment at a decent price either.
If you want to order a quality cane online, your first inclination may be to simply google it or start with a search on Amazon. With an existing Amazon Prime membership, you could find the item you need and receive it in just a couple days. The prices on Amazon (and Jet) aren’t always going to necessarily be the cheapest, however, so it’s worth looking at other online medical equipment companies that also offer free shipping and potentially special promotions for first-time customers (i.e. 10% off).
If you want to shop in-store for something so you can test it outright, check with your local pharmacy or big box store to see what their selection of medical equipment is and utilize a loyalty card or rewards points for a discount. Don’t forget charity re-stores, Goodwill, and Salvation Army too! It may also be worth checking with your loved one’s home health agency if they currently receive care from one. Home health nurses may be able to bring you medical supplies like wound dressings and barrier creams, or at the very least share advice for what devices and supplies could help you in the care of your loved one.