Durable Medical Equipment for Elderly Seniors

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Daily Living Made Easier

Do You Know About Durable Medical Equipment for Elderly?

When my dad’s Parkinson’s Disease started to progress, we were having to deal with more doctor appointments, more trips together so I could help them, more medications, more… At the same time, one of my daughters was dealing with a difficult pregnancy requiring bedrest, which meant we were also dealing with more babysitting, more errands to help them, more… I think one of the major keywords for the Sandwich Generation is definitely MORE. 🙂 God is good and we did fine. But that doesn’t mean minor things didn’t sometimes “slip through the cracks.” A common occurrence for most of us in the Sandwich Generation, don’t you think? We juggle the best we can, and when we can’t keep everything in the air, we do our best to make sure it’s the least important things that topple to the ground.

One of the things that didn’t get a lot of attention at the time was “Durable Medical Equipment.” Do you know that term? If you do, you’re lightyears ahead of where I was at the time. After about 15 years with Parkinson’s Disease, my dad’s only real needs had been his medications and good exercise. All of a sudden, though, that wasn’t enough. It was time to get some equipment to help him with his walking. For us, that meant a black transport wheelchair and a very spiffy, maroon rollator walker.

As is often common with Parkinson’s Disease, my dad’s worsening health was very dramatic at first. That really shook us up! I immediately sprung into action, did some basic research, and got him the transport wheelchair quickly so we would have something right away. Then we ordered the rollator walker and had it delivered to our local store. It wasn’t until much later I discovered that his Medicare insurance through Kaiser provided “Durable Medical Equipment items such as a rollator walker. They would also have provided a wheelchair if we wanted. By the time I discovered all this, he had perked up quite a bit. His neurologist explained to me, “With Parkinson’s symptoms, you can have a serious drop in the patient’s condition, then they’ll get better – but rarely as good as they used to be.” She was right. We saw this happen two more times before the Lord took him home.

By the time everything had eased up, he was doing better and I had another adorable grandchild. At that point, I was finally starting to learn new questions to ask, finding out about such things as DME (durable medical equipment), and dad was rarely using the wheelchair. I realized I was really glad we had done it ourselves as we probably got it a bit quicker and easier. Then again, with budgets so tight right now, not knowing could be a real problem. Having your insurance provide the DME is a true blessing. It can, however, add some extra work to a caregiver’s life.

Turns out the transport wheelchair we got was a bit smaller than a regular one and less padded, but it was much easier for my senior mom and me to lift, fold, and put away. It fit great in the back of my minivan, along with the Sit N Stand stroller I had for my grandkids. We talked about getting another bigger wheelchair or maybe a power wheel chair. He didn’t want to try that as he was afraid his shaking hand would make it too difficult to control. We used that transport wheelchair the whole time and it was really handy. I have such sweet memories, and photos, of my dad scooting around my house with that same sweet grandchild on his lap, both grinning widely!

Dad’s rollator walker was a bit short for his height, so we did go through the medical insurance to get him a higher one. When it came, he still preferred the one I had bought on my own. He did use the new one as well, though, when his back was bothering him.

All in all, we learned a lot about medical equipment during this Sandwich Generation series of crises. Even though we didn’t always ask the right questions, or even know the right questions to ask, God saw us through and we got the equipment we needed. And we did learn to ask broader questions, such as, “Is there any medical equipment he needs that might be covered by his insurance.” We also learned that the doctors and nurses don’t always know what is provided, even with an HMO. So it’s well worth calling your insurance office and asking them as well.


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  1. Questions I Wished I'd Asked About a Transport Wheelchair and … http://bit.ly/6tqjNN

  2. Older adults miss out on a lot of activities/field trips. Why not get a transport wheelchair? RT SandwichINK http://bit.ly/85guwb

    • Power John
    • January 16, 2010

    Questions I Wished I'd Asked About a Transport Wheelchair and … http://bit.ly/6tqjNN

  3. Great info, Jan. Thank you! We used a sheepskin pad when my dad had to sit in his for very long. Most of the time, though, we just used it to take him from one room to another and then he wanted to switch to a chair. He was very independent up to the last few weeks when he then spent most of his time in bed. I think that independence was what helped him stay walking 15 years into Parkinson’s, that’s for sure. 🙂

    I love the idea of the gel cushion. They can be so squishy soft and comfy. 🙂

    • Jan Heinen
    • January 16, 2010

    Hi Kaye,
    I used a transport wheelchair for my elderly mother for a couple of years because it was light and easy to handle. However, when the bumpiness due to the smaller wheels started to bother her, I bought a sturdier and heavier Quickie type with a special gel cushion. She was definitely more comfortable after this and to this day spends many hours in her wheelchair, without complaint.

    Jan Heinen

  4. Hi Mary, I’m so glad you wrote. I had no idea they did not provide those lifts. We were able to handle the transport wheelchair on our own, so we never got to that point. But you’re right, that doesn’t make sense!

    • Mary
    • January 17, 2010

    We have a couple of chairs and three walkers. My continuing question is why doesn’t medicare cover lifts to get the wheelchairs in and out of the vehicle. I love the help the wheelchairs provide, but I can only manage the very lightest chairs in and out of the trunk.


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