About Home Medical Equipment

Medical equipment is a term often used to refer to a larger category of services called assistive technology.  Assistive technology is a broad term and may mean different things to different people but for our purposes we will define it as the following:

  • Devices or systems to help people who have no skilled medical needs manage their disabilities
  • Devices or systems that may also support disabilities with people who are receiving Medicare home care
  • Personal items or devices that make life easier for people with disabilities
  • Living environments that accommodate disability
  • Consultants, books and other advice
  • Home Modification

Devices or systems to help people who have no skilled medical needs manage their disabilities

Many assistive technology devices and systems that support non-medical disabilities may serve as well a disability caused by a medical condition, but we have chosen in this article to differentiate between a medical or a non-medical use. Here is our list of non-medical devices which would not qualify for Medicare payment if not used in conjunction with a medical disability.

Oxygen equipment
Sensory Augmentation Devices
Computer Usage Arrangements for the Disabled
Wheelchairs and Scooters
Other mobility related devices

Devices or systems that may also support disabilities with people who are receiving Medicare home care

These devices also support medical disabilities and would qualify for Medicare payment.

Oxygen equipment
Sensory Augmentation Devices
Wheelchairs and Scooters
Other mobility related device

If there is a medical need and if the device or system meets Medicare's definition of durable medical equipment (DME) below, then Medicare will pay for 80% of the cost and the Medicare recipient pays for the other 20%. In addition if the care recipient has a Medicare supplement policy, that policy usually covers the other 20% of the cost.

The term DME is defined as equipment which

  • Can withstand repeated use; i.e., could normally be rented, and used by successive patients;
  • Is primarily and customarily used to serve a medical purpose;
  • Generally is not useful to a person in the absence of illness or injury; and
    Is appropriate for use in a patient's home.

Personal items or devices that make life easier for people with disabilities

This could include some of the following exclusive items for disabled persons or for those going through rehab at home.

Therapy Equipment
Hydrotherapy, Paraffin & Fluidotherapy, Iontophoresis, Biofeedback, Hot & Cold Therapy, Wellness & Massage Therapy and Electrotherapy & Ultrasound

Arthritis Supports, Wrist Supports, Elbow Supports, Cervical Collars, Back Supports, Ankle, Foot, & Heel Supports, Foot Management, Bed Positioning & Safety Products, Compression Products, Edema Garments, Thumb Supports, Contracture Management Splints, Upper Extremity Positioning/Supports, Thoracic & Pelvic Support, Knee Immobilizers, Knee Straps, Knee Supports, Thigh Supports, Ankle / Foot Orthoses, Heel & Elbow Protectors, Lower Extremity Positioning, Wound Care Products, Scar Management & Gel Products, Lymphedema Products and Taping Products

Knives, Supergrip™ Utensils, Sure Hand Utensils, Tapes & Tubing (for enlarging the diameter of an object), Utensil Holders, Acute Care Tables, Clothing Protectors, Dycem® Nonslip Plastic Food Catchers, Home Care / Long Term Care Tables, Non-Slip Matting & Trays, Cups, Mugs & Nursers, Drinking Aids & Straws, Nosey Cups, Self Feeders & Arm Supports, Feeders, Arm Supports & Overbed Tables, JAECO / Rancho Mobile Arm Supports, Mobile Arm Support Accessories, Dinnerware, Feeding Evaluation Kits, Food Guards, Scoop Dishes, Suction Bowls & Plates, Tableware, Jar & Bottle Openers, Kitchen Supplies And Cooking Utensils

Bath, Toileting and Hygiene
Bath & Shower Chairs, Bath & Shower Seats, Bath Boards, Bath Transfer Benches, Bathing Systems, Beluga Bathlift, Folding Shower Seats, Hydraulic Bathlift, Reclining Shower / Commode Chairs, Shower Stools, Bath lifts, Commodes, Folding Commodes, Grab Bars, Lifting & Wooden Commodes, Raised Toilet Seats, Raised Toilet Seats & Splash Guards, Raised Toilet Seats with Armrests, Safety Rails, Toilet Frames, Toilet Supports & Reducer Rings, Bathing & Shower Cushions, Bathing & Shower Mats, Bathtub Grab Bars & Rails, Diabetic Foot Accessories, Grooming & Accessories, Hand-Held Showers, Scrub Sponges & Brushes, Incontinence Products, Mirrors, Catheterization Accessories, Urinals and Mattress Covers

Aids of Daily Living
Reachers, Door Knobs & Grip Assists, Furniture Risers, Home Accessories, Household Helpers, Trolley & Carts, Respiratory Care, Low Vision aids such as magnifying glasses and reading screens, Mouth Sticks & Headpointers, Speech & Communication aids, Language & Cognition aids and activities, Dressing Aids (button hooks, hooks, etc.), Dressing Education, Fasteners & Shoe Laces, Shoehorns, Slippers & Fasteners, Socks & Slippers, Leisure Activities and Helpers, Environmental Controls, Activity Tables, Book Holders, Page Turners & Reading Aids, Scissors, Writing Aids, Dysphagia Resources, Oral Motor aids

Special Clothing
Outer garments, underwear, leisure wear, footwear and other specialized clothing for elderly people with Alzheimer's, arthritis, mobility issues, foot problems, incontinence, scoliosis or obese individuals.

Living Environments that Accommodate Disability

There are a growing number of companies that will make the home into a safe environment for a fee.

Consultants, books and other advice

There are numberless books available from bookstores and from online sources that give advice to caregivers in all areas of disability support. These sources often go beyond the issue of devices and equipment and deal with such things as meal preparation, menus, activities, music and other social issues important to the disabled. Private and government consulting are also available. Check online or dial 211 or call the local area agency on aging.

Home Modification

Many people with disabilities want to remain in their home as long as possible. Such things as narrow doorways that cannot accommodate wheelchairs, more than one living level and inconvenient layout of the home may prevent a person from living there. In addition disabled people often require rails, special bathroom facilities and special dining facilities as well. There are three options to modifying the home.
Research can be done and materials procured to make the home more livable and the family friend or relative can pitch in and do the remodel.
A contractor can be employed to do the necessary modifications.
An attempt can be made to find a local company that specializes in the home modification for the disabled. These providers may be readily available in larger population areas.

In addition help can be sought from the following community service providers.

Local area agency on aging
State department on aging
State housing finance agency
Department of public welfare
Department of housing and community development
Senior center Independent living center

The national Association of home builders and the AARP have teamed together to form the Certified Aging-in-Place Specialist (CAPS) program. These people have been trained in the unique needs of the older adult population, aging in place home modifications, common remodeling projects, and solutions to common barriers. It may be possible to find a person in the desired area by going to http://www.nahb.org/or by calling the local home builders Association and asking for someone certified in this area.

Also, consider taking these steps:

  • Get recommendations from friends who have had similar projects completed.
  • Hire a licensed and bonded contractor. Be specific about modifications in advance.
  • Ask for a written agreement with only a small down payment. Make the final payment only after the project is completed.
  • Check with the local better business Bureau regarding the contractor's or program's reliability and performance record.