Knowing what home medical equipment you might need

DME is an acronym for Durable Medical Equipment. Companies that work with DME are there to help you, and your family or friends remain independent and safe in your own home for as long as possible. DME can also play a key role for hospitalized or nursing home patients who wish to return home but are limited due to failing physical abilities or safety concerns. Having the appropriate equipment in the home can create a safe environment for that person to return to or remain in.

By definition from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), DME is any equipment that is designed to withstand repeated use in the home. DME includes but is not limited to hospital beds, wheelchairs, ambulatory aids, bath safety items and respiratory equipment including oxygen concentrators, CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure) devices and nebulizers.

Included below is a sample of equipment categories along with a few questions to identify need.

Ambulatory Aids – What is the level of need? Is it the minimal support of a single point cane or forearm crutch or perhaps the more substantial support of a hemi or full walker?

Bath Aids – How safe is your bathroom? Is balance an area of concern when using the commode? Perhaps a raised toilet seat or toilet safety frames would be in order. When bathing, what is your tolerance to showering? Do you have a hand held shower head? Options available range from transportable shower rails to seats that either sit in the tub or a bench that spans the outside and inside of the tub which removes any lifting of the lower extremities to get in the tub which greatly decreases the chance of falling.

Hospital Beds and Accessories – Are frequent position changes needed due to pain or compromised breathing ability? Have attempts to use pillows or other positioning attempts failed? Is there any skin breakdown?

CPAP – These are devices used to deliver continuous pressure as determined by a sleep study to keep your airways open (like an air splint) and prevent Apneas (the absence of breathing) during sleep. Some questions to consider – Do you or your partner snore? Are you tired a lot during the day? Do you have a large neck or are overweight? Have you considered a sleep study? These should be discussed with your physician.

Nebulizer Compressors – These units are used to break down liquid medication into a mist treatment delivered via a handheld nebulizer kit. One of the most common uses for a nebulizer compressor is in the treatment of lung diseases such as COPD or asthma. For young children, or elderly individuals without the ability or coordination to effectively operate an inhaler, a nebulizer compressor may be a good option. Some questions to consider. Are you using inhalers? Do they seem effective? Do you have arthritis in the hands which may prevent using an inhaler?

The DME dealer is responsible for educating you on how to safely use your equipment and supplies. You will need the support of your family or friends who will also need to know how to use your equipment.

Some DME is covered through health insurance if a DME benefit is listed. It is important to keep in mind each insurance company has a set of criteria a client must meet in order to qualify for reimbursement.

Equipment that is covered requires the physician to evaluate the need for the equipment and write a prescription with supporting documentation in your medical record. The equipment is rented or purchased through the insurance company.

Editor’s note: Jennifer DesRochers is the Durable Medical Equipment Manager at BCMH