A disability can strike at any moment. Accidents, disease, and various disorders are particularly hard on seniors, who may already have difficulty getting around due to age. Medicare and other such programs are in place to help care for seniors who require disability aids – but there are always questions about the breadth and scope of these types of devices that are available.
Another critical question is always, what’s covered? How do individual insurance plans and Medicare address these different issues? What will be paid for or not? Ultimately, that’s up to Medicare and individual insurances. Professionals that can help you navigate insurance and Medicare are out there and available. Of course, regardless of what’s covered, knowing the options that exist with regard to disability aids and treating disabilities is always the best course of action.
So, let’s answer the endless question – what’s out there? Who are these devices right for, can they solve any mobility issue, who are they best for and how can one get them? Stay tuned as we address these questions and many more.
Different Types of Disability Aids
A disability can be suffered by anyone at any time – but some are more prevalent in the senior community than in other populations. Difficulties seniors face range from joint weakening to accident or injury to hearing and sight loss. Disability aids cover a wide range of issues for seniors and aren’t always mobility related.
For starters, let’s talk hearing loss. For many seniors, the dreaded signs start early. The embarrassment of having to ask friends, family members, and service staff to repeat themselves. Having to turn up the television to a volume that disturbs other family members or neighbors. The feeling that if something in the past could have changed or been done differently, the hearing loss may not have been a problem. All these are embarrassing feelings seniors deal with.
There’s no need for any embarrassment – hearing aid technology is incredible these days, and even lower-end disability aids for hearings can help seniors cope with even the most painful and embarrassing disabilities. Long range hearing aids can hear up to several feet and can be adjusted for comfort depending on the volume of what’s going on in the environment. Now, more than ever before, seniors can enjoy movies, social events, outings, time with friends, listening to music, watching television and other pastimes they may have abandoned due to the hearing loss.
Wheelchairs, Motorized Scooters and More
Another important disability aid for seniors is the wheelchair or motorized scooter. Seniors may utilize either of these temporarily or may require them long term if walking or getting around has become a major issue.
Traditional wheelchairs are portable, easy to store and great to pull out if a senior needs them. With technological advancements flooding into the mobility market, many seniors these days prefer the comfort and ease of using a motorized wheelchair. These disability aids require far less energy to move around, are easy to keep up as part of popular maintenance plans, and are often covered by Medicaid and many other insurance plans. Many seniors prefer motorized scooters in and out of the home as a way to continue doing things like walking the dog, visiting stores or spending time with friends without having to spend large amounts of bodily energy motivating the chair around.
Some seniors don’t need to rely on wheelchairs, and instead, are using canes and walkers to get around. One of the greatest challenges of using these simple mobility aids is slipping. It’s very important to use a walking device that has some sort of non-skid apparatus to prevent slips and falls. Special tape or rubber skid proof plugs can be used for canes, while you’ll see many walkers outfitted with skid-free plugs or even devices like tennis balls. Regardless of how a senior decides to set it up, using a cane or other walking device can be a lifesaver and can greatly increase mobility if the proper steps are taken to ensure safety.
A variety of eye disabilities affect seniors, from decreased vision to cataracts to blindness. The prevalence of eye diseases, disorders, and weakened vision is higher as we age, so it’s important for seniors to work with insurance or Medicaid to ensure they’re covered in the event eye care is needed.
Quite often, spectacles or simple glasses can take care of any vision problem a senior may have – but as we age, the possibility of cataracts increases over time. Many seniors find that they need surgery and things like special glasses or guide care after a cataract surgery. Because cataracts can lead to blindness, it’s important for seniors to have a yearly exam – or even more than yearly if an eye doctor recommends. Preventive care is always of the utmost importance. So many potentially harmful issues can be sussed out and treated well before they advance with the care of the right doctor, and most insurances are more likely to cover these exams.
We all know that pain disabilities are no laughing matter. A variety of conditions can cause pain, from bone and joint injuries to post hepatic neuralgia to so many other diseases and disorders – too numerous to list here. The key for many of these disorders is to provide relief enough to increase quality of life, as some conditions cannot be properly or permanently treated.
Pain medication monitoring and administration can be difficult for a senior to go through, as the regulation of doctor visits and prescriptions is very strict to curb misuse.
Disabled seniors have real pain, and that pain must be dealt with along with the care of a doctor. Many medication-free remedies are available outside the use of prescriptions. TENS units, which stimulate the muscles a small amount in order to relieve pain, can be installed within or attached to certain parts of the body that experience pain. Physical therapy is another way doctors may encourage the relief of pain. Gently learning different methods of using inured parts of the body or working toward strengthening those parts can make a difference.
Massage, acupuncture and other less traditional therapies can also be helpful to managing pain. Quite often, these remedies aren’t covered by Medicare or other insurance, so it’s important to learn about the out-of-pocket costs. Make sure to check with Medicare or your insurance provider before attempting to write off these costs.
Oxygen and Breathing Apparatuses
COPD, emphysema, chronic pneumonia or bronchitis or even sleep apnea require breathing devices. As some of these diseases advance, the lung becomes less functional, requiring full-time or stronger oxygen, breathing treatments and CPAP machines. Make no mistake that breathing and sleep diseases can be incredibly debilitating for seniors. Those with advanced COPD lack the ability to care for themselves – so oxygen tanks and breathing treatments as disability aids should be recognized and covered by private insurance and Medicare.
Minor disability aids
Bandages wound care, orthopedic shoes and other items may also be covered by Medicare or your insurance provider. Not every disability requires major medical equipment. Smaller devices or items may also be required in addition to the major purchases. These vary by condition and by a senior’s individual need. Quite often, seniors are spending money on small items they don’t necessarily need to – make sure to check with insurance to see if simple items are covered.
This list is by no means intended to be all-inclusive; there are many disabilities and diseases which affect seniors. The most important things a senior can do are develop a close, trusting relationship with doctors and specialists. A senior should also know his or her rights and know what’s covered. Between pain management, breathing treatments, and other types of care, it’s understanding the options are critical.
It also can’t be stressed enough how important it is to place an advanced directive and to determine power of attorney. Seniors must know their options and have someone appointed who knows how the senior best wishes to deal with his or her disability in the case of failing health or the inability to communicate. Many seniors hold off on making this a part of a treatment plan, or a plan that addresses how to take care of a disability. Because of this, many seniors find their ultimate wishes aren’t properly respected or held up by the family.
Having a plan both for addressing disabilities and for any outcomes you’re looking for if placed in a treatment facility can make everything so much easier. Also, knowing what Medicare or insurance will cover when it comes to disability products for seniors or similar devices is smart, even if we’re discussing a senior being in a care home. Insurance may not cover everything the care home or hospital provides, so always know what will and won’t be covered and have a plan to address any single expenses. It’s also important to appoint someone to make these decisions in case the senior can no longer make them for him or herself.