December 27, 2021

Tips on Selecting Home Medical Equipment

A senior man with can sits in doctor office examination room

We'd all like to think our senior loved one will be ready to resume normal activity following a hospital discharge. But more times than not, recovery time is needed – with some instances requiring the purchase of medical equipment as they finish up his or her recuperation at home.

Your love one’s medical team can give you a list of equipment and materials you will need, including whether a prescription is required (e.g. home oxygen) and if insurance covers the costs.

Depending on his or her condition, the following are possible medical supplies that your loved one could need at home:

  • Cane
  • Wheelchair
  • Hospital Bed
  • Walker
  • Raised Toilet Seat
  • Shower Chair
  • Grab Bars
  • Colostomy care supplies
  • Oxygen
  • IV equipment
  • Respirator
  • Disposable Gloves
  • Incontinence Briefs

Some of these items, such as walkers, wheelchairs and hospital beds, are reusable and considered "durable medical equipment." Individuals with Medicare Part B can typically get durable medical equipment as long as the equipment is deemed medically necessary.

Renting Vs. Buying

More expensive equipment can often be rented instead of purchased. In fact, Medicare may require you to. In the instance where you have a choice, the American Elder Care Research Organization in its online article, "When to Rent vs. Buy Home and Durable Medical Equipment" suggests that you consider a few things before you make your decision:

  • Consider the length of time you will need the equipment and compare the rental costs over that time versus the upfront costs for full purchase.
  • If you purchase, determine how easy or difficult it will be to resell the equipment once a senior no longer needs it.
  • Rental agreements often cover maintenance and repair, but a purchase may not come with such a warranty. Consider the technical level of the equipment – those with more electronics might require frequent maintenance, which could increase costs.
  • If your loved one lives in different locations over the course of the year, think about the costs to transport purchased equipment versus renting materials at each location.
  • Look at an older adult's budget and see if it can support a high upfront cost or if lower monthly payments would be more manageable. If the budget is tight, consider seeking assistance from Veteran's associations, healthcare foundations and other state and local nonprofits.

Once you're ready to get the equipment, ask healthcare providers for references for local and trusted medical equipment suppliers. (Be sure you are going to a covered provider if your senior has a Medicare Advantage plan or long-term care policy.) You can then work with your vendor to make sure the equipment is delivered and in working order prior to your loved one's discharge from the hospital.

Having everything ready in advance for your loved one's return may help improve their comfort level, increase chances for a successful recovery and reduce your stress level.

Returning Home: Navigating a Hospital Discharge

Did you find this article helpful? Access more Returning Home articles and tools.
Caregiver taking care of senior woman in her bed

Personalized Senior Care

From respite care to 24-hour in-home care, at Home Instead, care plans and services can be tailored to meet your family’s needs.
Senior talking with caregiver