When Equipment is Necessary – but Too Expensive

One of the biggest challenges caregivers face is when a condition progresses to the point of needing specialized equipment to help our person retain independence, comfort, and safety. Depending on the condition, your person may be in need of a variety of specialized equipment – and none of it is cheap.

Even with insurance, deductibles, co-pays, minimums – it all adds up.

When my darling was transferred to one of the best rehabilitation facilities in the country after a major progression in 2018, the therapists who worked with him shared some valuable advice with us.

Make friends with a local DME (durable medical equipment) supplier, and ask if they are selling a “demo” of the item you need.

In our case, insurance will cover ONE wheelchair every five years.

He was fitted for a special motorized wheelchair while in the rehab facility – and insurance covered the cost of most of this item. The total cost for this chair was in the range of $40,000, of which we paid a small (fortune) portion – but still, it was not the full cost.

However, his therapists advised that his day-to-day manual wheelchair also needed to be customized. The wheelchair he used to use had little padding, and a soft back, increasing his chances of musculoskeletal issues in the future.

Since insurance only covers one wheelchair every five years, we had to pay for this new wheelchair out-of-pocket. The new manual wheelchair would retail for between $2,600-$3,400.

We were lucky enough to meet a local DME supplier that covered our town and spoke to him about our need for a custom manual wheelchair. He worked with his contacts to locate a demo of the wheelchair in the appropriate specifications for $1,000.

This is only one example of how our local DME supplier has been able to help us. He is currently on the lookout for a “SaraStedy” – a sit-to-stand apparatus that is not covered by our insurance. This item retails for approximately $2,500. Our DME supplier can get us a demo for $600.

Another helpful tidbit?

Sometimes, rehab facilities will sell equipment if they are getting new equipment in and, many rehab facilities have a bulletin board where individuals sell items they don’t need anymore.

Even if insurance covers the item that you require, I would still do a cost comparison and work with your DME supplier to see what the cash-pay price would be for the same item as a demo. Sometimes, it’s cheaper to buy the item this way than to go through insurance.

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Wife, mother, writer, and caregiver. If you're here for support and caregiving life hacks, you've come to the right place.

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