Monday, August 01, 2005

Disability Assistance Devices/Aids

So, you have decided to accept that you need - no WANT - to live a quality life even with your disability, chronic condition. If you are stubborn like me, one of the hardest things for me to admit to myself, let alone to anyone else, is that I could no longer do the "normal" day-to-day activities like I used to do. Not being able to walk without falling was easy; it is "acceptable" to walk with a walker, or with canes. But what about bathing and other bathroom needs that are not so easily accomplished? Admit that you need help? Not me! Until, one night, I literally fell off of the toilet seat when I got what we with Multiple Sclorosis call the "MS Hug" (a charleyhorse in your torso).

So, OK. How do we find out what we need, where to get what we need, and who will pay for it? Here are some answers.

1) If you are keeping a list or a diary of your condition's symptoms and their impact on your daily activities, you should be ready to acknowledge areas where you need help. Some of them include, but are not limited to, the following:
  • bath and shower aids
  • dressing aids
  • food preperation and kitchen aids
  • non-skid "disks" for furniture and dishes
  • mobility aids
  • cup grips and hand grips and silverware grips
  • medical assistance aids
  • low vision assistance aids
  • hearing devices
  • etc.

These are but a few of the many categories of disability assistance devices/aids, as I am calling them. I found literally hundreds of websites that offer such aids for sale. You can probably find places that sell such aids in your local grocery stores; drug stores; larger stores like Wall Mart, etc. If you like using the Internet to compare prices, a website that I found that I really liked is this one:

I guess that I liked the name of the company, and its philosophy of "freedom living devices". For, the bottomline is that that's what you are looking for with these devices.

2) So, you have done some research on your own, but really want some professional assistance. You can ask your Primary Care Doctor to refer you to what is called an "Occupational" or "vocational" Doctor. When I had problems walking, since I have what is called the MS "foot drop", and needed canes and a brace; and, when I found myself repeatedly choaking when drinking fluids and eating, my Doctor sent me to such a Doctor. She was fantastic! She sent me to visit various "occupational and vocational" therapists. They did their testing, and fitted me up with my walking canes; my leg brace; a motorized skooter; and, provided me with ways to avoid choaking while drinking and eating. (I always use a straw to drink liquids; and, I don't eat "little foods" like raw carrots, peas, corn, etc. alone, but "mush" them up with a solid, like potatoes, to form sort of a lump of food. May not sound great, but it keeps me from choaking!)

3) So, you have found things that might make your life easier (not that you have admitted to yourself and others that such "assistive devices" might be of help) and you have a referral to get personalized help. Now for the big question: who will pay for these assistive devices?

If you are lucky and have medical insurance, get ahold of what is called your medical insurance's SPD or Summary Plan Description. This document describes your insurance coverage. Look up something called "Durable Medical Equipment" (DME). Sometimes there is a limit per device; sometimes you pay a co-pay and insurance pays the rest. It is always good to know what they will pay.

AND, NOW IS A GOOD TIME to use the coverage to get the assistive devices. Most insurance plans have what is called an "annual deductible" that must be met before payment kicks in. That's why I usually recommend that folks meet this in the first few months of the year, and then, by July and August, go for the "big ticket items".

In my case, I got my leg brace, my forearm crutches (sometimes called "Canadian crutches") that I really love, and my motorized skooter and the insurance company picked up 80% of all the costs.

Now, it is very important to know this information ahead of time. Your occupational and vocational staff will work with your insurance company to fill out the paperwork the "correct way", but they need your help to get the paperwork correct.

Hope that this helps you in your journey of self-management. Once again, please ask questions if you want any additional information.


Blogger SandraM in TX said...

I have found several wonderful "assistrance devices" that traditional insurance does not cover. Any ideas on obtainng financial assistance?

5:55 AM  
Blogger Carolyn said...

Dear Sandram in TX: I have some ideas, and let's see what others have to say.

1) I'd ask your Doctor (your Primary Care Doctor) if s/he had heard about the device that you had found, and if s/he could/would write a specific prescription for you to use that device. You would have to give him/her some help in documenting just what symptoms you have that the assistive device you have found might help.

If she/he cannot help you, ask him/her to refer you to an Occupational Doctor. Then, ask that Occupational Doctor the same question. Again, you will have to assist in the documentation!

2) If you belong to any disability associations, often they have funds for those who cannot afford them.

Anyone out there who has any other ideas?

9:41 PM  

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