by Cheryl Ellis, Staff Writer
The varieties of situations caregivers deal with
on a yearly basis often include one or more experiences with medical
equipment brought into the home. Medical supply companies deal in
everything from oxygen to diabetic supplies, depending on the
company. While caregivers breathe a sigh of relief when the medical
supplies are first delivered, prolonged exposure can add to stress.
Who Pays The Price?
While physician offices try their best to find
medical equipment companies that are reliable, local, and are on the
patient’s insurance, caregivers must follow up with the company
directly to insure no later surprises.
Before the company even comes out to install the
equipment, caregivers may want to take any available moment to
clarify insurance coverage. Some pieces may be covered at 100
percent, but individual insurances differ from Medicare/Medicaid
assignments. The last thing needed is a bill at the end of the
month reflecting partial coverage.
Companies may work with the individual, writing
off portions. Not all of them will, and a caregiver must be prepared
to call the doctor’s office back to have them find another company,
or go in search of one that covers adequately. Usually, a call to
the customer service manager helps, but a caregiver could find
themselves eventually speaking to the company owner before making a
decision to remove the equipment.
This research is best done in the doctor’s
office before allowing them to phone the company. “One stop
shopping” has a reassuring sound to it, but surprises can and do
occur. Willingness to find another company must figure into the
Finally, just because the price is better
doesn’t mean the service is. You may be paying zero dollars out of
pocket, but the company must be tracked down when you have a
question. Companies that work with insurance, provide good customer
care, AND stay in business exist. Fifteen minutes of dedicated
caregiver work can result in months or years of peace.
Initial Relief, Prolonged Stress?
Mom’s oxygen concentrator will generally come
with one or more oxygen tanks as backup in case of power outages.
The caregiver may be surprised to find one piece of equipment has
turned into several (the original electric concentrator, oxygen
tubing, and tanks). Not only does it require some basic knowledge
to have the equipment in the home, but the task of finding safe
locations to store the pieces becomes critical. Mom may also be
resistant to using the oxygen, adding one more problem to a
situation that was supposed to improve life at home.
Know Your Responsibilities
From the start, clarify with the company
representative what your responsibilities are. Many companies come
out on a regular basis to check the status of the equipment. These
checks are part of their service in renting the equipment, but not
all items may be checked on. For example, wheelchair maintenance or
walkers are taken care of when a need arises. Yet, oxygen units,
feeding pumps and air compressors may require regular checks.
As a caregiver, it can be frustrating to come
home from a long day at work only to hear messages from a home care
rep that needs to maintain the equipment. If you have recently
ordered supplies, especially oxygen tanks, you may confuse
maintenance with supplies. The persistent attempts to contact you,
combined with the need to schedule a day and time, can leave a
caregiver wishing the equipment never came through the door.
“Standby” equipment can be the most annoying.
Find a spot to house the equipment while keeping it clean and
useful. If friends or family cannot be deployed to help find space,
take the opportunity to “hide” superfluous things in large plastic
When a loved one has an entire room devoted to
medical equipment, making it look more like a hospital room, it may
be important to consider professional rearranging. Those large
plastic bins with drawers can keep many items clean and ready to
use. Unfortunately, the look of plastic bins may only reinforce the
concept of illness, and how the home has been turned upside down by
In cases like this, you can consider having
professional work done by a contractor or other company to create a
space that is attractive and useful. Since you are putting money
into the home, and for the specific use of the loved one, you are
also meeting your financial responsibilities to them. Many design
consultants can help you find ways to store equipment and supplies
while keeping the “hospital” out of the atmosphere. This can be
exceptionally good for long-term caregiving, to diminish the focus
of “illness” being in the room.
Getting Your Needs Met
Part of meeting the needs of both patient and
caregiver comes from company maintenance. The down side of this
aspect is that one must be available to have a stranger come into
the home to do the work. Most companies give a general time frame
in which they will keep an appointment. This can be tough for anyone
with limited time to accept visitors of any kind.
Companies may not be able to place the caregiver
on a regular schedule. The caregiver who adapts to many other
circumstances may not be willing to adapt to having someone come in
to check serial numbers or measure pressures. Discussing the
expectations of the company for your availability helps greatly.
Again, this is where superior customer service
comes in. Many companies try to work with their patients and family
members. Companies that refuse to accommodate minor needs
eventually lose business, or close entirely.
The Last Say
In any caregiving situation, comfort of the
loved one is most important. A caregiver opens their home, life, and
heart to the special loved one in need. An oxygen tank, air
compressor, or any other apparatus should be looked upon as a
supplement to meet the needs of keeping a loved one well. The
benefits to incorporating these foreign instruments into our home
environment work to increase caregiver confidence in handling a
loved one’s care in the home.