Our roles in helping older adults age in place

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Steven Z. Zeldes
Steven Z. Zeldes

Healthcare is an industry that will always be around, always needed and always important. It's an industry that is based on care, love and concern. In most cases, whether it is a senior citizen or a disabled individual, those caring for them have an abundance of love for what they are doing; that's something that won't change.

And yet the industry is full of changes. In particular, the face of home healthcare seems to be changing constantly. Now more than ever, older adults are electing to age in place.

Part of the reason for this change is that the baby boomer generation, the oldest members of which are turning 70 this year, have seen strides made in almost every sector of commerce, with massive developments in technology and overall higher standards of living.

Most people feel more secure, happy and comfortable in their own homes. They want to be able to sleep in their own bedrooms, use their own bathrooms and watch TV in their own living rooms. And in so many cases, they are willing to do whatever it takes to make that happen.

Paying out-of-pocket for supplies and equipment

For this and other reasons, there has been tremendous growth in the number of people who pay for their medical supplies and equipment out-of-pocket. Sometimes, for instance, insurance doesn't cover a particular item that an older adult wants, or the individual wants more than what the insurance company is willing to cover. For example, even if someone has two rooms and wants one hospital bed in each room, most insurance plans still will cover only the first one.

For some people, paying out-of-pocket is a simple matter of wanting to avoid what they view as the hassle of having to deal with an insurance company; they prefer to just pay for something themselves. In general, people would rather have their supplies and equipment covered by insurance, but for whatever reason, they find themselves needing to pay for it on their own.

More responsibility for us

But this change creates a bigger responsibility for all us in the industry who are dedicated to their care. We must ask ourselves whether we are truly trying to do everything we can, whether the services we provide are up to standard, and whether there is anything else we can do to make their lives a little easier.

This mission will manifest itself differently in different parts of the industry. For those of us in medical supply and equipment businesses, we should try to meet these goals by striving to have the best-quality products at affordable pricing and trying to take extra steps to help older adults. Whether it's incontinence products, wheelchairs, bathroom safety equipment, daily living aids or wound care products, people want to know that they are buying the most appropriate product for them.

Often, older adults need care and services, or medical supplies and equipment, suddenly and do not know where to begin. They need and deserve that extra helping hand to listen to them, guide them and help them determine what they need.

When it comes to medical supplies and equipment, that means helping older adults determine what product would work best, what would be the most comfortable and whether a product exists that would be affordable and make a difficult situation just a bit easier.

We all have a role to play in addressing questions to adequately help aging-in-place older adults and their caregivers.

Steven Z. Zeldes is CEO of medical supply store AvaCare Medical.

McKnight's Senior Living welcomes marketplace columns on subjects of value to the industry. Please see our submission guidelines for more information.

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