For caregivers already under physical, emotional, and financial stress, a situation can become even direr when the person you care for has mobility challenges that make it difficult for them to get around.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, two-thirds of the almost 16 million adults over 65 with a disability report mobility problems as the source of theirs.

From leg weakness to joint pain, shortness of breath, and exhaustion, the inability to walk or climb for more than 10 minutes at a time can rob a senior of their independence and self-reliance.

Mobility aids can play an important role in helping your loved one keep moving (and limiting your stress and risk for injury). The truth is, however, it can be tough to know what type of mobility aid your loved one needs and how to go about getting it quickly and without breaking the bank.

Don’t miss these quick tips for finding the right (and most cost-effective) mobility equipment for your loved one:

Schedule a Consultation with Their Doctor

Many more doors will open for your loved one when it comes to maintaining their mobility if their doctor can provide a thorough consultation.

In evaluating your loved one’s mobility, their doctor may have them complete simple tests like standing up from and sitting down in a chair, walking back and forth across a room, and climbing stairs.

Depending on their conclusion, they should be able to recommend a mobility aid for your loved one that suits their needs. For example, if your aging parent has balance problems, they may recommend a walker over a cane.

If your loved one is living with a chronic illness which affects their mobility, such as multiple sclerosis, diabetes, heart disease, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, or arthritis, the specialist they see may be more apt than a general physician at defining the disability and making recommendations for mobility aids as well as exercise and physical therapy.

Get an Order

In order for insurance, like Medicare, to cover mobility aids – which are considered durable medical equipment – an explicit order from your loved one’s doctor must be submitted to an approved vendor.

The order serves as a prescription of sorts for a mobility aid and details exactly what type of equipment is recommended for your loved one.

They may say a simple quad cane is fine, or in cases of more serious disability, they may recommend a power chair or motorized scooter to maintain mobility and independence.

It is only with an order from a prescribing physician that Medicare will consider covering part of or the full cost of your loved one’s mobility aid. You may be required to work with specific companies in your region to fulfill a Medicare-approved order too, so do your research and ask questions.

Check with a Local Lending Program

Did you know that organizations all over the country are launching medical equipment lending programs to help out the growing number of seniors with needs in the U.S.?

Whether it’s your local Council on Aging, senior center, or even a faith ministry, chances are there are opportunities for you to borrow durable medical equipment your loved one needs without having to pay a cent.

This makes sense for seniors with progressive illnesses who might transition from a walker to a wheelchair over time, as well as for older adults who experience a temporary injury that requires a mobility aid, like knee replacement surgery.

Pay Out of Pocket (But Look for Deals!)

While having Medicare cover the expense or simply borrowing equipment for free may seem ideal, naturally, there are roadblocks to obtaining mobility aids using those avenues.

Working with an approved durable medical equipment vendor can take anywhere from a couple weeks to months depending on where you live, what your loved one needs, and which company you work with.

Lending programs are also extremely popular and may have waiting lists for the items you are looking for.

Staying mobile is critical for senior health outcomes, so if your loved one is in need of a mobility aid fast and you aren’t getting far with Medicare or lending programs, consider buying one out of pocket.

Starting with your pharmacy, check online or in the store to see if they sell basic (yet well-rated) mobility aids like canes and walkers. Do they have a sale going on? Can you apply rewards points to that purchase?

You may also want to do price comparisons and shop online. Even general marketplaces like Amazon carry mobility aids, including specialty wheelchairs, that you can order and have delivered right to your door.

How would you go about finding a mobility aid for a loved one? Would you consider insurance coverage, lending, or purchasing full price? If you already have experience with mobility aids, what is your best advice? Please share in the comments below.

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