My Story: When walking began to be difficult and getting around was limited, I got a prescription for an electric scooter from my doctor and my insurance company sent a representative. Mistake 1: I put complete trust in the representative because I knew nothing about mobility equipment. I ended up with a very large scooter that didn’t fit through the hallways and doorways of my home and was difficult to maneuver other places as well. Mistake 2: Then I allowed the rep to determine how I would transport the scooter. I ended up with a swing-arm lift in the back of our minivan. The scooter just barely fit in the van and the lift was difficult to operate. It wasn’t long before I didn’t have the leg strength to operate the lift myself and nobody else wanted to hassle with it. The scooter had some electrical issues that seemed to act up whenever I wanted to go somewhere. Overall, it was a lot of unnecessary disappointment and expense that could have been avoided.
Fast forward six years. Perhaps such compact models weren’t available when I first needed wheels, but what I have now is a zippy little number ordered online from Walgreen’s for $599. It comes apart in 3 pieces with the heaviest piece weighing not more than 35 pounds. It easily fits in the back of the minivan and husband doesn’t mind taking it (and therefore me) places. It does not have the battery power and longevity of a larger, heavier scooter, but it meets my needs and is user-friendly. People often stop and ask me about my scooter.
What I’ve learned: There are two ways to get a mobility device. I’ve always gone through my doctor and insurance company first. I know others go to a company and choose what they want, then let the company and insurance company work it out. I’ve purchased smaller things like walkers this way.
Warning: One size does not fit all. There is a lot of time and ability between walking and different wheels. The choices of canes, walkers and rollators can be overwhelming to the point where you just want someone else to decide for you. Give yourself time to think about what you need and make your own informed decisions. There are regular wheelchairs with bigger back wheels that can be moved by the person it it IF their hand and arm strength are adequate. There are transport chairs that are lighter (all small wheels). They are good for traveling because they are lighter and smaller, but someone must push the chair for you. Scooters are not all the same, they are different weights, sizes, 3-wheel or 4-wheel, etc. There are a zillion different kinds of power wheelchairs.
Take a look at this multipurpose gizmo. I used something similar for a trip when I needed the walker for short distances and a wheelchair for longer distances. All are available in “bariatric” sizes for those over 250 pounds. I don’t want to get into brands here, but there are great websites that review makes and models. Make sure you have a good cushion in/for whatever you order! More info to come.
For those who are ready to use spare tires, ask yourself questions first.
(1) Who is paying for it…..you, your insurance company or your insurance company with your co-pay? If you will be paying a co-pay, know what the percentage is and factor that in when an order is being placed (make sure you can afford your portion!). I haven’t found it easy to get companies to communicate with me about overall cost. It becomes a deal between the company and the insurance and it often leaves the patient/beneficiary out of the loop.
Insurance companies require approval or prescription from a doctor. If you do this step first, the insurance company will then send someone from their list of approved (mobility equipment) companies to decide what is best for you. Often, the individual and company/business doing the choosing will order the biggest, most complex and most expensive machine available because they are looking for the biggest profit. While having a professional measure to ensure the correct fit is vitally important for comfort, it is better to decide yourself what will work best for you and your environment. Many people end up with a monster of a machine that may fit his/her body but doesn’t fit his/her needs and can’t be used in his/her home.
Many insurance companies will try to ensure that if they are paying for expensive equipment, it will meet the mobility needs for a minimum of five (5) years.
Insurance companies will pay for maintenance only on equipment that they have approved and paid for. You cannot buy a used wheelchair and then ask insurance to pay for a new battery.
DME – Durable Medical Equipment. That is what insurance companies call walkers, wheelchairs, etc. They have codes used to identify what they are. I don’t know about other insurance companies, but mine has a code set aside for miscellaneous equipment like stair lifts and platform lists. If you can uncover what that code is, you may get coverage. A lot of the discovery lies in getting help from a nurse at your doctor’s office or the insurance guru at the company. Getting one of them to talk to the insurance company leads to better results.
(2) What will you be using the wheels for? Just at home? Just for long distances? Both?
(3) Where will it need to fit? Are your doorways and hallways wide enough for what you’ll order?
(4) How will you get it from the house to outside, into and out of a car?
If you already have spare tires, what can you share that will help others?