Medical Services And Supplies

By Barbara Small

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Medical Equipment and Supplies

A wide variety of aids and equipment are available for purchase or loan to help individuals with communication, mobility or specific personal care needs. These aids may allow your family member to stay in their own home longer. They can also help to reduce the workload experienced by family caregivers.

These resources include:

  • Communication aids
  • Vision aids
  • Incontinence supplies
  • Specialized clothing
  • Medical equipment
  • Mobility aids and supports
  • Orthopedic appliances and prosthetics
A number of community loan cupboards exist from which you can borrow medical equipment such as hospital beds, walkers, commodes and wheelchairs. These services charge either a small fee, operate by donation or are free. You can also contact your local Canadian Red Cross. Several businesses focus solely on selling medical aids and equipment, including local pharmacy chains that have opened specialized Home Health Care outlets. In the CRD, the Seniors' Services Directory, published by Seniors Serving Seniors, provides a comprehensive listing of these resources.

Your regional health authority, Home and Community Care division may also be able to provide a list of resources. In addition, the Family Caregivers' Network Society website ( includes a list under "local resources." Finally, some seniors' complexes have their own supply rooms, where residents can donate and share aids and equipment.

Aids or equipment will change along with the needs of your care recipient. Your case manager, homecare nurse, family doctor, physical therapist or home support worker can help you decide what medical supplies you need. Also, ask other family caregivers what they have found to be helpful.

Some of the aids that my family found helpful when caring for my parents were:

Mobility: walker, wheelchair, cane, anti-slip mats to put under area rugs, night lights

Bathing: grab bars, stool for sitting in shower when standing becomes too difficult, hand-held shower head

Bed: washable sheep skin mattress pad to increase comfort in bed, avoid excess sweating and help prevent bedsores, a back support that helps the patient sit up in bed when eating or reading, a washable flannel sheet protector to protect the bed from stains and also to assist with lifting and turning over

Toileting: Raised toilet seat with grab bars, bedside commode (especially helpful during the night and when getting to the bathroom is difficult), and incontinence supplies

Eating: Deep bowl or plate with rim makes scooping up food with utensils easier and minimizes spilling, a child's "sippy cup" with hole enlarged or a water bottle with a narrow opening to facilitate drinking while in bed or when grasp is weak, bendable straws, a dishcloth placed under dishes to prevent sliding on tray or table

Communication: Baby monitor to allow caregivers to hear their family member when they call for assistance and to monitor movement, breathing, etc., cordless phone

Mouth Care: Sponges or gels are available to help with dry mouth, non-alcoholic mouthwash for teeth cleaning and to help with mouth sores

This is just a sampling of the medical equipment and supplies available to assist in your caregiving role. Check out all that is available and use your creativity to come up with some unique solutions of your own.

Next month: Tips for Avoiding Caregiver Burnout

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