In the not-so-distant past, if you had a serious chronic medical condition or even a serious but temporary injury or illness, you had very limited options for self-care at home. You could improvise the medical supplies that you needed, making substitutions as best you could or you stayed in the hospital or in a convalescent home so that you had all of the care and the supplies that you really needed to get well. Thankfully, those days are gone and most people deal with even the most serious of conditions in their own home, buying or even renting medical supplies of all kinds to be used in their care. There are many kinds of medical supplies including disposable, reusable, and one-time purchase. There are big ticket items and items that can be purchased only with a doctor's prescription.
Even those medical supplies that do not require a doctor's order to rent or to purchase should be discussed with the medical team who may be able to suggest the best brands, help you find better prices, or a closer to home resource for whatever you might need.
Medical Supplies that Are Disposable
There are a number of medical supplies that are by definition "disposable," meaning that they are intended to be used one time and then thrown away. Some of these can be tossed into the trash can while others must be disposed of in a different way. Sharps, the medical term for anything that can poke, puncture or break the skin, must be disposed of in a sharps container, purchased from a medical supplies store, provided by a doctor or ordered online. You can use a coffee can or something similar in a pinch, but the lid must be taped securely and it must be labeled as medical waste so that there are no accidental contacts made with the contents.
In some cases, disposable medical supplies are reused by people who just cannot afford to use these items one time and then throw them away. If not properly sterilized, however, these items can cause infections and other problems.
Some disposable medical supplies can only be used one time because of their very nature. Nutritional supplements such as protein shakes and meal replacement bars are often considered to be medical supplies and are completely disposable in that they can only be consumed one time. Some supplements come in sizes that are larger than single serving making them more economical overall. Profect, from Protica is a protein supplement that is often marketed and sold in a single shot serving size which is the perfect amount of protein at one time and less than three ounces in size. In addition to this handy and fast to consume single-serving size, there are other versions of the protein supplement including larger sizes that are more economical and can be perfect for those who are using it every day for long term use.
Medical Supplies that Are Not Disposable
Reusable medical supplies like special bedding or items that are worn to protect the skin from pressure damage can be washed and reused and may last several months or even years. There are even articles of clothing that technically qualify as medical supplies, especially if they are adaptive in nature and meant to help a person who has limited physical capabilities to be more independent.
One Time Purchase or Rental Medical Supplies
There are additional medical supplies that only need to be bought one time and then used until the patient is fully recovered, moves from the home, or dies. These items are the bigger priced and usually larger sized items, but may include smaller supplies like canes or walkers. Hospital beds for home use and wheelchairs are typically some of the most expensive items that are purchased or rented through a medical supplies dealer and do not always need a doctor's prescription. For certain insurance programs, which may cover some or all of the cost of these medical supplies, it might be necessary to have a prescription in hand.
Some of these items must be fitted to the patient to be used correctly. For instance, crutches, walkers, and canes must be adjusted to be at the right height for the patient or they may be dangerous and cause pain.
There are dozens of types of wheelchairs and other mobility devices and it is important to discuss these with the patient, the patient's family, and the medical professionals who are involved in the care. There are some patients who will use a wheelchair for everything when the doctor would prefer that they actually do some walking during the day, especially for short distances around the house. It is important that you are only using the medical supplies that are available in a way that helps the patient, not hinders the care.
Resources for Medical Supplies
Another option is thrift stores, yard or estate sales and consignment shops, but only for certain items. You can find some of the items that you need without spending a lot of money. However, use great caution when buying them and never buy any of the items that should be specially sized for one particular person. Some items can be easily adjusted at home for the right size but should be completely sterilized before being used by the new owner. Household bleach should be poured on the item and then allowed to dry without rinsing to kill the germs that may be lurking on the surface.
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