The Challenge of Durable Medical Equipment
It comes as no surprise that many older adults are reluctant to use durable medical equipment, or DME, when necessary. DME can come in many forms: from a hospital bed to a wheelchair, from a cane to a walker. Even a shower bench, grab bars, or other shower equipment are considered DME.
There can be a lot of reasons for this resistance. For one, DME can be expensive. Another reason older adults many not use DME is because it can be a visual reminder of functional loss, as well as the loss of independence. Both can be very hard to accept. A walker may signify the loss of the ability to walk on your own, rather than be perceived as a too. Older adults may not want to use DME because there is a stigma surrounding it. Others may not have accepted the fact that they need help and are in denial about their need for DME. There are hundreds of reasons why someone would not want to use this necessary equipment.
How exactly do you get a reluctant loved one to use their DME?
Those who refuse to use such equipment may have been independent all their lives, and do not want to give that up even in their older years. The key is to be patient. You should never grow impatient with an older loved one for not wanting to use their DME. Just continue suggesting they use it or even show them how to use it. Remind them that the DME will only make their lives safer. You can enlist the help of a healthcare provider to specifically explain the importance of the DME.
The important factor is to remember that you can not force someone to do something they do not want to do or do not feel ready to. Keep gently reminding them how much easier their lives would be. Some healthcare providers even recommend families of an older adult to attend physical or occupational therapy where the use of DME is demonstrated. Try to frame the conversation around the fact that the DME can help them reach their physical and functional goals. Sometimes the use if DME is only temporary, if utilized properly.
Admitting weakness of asking for help can be very hard for some older adults, especially if it geared towards asking their children. If you are caring for an aging parent, remember that reluctance is a huge factor when giving this care. They may perceive this as a “role reversal” and feel somewhat uncomfortable with the idea of the child they cared for now caring for them.
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Source: The Challenge of Getting Older Adults to Use DME by Keith Loria. Today’s Geriatric Medicine Volume 15, No 2. March/April 2022.