Many people with MS at some point find using medical and assistive equipment helpful for maintaining independence. These items are available to purchase, rent or borrow. When searching for equipment, it’s helpful to understand the terms you will see. This guide will explain some of the common equipment used to enhance autonomy and offer suggestions of things to consider before making a purchase.
Assistive technology (AT) is any device, software or equipment that helps people increase or maintain independence and accomplish tasks. Examples of AT include text-to-speech software, hearing aids, adaptive keyboards and smart home technology products.
Durable medical equipment (DME) includes wheelchairs (manual and electric), hospital beds, canes, crutches, walkers, shower chairs, grab bars, pressure mattresses, lifts and more.
Things to consider when purchasing or renting medical and assistive equipment:
- Get an evaluation from an expert to determine what type of equipment will help meet your goals. This is often a physical or occupational therapist and/or wheelchair seating clinic. Ask your MS healthcare provider for a referral.
- Get recommendations for where to purchase from the expert helping you select the equipment but try to shop at a medical equipment provider, sometimes called a rehabilitation technology or assistive technology supplier.
- Ask if the vendor participates in Medicare or Medicaid if you are a beneficiary.
- Be sure the vendor is accredited by RESNA, the Rehabilitation Engineering & Assistive Technology Society of North America.
- Explore health insurance coverage and public and private funding options, such as state programs or national non-profits.
- Try before you buy—see the equipment in person and test out how you feel with it. Insurers will often only pay for one piece of a particular equipment for a lifetime.
- Anticipate future needs and purchase equipment that can be adapted or have features added to it later if you need them.
- Ask if the vendor you plan to purchase from will also service that equipment if it should break. Most insurers will pay for repairs to equipment they purchased.
The most helpful resource for accessing loaned equipment is your local Center for Independent Living. This resource is cross-referenced both in the Medical & Assistive Technology category and the Independent Living Centers category in the Find Doctors & Resources category. Consult with your healthcare provider before accepting donated equipment to ensure it is suitable for your needs.