The most dangerous room in the house is . . . the bathroom

Did you know the bathroom is the most dangerous room in the house? Over 80% of all falls occur in the bathroom. A buddy of mine (who is less than 40 years old) had a nasty fall in the bathroom last year and ended up on home health . . . and he was healthy. Imagine if you or a loved one is dealing with stability issues, how this can go up.

Bathroom aids such as grab bars help in transferring throughout the bathroom. Many people use their own towel racks for this purpose which is a horrible idea because towel racks do not have a weight capacity and are usually not properly secured to the wall. If you do want to double-dip with a multi-function towel rack and grab bar, there are some grab bars that double as towel racks. Also, installing grab bars on plastic or fiberglass wallboard can be complicated and many tub and showers have gaps between the unit that make the usual attachment almost impossible. There are adapter kits available to help fill this gap in. Howard’s does not offer this service for liability reasons but most hardware stores such as Ace, Home Depot, and Loews can walk you through this process.

For the shower or tub, most people use shower or transfer benches. They come with or without backs and with or without commode cutouts. Even if you don’t think you need a back we will usually throw it in because if you need it at a later date they are not sold separately and only add about $5 to the price of the chair/bench and can always be taken off and stored. I would hate to see anyone ever fall in the shower which is why we have the lowest prices in town in bath safety. We will sell a standard shower chair for as little as $39.99 and if that is an issue, tell me you read this blog and we’ll sell you a used (cleaned of course) for half that. There is also a new product on the market (electric bathtub patient lift) which is great for someone who is unstable that still needs to bath. We have these on display at our Yakima store because we know many people don’t want to plunk down hundreds of dollars before seeing and trying an item. Do know that the rubber tips need to be maintained on all bath safety equipment. If they are cracking and wearing out you will need to have them replaced.

With toilet seats there are differing degrees of raise one can add to the toilet. There are several different kinds depending on the raise one needs, how you would like to attach or bolt them on, and whether or not one needs arms. For our shorter customers, many do not need a raised toilet but will still need a toilet safety frame to aide in standing and sitting.
There are three main kinds of commodes available. The most popular is the bedside commode. Most insurances including Medicare (but not DSHS in Washington State) will cover a bedside commode if it is for use in the bedroom and there is documentation that the patient is limited to that one room with a doctor’s prescription. There are also drop-arm commodes and wheeled commodes. I prefer the knock-down commodes because when they are not needed, they fold out of the way and don’t take as much space. Please note that weak and unstable patients should never be left unattended sitting on a commode.

I’d love to tell you your insurance will help you out with covering medical equipment in the bathroom but most consider it a “home improvement” item and will not cover any item in the bathroom. Here is Yakima, we have had some success getting some bath safety items covered by the COPES program with ALTC. If you do not have the money to do some of these improvements and are on DSHS, you can call ALTC at 509-469-0500 and they can walk you through the process that this entails of getting bath safety covered by the state. Usually one has a caseworker, we send him/her a bid, and this is either covered or denied by the state. I’m hesitant to write this because it seems like Washington State insurance changes hourly so do not quote me on this. I will also say, whether it is Howard’s or another local DME store here in Yakima, if one store goes to all the trouble of creating a bid, educating the customer, and talking through the options, if they do not win the bid please contact them and let them know this so they can adjust their pricing.

Last, people love to prove me wrong regarding whether or not their insurance will cover bath safety items. If you think your insurance will cover these items I have attached a list of bathroom procedure codes. Don’t call your insurance and ask them, “Do you cover a raised toilet seat.” Call them and ask them, “Do you cover procedure code E0244 for use in the bathroom?” In insurance talk E0244 is equal to raised toilet seat. Likewise, E0163 is equal to bedside commode.

If you have any question regarding bathroom safety, give us a call at 509-654-9899. We also offer free in-home assessments if you would like us to walk through your or a loved-one’s home and offer suggestions.

There are a number of different kinds of raised toilet seats for under $50.
One of our brand new fully-electric bath lifts with a rechargeable battery. We have a unit on display at our Yakima showroom for anyone wishing to try the lift.
Erik Mickelson
Team Lead at Howard’s Medical Supply

Which walker is right for you?

When it comes to walkers and canes I have to admit that I’m a nerd. I have been known to stop people at Costco and church and refit their ill ‘fitting walkers and canes they have  purchased on the internet or at another medical supply. When it comes to fitting a walker, the key thing to remember is the handgrips need to at the level of the hip joint. If it is too high, it can get away from the customer. If the walker is too low, it promotes bad posture.
One of the most common features one can add to a walker is wheels. In fact, I would say about 95% of our walkers we dispense at Howard’s has wheels because it makes it much easier to propel. If you are not sure whether or not wheels is right, it is best to talk to your doctor or physical/occupational therapist who is familiar with if they are right for the patient’s current mobility situation.

Canes, crutches and walkers are designed to add stability and increased independence. Many people do not know that once someone is at a high risk of falls and lacks the coordination with a walker with wheels then a walker with wheels SHOULD NOT BE USED! At this point, it is strongly recommend the patient move to a wheelchair because of the level of risk.

Unfortunately, I can tell you several stories of people who were fine with walkers but only switched to a wheelchair after a fall instead of before the fall. If you or a loved one is becoming unstable, don’t wait until after the fall where a hip has been broken.
One does not need a prescription to get a walker at Howard’s; however, if they would like us to bill their insurance for a walker, we have to have one ahead of time and most insurance will cover walkers as long as they have not previously purchased one in the previous five years or previously purchased a wheelchair, scooter, or power wheelchair.
With the advent of the internet I have to admit that someone can purchase a walker cheaper on sites such as amazon or other online medical supply stores. One of the benefits of shopping at your local Selah or Yakima DME (durable medical equipment) store such Howard’s is we will offer the proper instruction on the use of the item. We usually also offer a 15-day trial (if the item is brought back in new condition). We also offer a one-year warranty if something needs to be fixed or brakes tightened that first year.

Walkers range in price from $59.99 from your standard grade aluminum folding walker up to $399.99 for a European walker with suspension system. We also have a whole lot in between with big wheels, small wheels, new, used, pink, green, blue . . . you get the point?
The picture with this blog is the rolling rollator with 8” wheels with seat, brakes and basket. It retails for $179.99 but is usually covered by your insurance.

If you have any question regarding walkers, give us a call at 509-654-9899. As Forrest Gump’s friend “Bubba” knew of hundreds of different way to prepare shrimp, we at Howard’s have almost a hundred different kinds of walkers to sell or rent (this is an exaggeration but it is still about ten different kinds in our store and including drop-ship options and colors is over one-hundred).

Walk upright, Erik (team lead Howard’s)