Durable medical equipment and supplies can help keep seniors in their homes

Even if it were possible to build enough senior living facilities fast enough to house all the Baby Boomers needing care now or later, how many can afford the cost of assisted living, memory care or skilled nursing? There are alternatives, and the most practical for most people is aging in place. Today’s expert on the topic is Tom Hall of Affordable Medical Equipment.

Advocating for yourself or a loved one: Our Mother Voice

Episode  #13: Aging in Place with Melissa Sprouse Browne

Navigating in Reverse is written and produced by The F-Suite, LLC.  All right reserved. Our sponsors are Affordable Medical Equipment, the Central South Carolina Habitat for Humanity ReStore and Ask Caroline.


Transcript: PODCAST EPISODE #21: Aging in Place with Affordable Medical Equipment

Anna: Many seniors and their caregivers either can’t afford the expense of living in a senior living community or simply don’t want to. We’ve talked about it before and we’ll talk about it again and again and again. Yes, today’s topic is aging in place.

Anna: Hello and welcome to Navigating in Reverse, the podcast for people caring for seniors and who are often in the awkward position of parenting their aging parents. I’m Anna Gelbman Edmonds, your host and publisher of Reverse Magazine. The goal of both the podcast and the magazine is to educate caregivers on the products and services that can make their jobs easier and to discuss innovative and creative concepts that are changing the future of senior living.

Today, we’ll do all of that by starting out with the fact that the people of the humongous baby boom generation are now themselves either caring for a parent in care of themselves or will soon need some level of care. The youngest of them are in their early sixties. Even if it were possible to build enough senior living facilities fast enough to house them all. How many can afford the cost of assisted living, memory care or skilled nursing? There are alternative, and the most practical for most people is aging in place. My guest today is an expert on the topic. And so, without further ado, I’ll simply welcome Tom Hall of Affordable Medical.

Tom: Good morning. Good to be here.

Anna: In full transparency, Affordable Medical is a sponsor of Navigating in Reverse. But that’s okay. We just need to tell our listeners that.

Tom: Believe in what you’re doing.

Anna: Well, thank you. I actually believe in what you guys are doing too. So, can you please tell my listeners what Affordable Medical is and the role what you play over there?

Tom: Sure. Mobility Solutions, doing business as Affordable Medical Equipment is a 16 year old DME company (that stands for durable medical equipment). It started out as a family owned business and it’s pretty much family that works there. If you’re not part of the blood family, you become part of the work family very quickly because it’s an environment that can be very demanding. So we try to keep it light with our customers.

We do everything from hospital beds to permanent in-home beds to wheelchairs, to powered wheelchairs, to recliners that are also happen to be beautiful lift chairs. And we provide all sorts of daily living aids, such as bathing aids and safety aids. We do lifts, stairlifts ramps, just about anything, with the exception of oxygen or blood.

Anna: Super. So we’ve talked about aging in place here before with Melissa Spruce Brown. And listeners can go back to our archives and look for that episode because it covers a different aspect of aging in place than we’re going to talk about today. But for those who aren’t familiar with the term aging in place, can you tell them what that actually means?

Tom: Sure. And a little bit of a broader scope as well. Aging in place is the decision whether by choice or financial situation, the decision to stay at home or to stay close to home or to stay in a mother-in-law suite or whatever the case may be, as opposed to moving to independent living or assisted living or something like that. There are several factors driving that. Sometimes it’s not a pretty easy decision to make, but it’s staying where you are making the most of the tools that are available to help you age safely, securely, comfortably and satisfied.

Anna: Right. So the last time we did this, we talked about basic steps that almost anybody can take. The simple ones, you know, are locks on the doors and different lighting and things like that. But your business takes a totally different perspective. This is for people who have more intense needs to be able to stay at home for the most part.

Tom: Yeah.

Anna: So aging in place, is that an alternative to to independent living and independent living is still usually considered in a senior living community. It’s just that you’re not in assisted living or skilled nursing, correct?

Tom: That’s correct.

Anna: So is this an alternative to independent living?

Tom: Yeah, absolutely. Independent living is something can be expensive.

Anna: Mm hmm.

Tom: It can be overwhelming, especially if you lived in your home for 25, 50 years, whatever the case may be. You’ve raised a family there. You maybe even have had a loss. You know, maybe lost a loved one in that house. So living in place, aging in place is certainly an apt alternative. And it’s something that can be done very successfully.

Anna: Well, the other thing I think about, too, because I as I tell people all the time, I was a caregiver and we had to move my mother not only from her home but to my house and then to assisted living and then to a different assisted living. And she had mild dementia and I saw her go downhill with every move.            I mean, even if you don’t have dementia, it’s very traumatic. I think even at my age, you know, my kids would love to see me move closer to them so that I could see my grandson more. You know, there’s reasons to do that. But I don’t feel like developing a new community at my age. I’ve been here for 30 years and it’s important.

So when you move these seniors, even down the block, it’s a whole new house, new neighbors, new drug store, right? So there are a lot of reasons to consider aging in place. Mostly for their mental and emotional well-being, I think. Absolutely. So, let’s talk about some of these tools that you all have. I’m just going to let you go for it. It’s a huge store. So take it away.

Tom: Thank you. And we can’t fit it all in.

Anna: No, I know we can’t.


Tom: And, you know, so much of what we do is outside the store, and we literally just don’t really have anywhere in the store to display some of the things that we do. But I mean, when you walk in the store and I’ll tell you a couple scenarios here, for somebody that’s 30 to 50 in that range, all of a sudden, boom, they’ve fallen into this spot where they’ve got to take care of their parents and they come in. Their eyes are the size of half dollar pieces.

Anna: And glazed.

Tom: And glazed over and they’re frowning and they’re totally confused. And we can spot them a mile away. And so our approach is just breathe, relax. We’re going to take care of you to help you. We’re here to help you. And we’re going to take as long as it takes to just get you comfortable with some different ideas. Right. Because that’s where it all starts.

It’s just being informative enough, having the information, which we do, to just help people at least look at some different things and think about start thinking about decisions they’re going to make. So if mom or dad or both were living in a in a, you know, old ranch style home, they’re stairs to get into the house. So what do you want to do there?

Do you want to do a ramp in a garage? If it’s in a garage, we probably want to look at a small footprint vertical platform lift, which doesn’t take up nearly the space that that ramp does. Ramps are sometimes can be outlawed in HOAs.

Anna: Oh, I didn’t know that. Oh, yes. I sound okay.

Tom: No, no, that’s not.

Anna: Doesn’t the ADA cover something like that.

Tom: Outside of my league and pay grade. I don’t know that.  That’s a good question for you to raise. But somebody will put them on the back porch. So so you’ve got those kind of things. And then, you know, you’ve got simple stuff like walkers and roll items. Roll ADA is is a walker with four wheels and a seat for sitting down. You’ve got wheelchairs. We’ve got specialty wheelchairs. We have powered wheelchairs which actually get into the whole technology thing.

But I won’t go there yet, or to scooters. We do a lot of stairlift systems, so if mom and or dad are in a split-level home or a two-story home, we can put in stairlifts that actually will take them, you know, up the steps around the corner. And we’ve done some incredibly crafty and beautiful, stair lifts that went up multi-story homes, did turns well, took the turns and everything there. They’re beautiful.

Anna: Grandkids play on those, too.

Tom: Yeah, I know, I know. Laundry a frequent carrier.

Anna: I would do that!

Tom: We’ve gotten into the elevator business.

Anna: Oh, wow.

Tom: Yep. Some people, for whatever reason, they prefer an elevator to a STAIRLIFT. And the elevator systems that we do are gorgeous. I mean, they complement the home so well and they’re very well done.

Anna: But what about the resale of the home later? That that’s permanent, right?

Tom: That’s a problem with those. The stairlifts can be taken out.

Anna: Right.

Tom: But the elevator, Yeah, that’s rather a permanent thing.

Anna: So, I know somebody with an elevator in their home but it was a huge 6000 square foot home.

Tom: And typically, it’s going to be installed in a larger home

We’ve got the best incontinence product on the market, bar none. We give out a couple of samples and they become permanent customers.

Anna: I know women who’ve had a lot of babies that need those! I just know so many women who hit 50 and they’re like, “oh, my gosh, I need Depends!”

Tom: Probably our biggest lines are lift chairs that provide good health. It’s not just a matter of being comfortable in a chair.  Rather it’s a matter of being comfortable in the right chair that is going to help circulate your blood in the proper channels so that when that blood is circulating properly now, I do feel better. It’s a health chair and when you get up, you have more energy, you feel better, the pains are less. That’s what they’re designed for. The lift feature is great for those that need it, but it’s really the comfort and superiority of the product that that provides you that level of comfort and healing.

Anna: It’s super important because your bodies are made to move and old people don’t move, or they don’t like to move, anyway. When I came into the store the last time I spotted something. I don’t know if you remember.

I spotted a low ticket, relatively low-ticket item, and thought, Oh my gosh, I didn’t know that I could get these anywhere besides Walgreens and Amazon. And that was the compression socks. Because the ones I knew, they weren’t that good. Compression socks, for people who don’t know, are for people with blood pressure and heart issues, which affect the circulation in your legs. We see a lot of older people with thick red legs. It’s very unhealthy. And so you have these really tight socks called compression socks. A lot of times the doctor actually prescribes them. They did for my mom. They help your circulation. It brings your legs back to good health. They’re expensive for the quality that you get.

Tom: Well, let me stop you there.

Anna: Okay.

Tom: In the past, historically, and we were a case in point,  the compression socks that were out there were expensive, heavily priced.


Anna: And they weren’t  that good. Right?


Tom: I’m 60 years old and I used to  fight to get them on. I’m not weak, but.


Anna:. I was trying to help my mother put her socks. Oh, gosh,  that’s even worse.


Tom: Yes That’s the story of patients. And that’s real. So a year ago, we discovered this company. Actually, they discovered us, which is often the case. And because I wear compression socks quite often  they sent me a bunch of samples and I was really very impressed. So I would say that they’re 60% to 70% easier to get on and off.

Anna: Oh, my!

Tom: They’re effective, they’re lightweight. You don’t sweat on them. You can wear them on a summer day and you’re not sweating to death.

Anna: Are they cotton?

Tom: Cotton blend.  A blend that that will draw the moisture away.  But here’s the thing — and I’m not knocking on any podiatrist — a lot of times in a podiatrist store, you may pay $75 to $95 for a pair of compression.

Anna: I know! So I went to Amazon or Walgreens.

Tom: And God bless them, you know, But that’s where you get the really hard to use ones because that’s where I used to buy them, too. But these socks will range from $25 to $35 for a minimal compression, right?

Anna: Because there’s levels of compression.

Tom: Yes, whereas in other stores they can be very expensive. Now as you go up in levels of compression as prescribed by the doctor, they do cost more bucks. But that’s been a great seller.

Anna: So the other thing that I had a problem with was the diabetic shoes. You all don’t carry them but there’s a store in Irmo that does. And I walked in there and my eyes got big as saucers. I was like, “Where the heck were you when I needed you?” Because when you buy from your podiatrist or you go online through the manufacturer, they’re very expensive and they’re ugly. But he’s got nice looking shoes over there for diabetics.

Tom:  Yeah, he does.

Anna: So that’s my free commercial. I cannot remember the name of the store, but if you look for I think it’s diabetic shoes in Irmo, you’ll come on it. Just Google that. You can find it. He needs to pay me for advertising for that, but I’ll give him a freebie since I didn’t say his name anyway.

So that just shows that it’s not just this big equipment. You have these other smaller things like we were talking about, like incontinence products.

Tom: And when we do all daily living AIDS, too, I mean, like, I mean, stuff that’s a fingernail clippers that are made for seniors.

Anna: Oh, my gosh!

Tom: They have a built-in magnifying glass. I mean, just little simple stuff like that. We’ve got non grip surfaces that you can put on things so that your drinks and your food don’t slip off the table.

And grabbers and tote bags. We also have all sorts of supports. One of our suppliers is a company called Thermal Scan out of Sweden. Thermal scan makes some of the best support equipment on the on the market. Like ankle braces, knee support, lumbar, lower back support, neck support, elbow support. They’re not just a compression instrument, it has a healing component in it. Some of the fabrics that they use actually promote healing with a little bit of heat. And they work. We’ve carried them for years and they work extremely well.

We also carry a full range of bathroom products. And I’m talking about everything from a backscrubbers to shower seats to grab bars, to very extensive shower seating systems, to where we can roll you into the shower along a track and then and then roll you back out and over to the potty.

Anna: So if I buy the grab bar from you, will you guys install it too?

Tom: Absolutely.

Anna: Okay. Because I think everybody over the age of 50 should have grab bars in their bathroom. Yeah, the bathroom is the scariest place. And I tell people all the time you think your hearing and your eyes are the first thing to go.  I mean, at 40, we kind of all need glasses, but we can still see really well. It’s your balance that goes first. That is really the first thing that starts to get you. You’ll notice it when you start going down stairs and you’re carrying a baby, maybe your grandkid, and all of a sudden, you’re kind of freaking out. It’s your balance. And I think those grab bars are super important, especially because you’re on a wet surface and a slippery, wet surface. So that’s my plug for that.

I wanted to talk to you about the walkers and the rollaters because my mom had that. I do not understand why they’re always made so short. They make taller ones.  Both my dad and my mother used a walker towards the end of their lives and they ended up hunched over because once they start on that walker, they’re not getting off it. If they have knee surgery or whatever, they’re never coming off of it. They love them because they’ve got a little carry bag and take it with them.

Tom: So you kind of start with a walker and then you can you know, graduate to a rollator. A lot of times it goes from rollator to walker But we’ve got every size, shape, form and color.

Anna: The low ones with the seat on them, they’re very cool, the ones that you can sit on. But they do need to be made so that the person is standing up straight when they walk. That curved back was permanent on both my parents due to the height of the walker or rollator.

Tom: And we we’re going to recommend a rollator if we see a hunch. Some people come in and they’re already very hunched, right? We have a particular rollator or two that we will recommend that actually encourage straight to walk and give you the ability to get in and out of skinny doors. We carry a lot of very innovative products and we’re always innovating. We’re always looking for new things based on customer experience, what customers are looking for.

Anna: Well, let’s take a short break. We’ll come back and we’ll hear word from our sponsor and we’ll talk about a couple other things. We’ll be right back.

Ad: If you are enrolled in Medicare, listen up. This is a very important time of year for you. The annual Medicare Open enrollment begins October 15 and ends December seven. I’m Caroline Ward, an independent insurance advisor specializing in Medicare. If you need help, don’t call a one 800 number. Just ask Caroline at 8033310527 or visit ask Caroline dot net downsizing or moving and have things you or the family don’t want or need clearing out of storage space or estate property.

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Anna: So we’re back with Tom Hall from Affordable Medical, which is a DME or durable medical equipment company. And we’re talking about aging in place, all the equipment and products that are out there to help seniors stay in their homes safely. I was going to say safely and affordably, I have to talk about the cost to all of this.  Sure, some of it can be very affordable, but some of it’s not. So what about insurance? The VA and Medicare? Who, if anybody, can help pay for any of this stuff?

Tom: Okay, well, let’s start in-store first. We do offer a couple of payment programs Buy now-pay later has become very big in the last 18 months, two years. So that’s always an option for people. But then we have a couple of programs that we’ve used extensively for years. One is called Care Credit, the other is called bread pay, Care Credit in particular is specifically designed towards medical and it works real well. for the customer.

Anna: I’ve used it for the dentist.

Tom: And then sometimes we’ll work with people. We’re going to do everything we can to make it happen for the customer, especially if it’s something that we like and love.

Anna: So, if I need something and I come in, I’ll get a deal?

Tom: Well, we’ll flip a coin on that one.

Anna: I’ll give you a free commercial later.

Tom: Hey, there you go! So outside of that, I’ll talk a little bit about the issues you just brought up to the best of my knowledge, but from what I can tell in my years in the industry is kind of hit or miss.

I can’t speak to VA’s everywhere. Sometimes I’ve seen veterans that are very well taken care of. Sometimes I’ve seen veterans that are not taken care of well at all.

Anna: Well, sometimes it also depends on the veteran and the level of care that they need. Do you know what I mean? They’re rated, I know that much, but go ahead.

Tom: Yeah, I’m not really familiar with their process or how they work.

Anna: Or want to be!

Tom: Yeah.

Anna: That’s a big animal.

Tom: That’s a huge animal. Medicare and insurance. What I’ll tell you about Medicare is they’re not going to pay for a lot of the things that you think would naturally think that they would pay for. For example, if you need a walking aid, if you can walk, they’re going to give you a walker that’s where it starts.

Tom: Okay. And then in five years and this is my understanding, I could be wrong if I’m wrong and surmise listening, please call me.

Anna: Absolutely. Sure.

Tom: So, I’ll know in another five years you can go to the next stage. You can get a wheelchair in the next five years. After that, if you’re at the stage, you can get a mobility product that Medicare has in our store, we have literally dozens of different power chairs, dozens of different power chairs, scooters. But with Medicare, you’ve got two or three different options from which to choose.        You’ve got a couple options on the on the power chair. That’s it. And you get what they they dole out. That’s what you get. And the paperwork can be lengthy. I’ve seen it every once in a while come through quick for people. But more times than not, I see people eventually give up.

Anna: That’s our health care system. I’ve got nothing else to say about that.

Tom: And insurance is from what I’m seeing moving more and more in that direction. It’s getting harder and harder for people to get their insurance company to help them.

Anna: As we pay higher and higher for our policies and they cover less.

Tom: And what that leaves people with is, “well, I’m going to buy it. I’m going to have to pay for it. I might find a way to pay for it.” So they call the kids or, church or whatever the case may be, just in order to be able to make that happen because they’ve got to have it. They have to have it.

This isn’t something that’s this optional for them right now. I did see a case where a couple came in. They said Medicare is going to pay for it and by golly, Medicare did pay for it. And it was something very, very nice because that’s what this particular individual needed. And apparently there were some other circumstances involved as well. But that’s that’s very rare. Very rare.

Anna: Well, I will do a real free commercial here. There is a nonprofit called Our Mothers Voice, and they help advocate or teach you how to advocate for your loved one who’s in long term care. The woman who runs that organization will help you get to the person who will fight Medicare with you. Do you know what I mean?       There are people out there that will help you. Contact Our Mother’s Voice.  I think it’s ourmothersvoice.org or .net. I can’t remember. She’s been on the program, so you can go back through our episodes and I’ll put a link to her in the show notes too.

Anna: Anyway, before we wrap up, is there anything else you want to share with the listeners before we go?

Tom: Well, just a couple of things. Our website is affordablemedicalusa.com. A lot of people call us up and say “I just found this item on affordablemedicalequipment.com.” Well that’s not us we’re affordablemedicalusa.com and we are based in West Columbia on Sunset Boulevard, right next to the zoo entrance.

Caroline will be sitting on her scooter out in front of the store almost every day. So you really can’t miss this. And she has been our our landmark for years and years and years. People have no idea where they’re going. They don’t know the name of the store, but they know Caroline.

Anna: Do you remember the first time I met you? And what I called her? I said, “Oh, yeah, I remember that dummy out front.” Yeah, her name is Caroline.

Tom: Yeah, I took her to task on that. (laughter)

Anna: She’s like one of those test drive dummies.

Tom: She’s family. Best employee we have.

Anna: For the local people. You’re right by the zoo entrance.

Tom: We operate Mon through Friday and 10-1 on Saturday, which is where I’m supposed to be right now.  We love helping people and we have repeat customers. We have customers that we’ve had for years and years, years, and we have new customers who come in there expecting an overwhelming, unwelcoming, gloomy, doomy experience. But it ain’t going to happen. I mean, when you leave there, you will be smiling and laughing.

Anna: The first time I came in there, we had a ball and then we’ve had a relationship ever since. Business relationship. We’ve had a lot of fun. And I will say I found something even cooler the last time I was there. Not just the compression socks, but they have a big clean, well-appointed bathroom for their customers, which is always important to me.  I hate to go places where it’s just scummy in there and there’s no paper towels. It was lovely.

Tom: That’s Mary. That’s Mary. Does that.

Anna: Okay, well, tell Mary thank you.

Tom: Okay.

Anna: So with that, we’re going to wrap things up. I think that’s a good ending. Tom, thank you very much for being here. Thanks for sponsoring the podcast. It means a lot to me and I’m sure we’ll have you back in the future.

Anna: So, for now, thanks listeners for listening and thank you for caring.


This podcast is written and produced by the F Suite, LLC. All rights reserved. Our audio engineer is Andrew Haworth.