A guide to choosing CPAP equipment for older adults

A guide to choosing CPAP equipment for older adults

As a person gets older, they become more susceptible to a host of diseases. Some of these can be potentially life-threatening, as is the case with heart disease, diabetes mellitus, and obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). Fortunately, there are effective treatments available for these, which alongside a balanced diet and regular exercise can help in managing such illnesses and and enjoying a good quality of life.

For one, OSA can be managed with continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy. This involves the use of a CPAP machine, a device that blows pressurized air into the throat. In this way, the recurrent collapse or narrowing of the pharyngeal airway during sleep, which characterizes OSA, is prevented. With proper and continuous use, a CPAP machine improves sleep quality, thus reducing one’s risk for stress, depression, and other chronic conditions.

But for OSA patients to get the most out of CPAP therapy, they must have the proper equipment and supplies. This means the CPAP machine itself as well as a mask, tube or hose, and backup battery pack, among others. Having the right equipment is especially important for older adults, who may have other conditions that make using a CPAP machine challenging.

It falls on the shoulders of durable medical equipment (DME) providers such as yourself to help older patients select the best equipment for their unique needs. To help you and your patients, we’ve come up with a list of factors to consider when choosing CPAP equipment for older adults.

1. Sound level

CPAP machines, especially older models, can be quite noisy. The constant humming and whirring sounds they produce may keep elderly patients up at night, especially since seniors are more sensitive to sound.

To avoid this problem, recommend the latest CPAP models to older patients. These tend to be more “quiet,” with an average decibel rating of 26. (For comparison, a vacuum cleaner clocks in at 70 decibels, while normal breathing is at 10 decibels.) They should also consider switching out their old machine for a new one. Older models tend to hum and vibrate; loose or worn-out parts may also be the source of bothersome noises.

2. Mask type

Even for younger OSA patients, mask type is a primary consideration when buying a CPAP machine. The wrong type of mask can cause skin irritation and bruising around the nose and mouth. An ill-fitting mask may slip off repeatedly during the night, and it may also cause air leaks, which may compromise therapy by reducing the pressure delivered to the airway.

Older adults have these and other factors to think about. Some may experience hand tremors, which come naturally with age or may be a symptom of an illness such as Parkinson’s disease. Having shaky hands makes it difficult to properly fasten the clips that hold a CPAP mask in place. Masks with magnetic closures or those that can be simply slipped on or off are a good choice for older patients. They can easily put such masks on and adjust the fit to ensure these don’t fall off during sleep.

Other patients may have missing teeth, which means they lack the structural support needed to keep the mouth closed while using a CPAP machine, causing air to leak. Experts recommend a full-face or a nasal mask with a chin strap to address this issue.

3. Hose

A CPAP hose should be lightweight and flexible enough to give patients freedom of movement while they sleep, but it should be durable to withstand frequent, prolonged use. It must also be compatible with the mask and machine that the patient will be using. Always go over the specifications with your patient before recommending any type or brand of CPAP mask.

It would also be a good idea for your patient to consider getting a tube that can be easily detached from and reattached to the machine. This allows them to keep the mask on if they have to get up and go to the bathroom during the night. They can simply disconnect the hose or part of it from the machine, then plug it back in when they get back to bed. This ensures adherence to CPAP therapy.

4. Cognitive challenges

Seniors with cognitive impairment, including dementia, easily forget things. They may not always remember to use their CPAP machine or fail to use it as intended. Using a machine with features such as a reminder system can help them adhere to CPAP therapy. Other useful features include an option to automatically turn on the machine when a patient starts breathing into the mask.

It would also help to involve an elderly patient’s caregiver and/or family. Discuss the importance of CPAP therapy and educate them on how to properly use and care for CPAP equipment. Caregivers and/or family members can assist the patient in setting up the machine, remind them to use it regularly, and encourage them to stick with therapy.

5. Cost and insurance

Many older adults are on a fixed income, which may be just enough for their basic needs. They may not have enough for renting or purchasing a CPAP machine, even with subsidy from Medicare or a private insurance provider.

If your DME business offers payment plans, make sure to inform your patients that they have the option to avail these. Take the time to explain the details of such programs. Also, educate them on the importance of taking good care of their CPAP equipment to ensure these will last a long time. They won’t have to purchase replacements outside of their insurance coverage, giving them more control over their finances.

By enrolling your patients in Revsuppliance’s CPAP resupply program, you can rest easy knowing that they’ll get the right CPAP equipment they need on time and within budget. To schedule a demonstration and find out more about our services, get in touch with us today.

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