How Can They Fight for What They Need?

Q: What are consumers’ and caregivers’ greatest informational needs today?

On what topics — assistive technology, funding, travel, accessibility, legislation, policy, etc. — do they need the most education or information?

Josh AndersonJosh Anderson: I would say that there’s always room for better information on any of these topics. But if there is one that is more glaring than the others, it’s funding.

From a consumer’s or caregiver’s perspective, they are always behind the learning curve on this subject. It is not one that most people enjoy researching or learning about, but it is absolutely critical as a consumer or caregiver to being able to get the appropriate equipment.

Most consumers and caregivers never even realize that they have funding issues until it is too late — forcing them to settle for equipment that they did not want or that does not best meet their needs. Rather, it is the low-cost alternative to what was prescribed for them. That is why it is so important for both groups to be educated. How can you fight for what you need if you don’t even know what’s available?

The answer is: You can’t. If you as the consumer have no idea why a Cadillac is better than a Chevrolet, then it makes no sense to pay more for the Cadillac, because you have not learned what those benefits are and why they matter.

That’s not to say everyone needs a Cadillac…just that how can you make an informed decision if you don’t know what’s available? The consumer and caregiver must take the initiative to learn what’s available, especially when it comes to funding. There are organizations out there, like Users First, that were created to help those in need of complex rehab equipment learn about funding issues and the appropriateness of the right equipment. The UsersFirst Web site (usersfirst.org) is a great resource for this information.

Dealers and clinicians are also great resources for the consumer and caregiver. And that’s one of their roles: They need to be able to give the consumer or caregiver accurate information regarding the equipment they need so the consumer or caregiver can make the decision best for them.

I feel the best way to get the most updated funding and product information is the Web — from product-specific information that you can find on any of the manufacturers’ sites, to forums that discuss products and funding, to sites like UsersFirst that have a focus on funding issues related to complex rehab.

Consumers and caregivers can be their own best advocates. But they need to go into an evaluation having researched their options and with a list of questions. They can’t be afraid to ask for more information. Both dealers and clinicians should be happy to offer more info or discuss where and how consumers can obtain what they’re looking for.

This article originally appeared in the January 2012 issue of Mobility Management.

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