When mobility issues arise, using a cane as an assistive device can help you maintain your balance and regain your confidence while walking. Certain types of canes may be preferred for specific medical conditions. Some of these may be covered by your Medicare insurance.

When is a Cane Necessary?

The U.S. Census Bureau cites mobility issues as a leading cause of disability for seniors. These issues may occur due to aging, illness or, in many causes, injury. Because maintaining mobility is directly linked to a longer life and better health, regaining as much mobility as possible is an important goal for many adults once they experience difficulty with it.

If you or your loved one struggle with any of the following factors, it may be time to evaluate the need for a cane:

  • Unable to walk unassisted throughout the day every day.
  • Pain or stiffness in limbs or joints while walking.
  • Feeling as if a fall will happen if unassisted while walking.
  • Frequently seeking out something to grab while walking unassisted.
  • Trouble going up or down flights of stairs or going over uneven ground.
  • Quickly tiring while walking at a normal pace or normal length of time.
  • Avoiding tasks or activities because walking is difficult or tiring.
  • Difficulty transitioning between sitting down or standing up.

Common Types of Canes

Regardless of its brand or style, each cane has a handle, grip, body and tip type. The reason a person is seeking out a cane typically determines which style of cane they buy, but there may be multiple styles that suit a person’s use. This allows some room for choosing a style of cane that suits a personal preference, but safety and utility should always factor into the decision-making process as primary considerations.

Handle types:

  • Crook. An easily recognizable hook shape which may be called a shepherd’s crook or tourist handle.
  • T-handle. These may also be called a straight-handle cane and are made to decrease grip fatigue or stress.
  • Fritz. This handle looks like a T-handle but with an extra curve which is meant to further reduce grip issues.
  • Offset. Often said to look like a question mark, the shape of this handle is designed to help distribute a person’s weight more evenly over the cane’s body.

Grip types:

  • Foam. Commonly used for its inexpensive material and comfortable feel.
  • Gel. Some people prefer a gel grip as it reduces the strain associated with gripping a cane.
  • Oversized. Users with arthritis may prefer an oversized grip if closing their hand around a smaller one is difficult.
  • Orthopedic or ergonomic. These grips are made to fit the shape of the palm and fingers for ease of use.

Body types:

  • Wood. A classic and traditional material, but some may find them heavy or too easily damaged and scuffed.
  • Aluminum. A common material for medically necessary canes that may also be adjustable or may be made with a quad-pointed tip.
  • Folding. Typically made of an aluminum body that can be pulled apart to fold for easy storage.
  • Seated. These canes come with an attached seat with extra legs that turns into a tripod stool.

Tip types:

  • Single. The standard tip for any cane point may be made of rubber or silicone that helps provide traction.
  • Quad. This fits over a single-tip end to transform it into a quad-tip for sturdier use.

Medicare Coverage for Canes

Because canes qualify as durable medical equipment (DME) under Original Medicare insurance, it’s possible to have 80% of their cost covered through Part B. If you also have a Medicare Supplement plan, you may have help paying for your coinsurance or deductibles. Medicare Advantage plan members may also include additional benefits that reduce their out-of-pocket expenses or allow them a wider variety of choice in cane types.

Your DME supplier must accept and participate in Medicare and your Medicare-certified physician may need to provide proof that a cane is a medical necessity for your circumstances in order to qualify for Medicare coverage.

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