Funding for mobility aids: What is available for low income seniors who need to get walking aids?

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What is available for low income seniors who need to get walking aids?

Question

What is available for low income seniors who need to get walking aids (i.e. a cane, walker, or wheelchair)?

Our answer

We understand getting new mobility equipment - like a cane, walker, or wheelchair - can be costly and challenging. In many cases, British Columbians may require financial support and guidance to purchase the assistive devices and products they need.

When purchasing any kind of mobility equipment, a consultation with a regulated health professional, such as an occupational therapist (OT) or physiotherapist (PT), is recommended to ensure that the device is appropriate and safe for your family member and their environment. They can visit their doctor or local walk-in clinic to talk about getting a referral. In several Health Authorities, family members of clients or clients themselves can refer themselves to Home and Community Care for an OT/PT assessment.

If there is a short term need, the Red Cross Health Equipment Loan Program offers short term loan of medical equipment including canes, wheelchairs and walkers. This program requires a referral from a healthcare professional, such as a doctor or occupational therapist.

The Ministry of Health provides medical equipment and devices to eligible individuals. The individual must be eligible for health supplements, and meet the general requirements:

  • there are no resources available to the family unit to pay the cost of or obtain the medical equipment or device;
  • the item is the least expensive, appropriate medical equipment or device;
  • the item must be prescribed by a medical practitioner or nurse practitioner; and/or the medical need must be confirmed by the assessment of a relevant therapist (occupational or physical therapist)
  • the request must be pre-approved by the ministry prior to purchase.

Then they must also meet the specific requires for each individual type of medical equipment or device. The requirements along with further details can be accessed on their website.

BC Rehab Foundation offers funding to individuals for equipment including mobility aids and assistive technologies.

Labatt Better Together provides direct funding to individuals or families who are in need of assistance for basic essentials or quality of life services.

Ceridian Cares provides individual grants up to $5,000 (Cdn) to low income Canadians. Grants cover a variety of medical equipment including “home adjustments for barrier free living.”

Mobility equipment vendors often have information on accessing funding for low-income clients. The trained staff can also help with sizing and adjustments to find a good fit.

There are several condition-specific organizations that offer loan programs and funding. For example ALS Society of BC has an equipment loan program. The MS Society of Canada’s Quality of Life Equipment Program offers grants of up to $1,000 (Cdn) to fund assistive devices and medical supplies for Canadians with an MS diagnosis. If your family member has a specific diagnosis, it may beneficial to reach out to a related organization to learn more about possible funding opportunities.

You may also wish to visit our Financial aid for equipment page, which provides links to several financial aid programs in BC that may be helpful in covering or reducing the cost of assistive technologies. Please note that this page is not exhaustive and that in most cases, you will need to conduct further research on your own to identify what financial aid programs, if any, apply to your family member and their situation.

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