Medicare and Sleep Apnea Devices – CPAP Therapy
In the elderly, obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is present in 24% of people living independently, 33% of those in acute care establishments and 42% in retirement homes. It’s no wonder there are always questions about health insurance and sleep apnea devices.
Of the approximately 85 recognized sleep disorders, sleep apnea is one of the most common, affecting more than 12 million people in the United States alone. It is also one of the deadliest sleep disorders.
There are three types of sleep apnea, obstructive (OSA), central and mixed of which OSA is the most common. About two percent of women and four percent of men suffer from this sleep problem. It is characterized by intermittent interruption of breathing due to airway obstruction during sleep.
This condition can be dangerous because the victim stops breathing while sleeping, which can lead to other complications, such as high blood pressure and heart problems. People with severe OSA can stop breathing up to 120 times a night! Additionally, because the victim wakes up for at least a few seconds after each episode, they never reach the point of deep sleep required for normal daily functioning.
In young people, the causes of sleep apnea are well known – obesity, male sex and large neck size, for example. But in older people, the underlying cause is not as well defined. Obesity, of course, remains one of the risk factors in the elderly.
Nevertheless, it is undeniable that the prevalence of sleep apnea increases with age and weight. Sleep apnea in the elderly often contributes to lifestyle, such as excessive alcohol consumption and smoking. Unfortunately, obstructive sleep apnea in the elderly is too often undiagnosed.
In the elderly, the consequences differ and may include ischemic heart disease, various arrhythmias, stroke, erectile dysfunction, permanent systemic or pulmonary hypertension, dementia and depression. Death can occur prematurely.
Treatment of OSA in the elderly will generally take a conservative approach at first. This will include moderation, then discontinuation of any sleeping pills or hypnotics, moderation of alcohol intake and weight reduction where appropriate. Keep in mind that medications do not address the main issues associated with sleep apnea.
However, in conjunction with other measures, doctors often prescribe the use of a mechanical device designed to overcome airway obstructions during sleep. The device is called CPAP, which stands for Continuous Positive Airway Pressure. This machine helps relieve sleep apnea disorders and decrease snoring.
The good news for seniors is that Medicare covers sleep apnea devices. All sleep apnea devices covered by Medicare are approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA). An internet search will uncover a number of providers who will handle the entire process of renting or purchasing health insurance and sleep apnea devices for eligible patients. It is therefore advisable to get the very latest design covered by Medicare.
A final word is in order. You can rent or buy CPAP machines. Before buying under your Medicare coverage, it’s a good idea to rent first to see if the particular brand is right for you and fits your lifestyle. Once you’re satisfied, a purchase can make sense. After all, you will be using a CPAP machine all the time.