More and more aging Americans have a finger on the pulse of a new health-care trend. Facing rising medical costs, shorter hospital stays and age-related chronic illnesses, many seniors are self-monitoring -- checking conditions ranging from hypertension to diabetes at home and seeking even more options for managing their health between doctor visits.
As a result, medical experts say sales of self-testing, diagnostic and monitoring devices are booming. By the year 2003, the home health-care market is expected to exceed $65 billion, with 35 percent of that spent on home-medical-equipment products and services.
But if you're one of the millions of people who deal with low vision or arthritis, some of these tools can become an obstacle rather than an aid, says Andrea Tannenbaum, president of Dynamic Living Inc. (www.dynamic-living.com), an online catalog of assistive products.
"For example, many people who are diabetic may have lost some of their vision as part of the progression of the disease, but they still need to monitor their glucose level," says Tannenbaum. "If they can't read the results displayed on the glucose meter, they must ask someone to help them keep track of their results."
In response to consumer demand, medical-supply manufacturers have released a new generation of home health devices designed to let individuals with disabilities collect and understand important health data and administer medications without assistance. New low-vision-monitoring and medication-dispensing devices, for example, have larger readout displays or even provide information in a "talking" format. Some examples:
* A blood pressure monitor that automatically inflates at the touch of a button. When the reading is complete, blood pressure and pulse rate are announced in a clear voice.
* A glucose monitor featuring a voice prompt that guides the user through the testing process, then tells you your sugar level.
* A "talking" pill bottle that informs the user of contents, directions for use and label warnings. Your doctor, pharmacist or care-giver records the prescription information into the device contained in the bottle.
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