Those with sleep apnea know that not having a continuous positive airway pressure device to keep airways open at night can leave them fearing whether they’ll wake up. What others often hear as loud snoring (and sometimes snorting) is someone struggling to breathe — and repeatedly stopping breathing completely. For many, getting a good night’s sleep is impossible without a CPAP, and a lack of this device increases a person’s risk for many serious diseases and even death.
Pembroke, North Carolina-based HealthKeeperz, a faith-based home care and medical equipment company, found itself in the right place at the right time to help patients and the health care staff trying to keep them comfortable and well during the shortage.
“We want to be sure people are healthy at home,” says HealthKeeperz President Tim Brooks. “Our job is to oversee their care and make sure health care services are being provided, and there is some sense of well-being for these people we care for.”
How Did the CPAP Shortage Happen?
As with many of the electronics shortages related to the pandemic, a specialized microchip needed for the CPAP device to function became harder to get as a result of supply chain issues on a global scale. Ships were stuck in ports, and people couldn’t go to work.
It can take up to five months for a newly diagnosed person to get a CPAP or for someone with advanced sleep apnea to replace a broken one.
CPAP manufacturers advocating for the lives and health of patients they serve have lobbied to have the chip component, which can be used for a variety of devices, prioritized for health devices.
But thus far, HealthKeeperz has yet to see this done. And the home health care company sees the risks involved in the United States’ dependence on international partners for microchips as a real threat to patients.
CPAP Smarts Help Patients Breathe Better
Despite the challenges, people should keep their hands open when faced with supply chain issues.
HealthKeeperz has used travel units to replace CPAPs in a crunch temporarily. This bare-bones device doesn’t have all the features but can help patients get through until their CPAP arrives.
The company has also advised people not to get cheaper alternatives that claim to replace a CPAP, or purchase a used CPAP out of desperation. CPAPs go into the mouth while a person sleeps and must maintain a certain humidity level. If not properly cleaned and maintained, they become a breeding ground for mold and other pathogens that may harm the airways rather than help them.
The company doesn’t recommend buying a used CPAP, but if a patient does, HealthKeeperz cautions them to remember to reset the pressure settings used by the previous owner, which may not be good for the current one.
The company wants patients struggling to pay higher prices for CPAP and other equipment to know they have options. Financial assistance programs exist for people who can’t afford the out-of-pocket costs of a new CPAP.
Additionally, local organizations in a patient’s area can help them find and use community resources.
Sleep is crucial for body recovery and mental health. Studies show that getting bad sleep night after night has serious long-term consequences like notable increased risk of high blood pressure, diabetes, liver problems, dementia, cognitive issues, slow reaction time, psychosocial trouble, immune disorders, and all-cause mortality.
“Sleep is a biological necessity, and insufficient sleep and untreated sleep disorders are detrimental for health, well-being, and public safety,” says the American Academy of Sleep Medicine.