CPAP: Seniors With Sleep Apnea

side view of man's face

There are thousands of seniors suffering from sleep apnea. Those diagnosed with sleep apnea, repeatedly stop breathing for short periods during the night. Sleep impairment is serious, regardless of age. However, seniors are more likely to have other health concerns that, when combined with sleep apnea, can make the original diagnosis worse or even lethal.

A CPAP Device Can be a Life Saver – Literally

Those with sleep apnea stop breathing for as much as a half-minute at a time. These breathing gaps can happen up to 400 times each night. Patients with sleep apnea cannot bring enough air into their system voluntarily during these laps in breathing. Throughout the night, sleep is continually disturbed. Sudden gasps for breath and snoring, remind the body to take breaths and resume the normal timing of natural breathing.

The advent of the CPAP device has proved to be a literal life saver. During periods of obstructive sleep apnea, the windpipe is blocked in some way. It could be the patients tonsils, uvula or tongue. Seniors with excess weight in the neck area might have fatty tissue blocking the airway. A CPAP device allows forced air to push the blockage, whatever it is, out of the way during sleep. Air pressure from this machine, actually pushes the tongue forward so it does not fall back into the throat and block the airway.

Patients on Medicaid or Medicare May Receive Financial Assistance

A prescription with the diagnosis of sleep apnea will allow those on Medicaid, Medicare or other insurance to receive financial help in renting or purchasing a CPAP device. Machines can be bought from as low as under $400 to as high as $1200. Different styles of machines can help seniors receive the type and style most beneficial for their situation.

Prices vary depending on how many “bells and whistles” the patient wants, or can afford. Although, a machine purchased by medicaid or medicare will have only the basics, a medical provider, specializing in patient equipment, will be able to advise the patient in the proper machine for comfort and quality. Regardless of the style, it will always have the necessary equipment needed to fulfill the requirements of the doctors prescription.

Many Types of CPAP Devices are Available.

In order to diagnose sleep apnea, a sleep study is ordered by the patient’s doctor. This overnight study will measure such things as blood pressure, oxygen level and brain wave action, during sleep. Results from this study will indicate if CPAP will help the patients’ symptoms.

There are many types of CPAP devices. Some CPAP devices supply forced air only. Others will treat the problem with a combination of air and oxygen. Still others will supply forced air, plus oxygen, plus moisture. Depending on the results of the sleep study, a health care equipment provider will help seniors chose the appropriate device. A written prescription from the doctor will indicate the exact levels of oxygen, air pressure and other patient requirements needed to treat each patient individually.

Latest Technology Targets Patient Comfort

Latest technology has produced machines that are targeted for patient comfort. Such things as patient controlled heat and moisture dials, as well as built-in humidifiers, have produced more patient friendly devices. Scan cards that keep patient information available for weeks at a time, prevent mistakes in hand-recording important information.

Many seniors resist the paraphernalia required for proper treatment. The face mask, nasal pillows, chin straps and hoses, plus the sound of the machine itself, may be intimidating. “Fighting” all night with the straps and hoses is a lot to deal with at first.

Most people need a period of adjustment. It is important that the senior patient give the CPAP device plenty of time before giving up. Check with the equipment provider. Many problems can easily be fixed. As the old adage goes, if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. In this case, it will benefit the senior to keep trying and may even save their life.

Resource:, CPAP Devices for Sleep Apnea

This article is for informational purposes only and should not be considered medical advice. Want more helpful senior living advice?