What’s a Loan Closet?

What’s a Loan Closet?

Loan Closets, also known as medical equipment loaning programs or re-use programs, lend home medical equipment to people recovering from illness or injury. Most organizations receive their equipment from members of the community who no longer need it.  They clean the equipment, check to make sure it’s in good condition, and lend it to those who need it.

Loan closets typically have durable medical equipment (DME) such as wheelchairs, shower chairs, bedside commodes, walkers, crutches, canes, and high-rise toilet seats. Some may also have hospital beds or electric wheelchairs available. Each loan closet is unique, with its own set of eligibility requirements, equipment, and loan period.

Are Loan Closets New?

1953 Photo of Visiting Nurse Services Loan Closet

Wisconsin Historical Society -81193 (Dane County 1953) Mrs. Marjorie Southwick, secretary of the Visiting Nurse Service, checks out a pair of crutches and a wheelchair to Miss Agnes Griffith, assistant director of the agency. The agency established this loan closet to provide medical equipment needed in home care for the sick.

No, organizations have been lending medical equipment to people in need for a long time. In 1900 Eliza J. Moore wrote an article for the American Journal of Nursing about the Visiting Nurse Association of Chicago.  She wrote about each  nurse having a loan closet which included bed linen, bed gowns, towels, a cot bed, and other supplies.¹

There were also many informal loan closets such as the one at Ellis Island.  New Yorkers brought medical equipment such as crutches and wheelchairs for arriving immigrant who needed it.


[1] Moore, Eliza J. The American Journal of Nursing 1900, Vol. 1, 17-21.