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Living with Neuropathies

Helping your aging parents live at home with neuropathic conditions

When an aging parent is diagnosed with a neuropathic condition, it can be a frustrating experience.  In fact, just getting to the point of obtaining the diagnosis may only come after years of tests, wrong turns, misdiagnoses, and multiple doctors.  According to the Neuropathy Foundation, neuropathy is a disorder of the peripheral nerves—the motor, sensory and autonomic nerves that connect the spinal cord to muscles, skin and internal organs. More than 20 million people suffer from neuropathies. While they can occur at any age, they are more prevalent in seniors, with an estimated 8% to 9% of Medicare recipients having this condition, which usually affects the hands and feet, causing weakness, numbness, tingling and pain. There are more than 150 different types of neuropathy that often result in extraordinary pain and even debilitation. 

One of the biggest fears your aging parent may confront is how to remain independent and continue to live at home with neuropathic conditions. Luckily, more and more people are speaking out about neuropathies, and the medical community is becoming more educated. Organizations like the Neuropathy Association exist specifically to support people suffering from neuropathic conditions.  It is possible for your aging parent to live at home with neuropathies.

Neuropathies are difficult to define

Neuropathy includes everything from carpal tunnel syndrome (numbness in the hands and fingers) to fibromyalgia (widespread pain throughout the body).  Symptoms can disappear and then return again.  It may take a very long time for the condition to become debilitating or it may happen very quickly.  If your aging parent is worried about being able to live at home with neuropathies, the news is good.  There are many modifications that can be made to both your parent’s lifestyle and the home to make it possible for him or her to remain independent for a very long time.

“There are adaptive technologies available that make it easier to unlock doors, button shirts, open cans, brush and comb hair, and keep a strong grip on items.”

There are FDA-approved medical devices covered by a majority of insurance companies that use infrared energy to increase circulation and decrease pain.  There are adaptive technologies available that make it easier to unlock doors, button shirts, open cans, brush and comb hair, and keep a strong grip on items.  Many of these technologies are simple, inexpensive strategies that go a long way toward helping your aging parent remain independent and live at home with neuropathies.

Options when work is not possible

The most frustrating outcome of neuropathic conditions is their effect on your parent’s ability to work.  Depending on age and readiness to retire, this may be not only a frustrating situation but also an economically challenging one.  One option may be to consider applying for Social Security Disability.  The initial application process can now be done online at www.ssa.gov, and the help you provide your aging parent in moving through this bureaucratic process can be immense.  Don’t hesitate, however, to seek the assistance of an aging agency or even a disability attorney if you feel you need one.

The more you can do to support the desire of your aging parent to remain independent and live at home with neuropathies, the easier it will be for your parent to handle the actual medical condition.  Don’t underestimate the value of joining a family caregiver support group, and encourage your parent to join a group that supports those with neuropathies.  Having someone who understands what you are going through can make a difference in your outlook.  The most important thing you can do as the adult child and caregiver of someone with neuropathies is to be supportive as your parent moves through the various emotions of frustration, anger, fear, and even isolation. 
 

 



     
  • More than 20 million Americans suffer from peripheral neuropathy. (Source: The Neuropathy Association)
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  • The annual cost of neuropathies to Medicare exceeds $3 billion dollars. (Source: The Neuropathy Association)
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  • Neuropathy is a generic term to describe an entire family of nerve disorders affecting millions of Americans.