By Elissa Bass
As our population ages, issues arise around health and independent living. Many adults find themselves dealing with the health issues of their parents, sometimes nearby but often from several states away. It is a growing issue revolving around quality of care, safety, and quality of life.
About 17 percent of adult children care for their parents at some point in their lives, and the likelihood of doing so rises with age, according to the Health and Retirement Study, which was sponsored by the National Institute on Aging and the Social Security Administration. An analysis of that study by the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College found that 10 percent of adults ages 60 to 69 whose parents are alive serve as caregivers, as do 12 percent of adults age 70 and older.
Parents who’ve reached their 80s, 90s or higher are more likely to have chronic illnesses and related disabilities and to require assistance, the study found. And there are often physical and emotional ramifications for the caregivers, as well as the recipients of the care. The physical toll from helping someone get into a car or waking up at night to provide assistance, and the social isolation that can result from not being able to leave someone alone, can become overwhelming to the caregiver. There are lots of resources to help guide you through the process.
People who suffer from diabetes or have received chemotherapy often develop a condition called peripheral neuropathy, which is caused by damage to the peripheral nerves. It often causes weakness, numbness, and pain, typically in the hands and feet. It can become chronic for many patients, lasting years or even for their lifetime.
Peripheral neuropathy disrupts communication between the affected nerves and the brain. This can impair muscle movement in the affected area, prevent normal sensation in the arms and legs, and cause pain. It typically affects toes, feet, legs, hands, and arms.
Peripheral neuropathies are common, especially among people over the age of 55. It is estimated that at least 20 million people in the United States suffer from debilitating foot and leg nerve pain from peripheral neuropathy.
If the underlying cause of peripheral neuropathy isn’t treated, you may be at risk of developing potentially serious complications. Often loss of sensation increases the risk of falling, especially for older patients. Other issues could include a foot ulcer or wound that becomes infected, which can lead to gangrene (tissue death) if untreated. In severe cases it may mean the affected foot has to be amputated.
These are important issues to consider for those who take care of an aging parent or parents. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, the annual medical costs associated with falls totals more than $50 billion. The CDC also says:
- Each year, millions of people 65 and older are treated in emergency departments because of falls.
- More than 800,000 patients a year are hospitalized because of a fall injury, most often because of a broken hip or head injury.
- Fall injuries are among the 20 most expensive medical conditions.
- The average hospital cost for a fall injury is over $30,000.
- The costs of treating fall injuries goes up with age.
If you have an aging parent with health issues who begins to complain about numbness, prickling or tingling in their feet or hands, it is important to make sure their doctor is informed. The Neuropathy Association in New York maintains a database of doctors throughout the U.S. and in several other countries who have expressed a special interest in treating peripheral neuropathy.
Peripheral neuropathy cannot be cured. It can, however, be managed through treatment.
The most prevalent treatments are pregabalin and duloxetine, which are the only medications approved for treatment of peripheral neuropathy symptoms by the FDA.
However, an increasing number of patients are treating their peripheral neuropathy symptoms with Near Infrared therapy (NIR). NIR, which is cleared by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, is a painless, drug-free, prescription-free and non-invasive treatment for peripheral neuropathy symptoms. Research backs the effectiveness of Near Infrared therapy to provide pain relief for symptoms of peripheral neuropathy. LumenMD uses cutting-edge, clinical-strength and FDA-cleared technology to provide sensation relief for symptoms of peripheral neuropathy.
LumenMD devices offer an efficient and comfortable experience for patients requiring treatment for peripheral neuropathy symptoms. They can be used for a variety of applications ranging from pain-points, such as elbows or knees, to larger muscle groups, such as the back and shoulders.
Studies also show that physical therapy is effective for peripheral neuropathy, especially when partnered with NIR. LumenMD has physical therapy partners that offer the treatment as part of their treatment protocols for peripheral neuropathy.