Anyone with a spinal cord injury, no matter their age, needs to be aware of their aging process and how their body is changing with time. A spinal cord injury (SCI) can worsen the normal aging process, so it is important to be aware and take precautions with your health.
A few top issues to watch out for are:
1. Functional Decline: This can be everything from neurological pain or spasticity to injuries from overuse and general components of aging. All have an impact on a person's functional abilities, and you want to prevent these from happening as much as possible.
2. Respiratory Decline: The most common causes of death in SCI are pneumonia and septicemia, so it's important to address issues like sleep apnea, challenges with coughing and secretion clearance, postural changes that affect the lungs, and more. If you're having trouble sleeping, check out our Five Tips for Better Sleep.
3. Skin Issues: Everything about SCI puts people at risk for skin problems, and sooner or later, everyone with a spinal cord injury is at risk for a pressure ulcer. You want to prevent the need for expensive and complicated surgical intervention by carefully managing skin health.
4. Musculoskeletal Complications: Shoulders are not designed to manage a wheelchair every day, so upper extremity pain and tears are common, as well as issues with elbows, wrists and hands. One good preventative measure is staying active, and we've got several suggestions for keeping your shoulders, neck and back strong.
5. Caregiver Burnout: The psychosocial challenges of aging with SCI are important to keep in mind, such as what you need from your caregiver and what a caregiver is able to provide. Communication and education are key.
One method for combatting the effects of aging is to have a yearly evaluation. Craig Hospital encourages patients to return yearly for a personalized interdisciplinary outpatient evaluation (IOE) where all aspects of a person's physical and mental health are looked at holistically by an integrated team. Learn more here about IOEs and how to schedule an appointment.