Spinal cord injury and age
Old with a youthful spirit
This is an inescapable fact, even if no-one would actually like it to happen: Your hair turns grey, you develop wrinkles, joint pain sets in, you become increasingly forgetful and there is a deterioration in your strength, movement and sight.
Everyone experiences this ageing process and must deal with the consequences, with diminishing independence to a greater or lesser degree in their daily routine.
Ageing does not stop for people with spinal cord injuries either. People with SCI have already had to endure great restrictions with the onset of paralysis. In addition to age-related complaints, the greater physical demands associated with paralysis can lead to earlier signs of wear and tear. The associated physical impairments may lead to an increasing loss of independence.
If changes or problems arise, you may need to seek support from specialists such as your GP, Spitex community nurses, the rehabilitation clinic or ParaHelp AG. Adjustments to care measures or aids may help you to maintain your physical independence and autonomy.
Even if there are no ageing-related issues, it is important to start exploring the “questions of life”. By doing so, you can have a say in how you age and not suddenly have ageing shape your life.
Where would I like to live when I am older?
Most people wish to live in their own home. Would I like that too? Am I still able to look after my apartment? Where can I seek support, if necessary? Could I still live at home if I have greater care needs or require more aids? Can I leave the apartment independently, even if I am no longer quite so mobile? Am I within reach of public buildings? How do I maintain my social contacts if the apartment increasingly becomes the focus of my life?
Might it be important to me to enjoy the company of other people and to be able to avail of assistance at any time? Would I also consider moving? Which living options exist for the elderly in my area?
How can my care be organised?
Relatives frequently take on the role of caregivers. However, your partner is getting older too and may no longer be able to provide the support (that you increasingly need). This may also be a reason for restructuring your living and care situation.
What matters to me in my old age?
And when it comes to dying at the end of my life? It is worth discussing these questions with relatives or caregivers and possibly establishing a directive in advance. They are questions that only you can answer, no one else. Points of contact like Spitex community nurses, your GP or ProSenectute will be happy to give you advice.
During their period of rehabilitation, people with SCI learn “health awareness”, so that they can inform themselves about their health and their condition, as well as understand and use this information.
Ideally, people affected also use this for ageing and can also lead a self-determined life with dignity when they are older, including with, or more especially in spite of, a spinal cord injury.