As a medical professional treating patients with peripheral neuropathy, you know how to deal with their medical issues…
Nerve stimulation for regeneration and repair…
Prescriptions for pain…
But what might not be as well versed in is helping them maintain or regain their quality of life.
Helping your peripheral neuropathy patients recoup some of the intangible things they’ve lost to their illness can be incredibly rewarding, both for you and your patient.
And it can help you build a practice that goes beyond the medical issues and gives your peripheral neuropathy patients a priceless gift…
Giving their lives back.
Helping Your Patients Help Themselves
As part of your new patient intake procedure, have your staff provide your peripheral neuropathy patients with some reference materials and suggestions to help them get the most from their time with you and to help you know what their issues are from the outset:
- Give your patients some articles and reference materials to read and educate themselves about their condition. If they know more about their condition, they’ll be more realistic about what they should and shouldn’t expect from treatment.
- Ask your patient to write down a list of questions they have about their peripheral neuropathy. Suggest that they bring someone with them to their first appointment who can write down the answers to their questions for them so they’re not distracted and can really listen to what you tell them.
- Have your peripheral neuropathy patient provide you with a list of all their medications (both prescription and over the counter – including vitamins, minerals and herbal supplements) so you’ll know how what they’re taking may be affecting their condition and causing some of their issues.
- Take note if they are having particular issues that might warrant occupational therapy in addition to physical therapy. Be proactive in making a referral for occupational therapy if you think it’s warranted.
Listening for Signs of Depression and Other Conditions
No two peripheral neuropathy patients are alike. Just as their daily lives and routines are different, the effect of peripheral neuropathy on their quality of life is going to be different. Some patients will require closely monitored pain management therapy. Others will need to be watched more closely for the signs of depression and withdrawal.
While you may not be a mental health professional, part of treating the whole patient requires that you pay close attention to their mental state. Their mental attitude and how they’re adapting to their peripheral neuropathy and the changes it brings to their lives is crucial in a successful course of treatment.
- Encourage your peripheral neuropathy patients to share how their feeling, not just physically but emotionally. Keep a list of support groups available to refer your patients to that can help them deal with their pain and the impact it has on their lives.
- Encourage your peripheral neuropathy patients to get out and socialize with other people as much as possible. Joining a support group for neuropathy patients or even for chronic pain sufferers will give them people to talk to who will have a real understanding of what they’re dealing with.
- Work with your peripheral neuropathy patients on learning to set priorities with their daily routine. Making a list of tasks to be accomplished and being realistic about them will cut down on frustration and help them fight their depression.
Helping Your Peripheral Neuropathy Patients Adapt
Quality of life is a measure of how a patient adapts to their physical condition. The pain in their hands and feet can make it difficult to grasp even the smallest object or to keep their balance when they try to walk.
Imagine how that must disrupt their lives…
In addition to helping them with their medical and emotional issues, there are tips you can share with them that will help them adapt to the practical considerations of dealing with peripheral neuropathy:
- Using thick, rubber handled utensils in their kitchen will make it more comfortable for them when they prepare meals.
- Using long-handled “reachers” (like the ones they use in retail stores to get items off top shelves) to reach for objects on shelves or even to pick things up off the floor.
- Using button hooks to button or unbutton clothing.
- Using devices that assist with putting on and pulling up socks.
- Wearing shoes that have closures that make it easy to put them on and take them off.
- Using devices designed to help pull up zippers.
- Making sure they never leave anything lying around on the floor that they could trip over.