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  1. #1
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    Health implications of SCI in old age

    This has been a question/concern that's crossed my mind over the years, and has come back again with a vengeance in a recent relationship, as my girlfriend's parents are extremely against her dating someone in a wheelchair, because they believe that with age, I'll be less and less able to take care of her (and you know how parents always want the best for their children!)

    So, I ask you folks here on CCC, what ARE the long term health implications of SCI as we get older and older? I have, of course, heard of the risks associated with long term catheterization, the obvious osteoporosis and atrophy issues, possible male reproductive concerns, and how we're more at risk for cardiovascular disease (though I've yet to see this one confirmed/discussed here).

    While I am curious about the particulars above, my main question is: assuming we're otherwise healthy, does our quality of life or ability to provide for others get worse any faster than it would for non-SCI individuals? If so, in what ways? I imagine this also depends on your level of injury too: in my case, T-11/T-12 complete since I was a kid, now 27 years post.

    And mods, if there's a better forum for this (i.e. life or relationships), please move accordingly!
    Last edited by faji_tama; 04-27-2016 at 05:27 PM.

  2. #2
    Of course It does! The shoulders, elbows and wristsare not designed to be treated like hips, knees and ankles so people even in Younger ages if not careful run into serious shoulder problems and end up being left in an electric wheelchair or in really bad shape! Your lifespan depending on your level and severity of the injury ( as well as a few other things pressure neurogenic bladder etc. ) is obviously reduced. I had osteopenia when I was 21, ( despite going to physiotherapy and standing every day) there's people in their 70s that don't have thatalthough after 60 it is fairly common especially in women, but it can be avoided; with SCI it can't.if you're prone to cardiovascular disease genetically and are wheelchair bound, especially if you don't watch your diet you're in the red zone big-time as you get older. The body is not meant to sit all the time, it withers a way after paralysis no matter how young you are! Aging does the same thing but to a MUCH lesser degree, and there are very simple real options to prevent it or slow it down for ABs! combined ageing and paralysis it's awful. You're right catheters start becoming a problem, horrible things start happening, chances of bladder cancer is massively increased,chronic infections, antibacterial resistance, kidney/bladder stones, frequent catheterization long term may be link to a lot of nasty stuff; indwelling is most likely even worse! from everything I've seen it's fairly common that people are forced to go onto a colostomy which again isn't healthy especially when you're older. After paralysis your skin becomes denervated, and overtime that gets worse and worse and bedsores become more common and easily occur and healing becomes much slower, with age healing become slower obviously; again combine paralysis and ageing you're getting a double beating with everything. So again depending on your injury you're likely going to be battling health issues from infections to bedsores, fractures etc. managing your health will often be more extreme, Expensive and time-consuming (self-explanatorythis will worse with age) colostomy, preventative antibiotics, lots of medication,catheters etc. You're going to become less mobile much quicker, even if you have full function of your arms; some people as paraplegics lose the ability to transfer themselvesbecause of so much scarring and calcification from overusing their shoulders, using improperly as well. Back problems are also very common pretty much inevitable. You're also statistically more prone to very serious diseases and health issues, bladder cancer, osteoporosis, synrix, cardiovascular problems,pneumonia etc. And like I said our lifespan is obviously reduced especially in higher injuries (but you know what we are probably less likely to get hit by a bus or shot etc.) Everything I said is just scratching the surface, after SCI we are probably just more prone to cancer in general, are immune systems are weakened, are circulation is greatly affect as well as our digestion,our nutrient absorption could be hindered, the overwhelming damage to our skin, muscle and joints, our spinal cord below the injury atrophies,frequent autonomic dysreflexia, blood pressure is completely altered, central nervous system is in a constant state of shock, very intense medical practice is needed daily that comes with its own side affects that a paralyzed body is probably more susceptible to etc there's just no telling what the FULL implications are!

    You are very lucky in a horribly ironic ugly way; being a T12 maybe you don't even have a high pressured bladder! But even still the same applies to you (to a lesser degree) after an SCI. Ageing has serious implications for anyone, againg with paralysis is a whole nother ball game, and there's really not much we can do about it either.

    I'm just talking biological facts here, in no way am I saying you should or shouldn't be with someone,there's plenty of SCIs Live productive and good life to/ for themselves.
    Last edited by JamesMcM; 04-26-2016 at 08:49 PM.

  3. #3
    Aging gets everybody, SCI or not. Some fare better than others. I am a 78 year old C-7 complete quad who was injured in 1954. Last year my wife and I celebrated our 50th wedding anniversary. I worked fulltime from 1966 until 2001. During the last 20 years of employment as a college professor I took 3 sickdays off from work. I retired at age 63 because I was diagnosed with testicular cancer. I am a survivor. My mother in law strongly objected to her daughter marrying a cripple who could not even go to the store for a loaf of bread (Her very words). Love prevailed. It was 10 years before she could carry on a civil conversation with me. On her deathbed she apologized for her horrible attitude and behavior. My advice: Go where your heart takes you. No one knows what the future holds fora SCIs or anyone else.
    You will find a guide to preserving shoulder function @
    http://www.rstce.pitt.edu/RSTCE_Reso...imb_Injury.pdf

    See my personal webpage @
    http://cccforum55.freehostia.com/

  4. #4
    Quote Originally Posted by SCIfor55yrs. View Post
    Aging gets everybody, SCI or not. Some fare better than others. I am a 78 year old C-7 complete quad who was injured in 1954. Last year my wife and I celebrated our 50th wedding anniversary. I worked fulltime from 1966 until 2001. During the last 20 years of employment as a college professor I took 3 sickdays off from work. I retired at age 63 because I was diagnosed with testicular cancer. I am a survivor. My mother in law strongly objected to her daughter marrying a cripple who could not even go to the store for a loaf of bread (Her very words). Love prevailed. It was 10 years before she could carry on a civil conversation with me. On her deathbed she apologized for her horrible attitude and behavior. My advice: Go where your heart takes you. No one knows what the future holds fora SCIs or anyone else.
    No doubt you've lived and are living a good , Productive life and managed to snag a great woman i'm not trying to argue that in anyway! I'm not nearly that ignorant. However the damage ageing with paralysis does to the body compaired to ageing alone,is incomparable! It's not the same thing, and should not be treated as if it is, facts are facts the statistics are there , And even since the mid-40s since people started surviving SCI we don't even know the full implications of frequent autonomic dysreflexia has on the body long-term, let alone everything else that quadriplegia entails! AD can cause a young healthy man to have a stroke! What is known is the easy obvious stuff statistically we have a shorter lifespan, and are much more prone to such and such. I'm very sorry about your cancer diagnosis, good for you for making it through! But that whole section of the male body causes me great anxiety since my injury, the more I dig into urology (SCI related and extensive literature that is little hard for me to read and frankly terrifying ; The more I start to connect the dots leads me to come to the conclusion that your injury could've played a potentially big part in your cancerous diagnosis! There's obviously nothing proven no studies done, testicular cancer is fairly rare for any man, but after reading about various testicular biopsies done on SCI patientsThe results speak for themselves, it's just not helpful knowing because we can't do anything about it at this time. And That's just one small scary partof the body, but the implications of paralysis alone on the human body, let alone paralysis with ageing should definitely not be underminded! I don't think I've met or even read about any paraplegics in their older ages, paralyzed 20 years plus that don't have very serious shoulder damage from transfers, manual chairs etc. I know a few ABs guys 70+ that our champion bodybuilders (one near 80) put some 20-year-olds to shame it's not as uncommon as we think, especially because abs have with very natural very simplistic ways to utilize the entire body and slow/Prevent the damages of aging; that their body, CNS will put to full use.

    I play all the health rules, you'd be hard-pressed to find anyone to keep my diet religiously like I do. I now even play all the SCI health rules to a T,but over four years at 24 I couldn't stop the damage yes I was dealt some unfortunate circumstances obviously related to the injury abnormally high-pressure neurogenic bladder, synrix etc. There's medication that I can't get off, not because of weakness or lack of mental fortitude but because of the physical damage that will take place if I don't stay on the drug, that is a rare thing in the young able-bodied population, even in the Middle Ages most people are on medication by choiceoften times unnecessarily with more natural remedies. I'm talking about myself, but it's far bigger than that this happens to anyone with a serious spinal injury especially high cervical; and you're absolutely right age catches up with everyone, so with everything many of us face at a young age because of SCI The daunting reality of agecatching up is VERY serious, SCI can very much a terminal condition. I think there's just so much variation between each injury in its implications and severity it's so easy for some to remain ignorant to that fact.

    OP my apologies for loading your thread, in terms of finding love I think SCI is irrelevant to some if anything it's more beautiful it was still found, SCI 55 is an example of that. As a T 12 you will probably have no problem proving her parents wrong... But InContext to the physicality of your question there are very real implications with a paralyzing disability, and ageing will definitely exasperate them. I'll say again, statistically and very evidently aging with paralysis is not comparable to ageing alone in terms of the damage and complications to the body;frankly it's ludicrous (slightly alarming) to say otherwise. I've been doing a lot of reading on this, more specifically the implications of SCIthat happened right off the bat at any age, to understand them and to slow them down which is why I became so interested by this thread. We really react to shocking imagery, so many photographs have gotten so much recognition and helped a good cause just by how horribly shocking they are. Just the other day I was telling my mom imagine if we took daily pictures immediately after my accident just to the two month mark at most! I was built, like very built and if we sped up these images as a slideshow you would see how quickly, and how literally my body rotted no different than anyone with a very complete high cervical injury, my obvious young age didn't matter it went and every day since little by little it gets worse; despite my best efforts! But just imagine what kind of affect those images would've had I'm very disappointed I didn't get them, mind you I was in a coma and unable to talk after at first. The general public needs to see the very real ugly side! There's no point in hiding it, they obviously know it they just don't understand the full gravity of it...
    Last edited by JamesMcM; 04-26-2016 at 09:50 PM.

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by JamesMcM View Post
    I'm just talking biological facts here, in no way am I saying you should or shouldn't be with someone,there's plenty of SCIs Live productive and good life to/ for themselves.
    Quote Originally Posted by JamesMcM View Post
    OP my apologies for loading your thread, in terms of finding love I think SCI is irrelevant to some... But InContext to the physicality of your question there are very real implications with a paralyzing disability, and ageing will definitely exasperate them. I'll say again, statistically and very evidently aging with paralysis is not comparable to ageing alone in terms of the damage and complications to the body;frankly it's ludicrous (slightly alarming) to say otherwise.
    Not at all, and I certainly appreciate the outlook, even if it wasn't really what I wanted to hear. I knew that we SCI folks had a few more things to worry about than others, but the gravity of the matter as indicated by your posts was far heavier than I had expected. And not to suggest that you're being an alarmist or fearmonger, but I would definitely like to hear a bit more from other folks on here about this matter (particularly ones like SCIfor55yrs and darkeyed_daisy who've been dealing with SCI for decades now) about how their condition and situation has changed over the years. I'm 27 years into my paraplegia, so if these are matters that I should be concerned about (in that I can actually do something about them), I'd certainly like to know!

    Quote Originally Posted by SCIfor55yrs. View Post
    Aging gets everybody, SCI or not. Some fare better than others. I am a 78 year old C-7 complete quad who was injured in 1954. Last year my wife and I celebrated our 50th wedding anniversary. I worked fulltime from 1966 until 2001. During the last 20 years of employment as a college professor I took 3 sickdays off from work. I retired at age 63 because I was diagnosed with testicular cancer. I am a survivor. My mother in law strongly objected to her daughter marrying a cripple who could not even go to the store for a loaf of bread (Her very words). Love prevailed. It was 10 years before she could carry on a civil conversation with me. On her deathbed she apologized for her horrible attitude and behavior. My advice: Go where your heart takes you. No one knows what the future holds fora SCIs or anyone else.
    This story brought a smile to my face, but also a twinge of sadness at how things with the MIL turned out. With the both of us coming from very Asian households and backgrounds, family (and therefore, family approval) is a big deal, and the thought of her mom pushing back against this because of how my health my degrade, my girlfriend pushing back and fighting for us regardless, then only to be unhappy in the end because things turned out exactly as her mother predicted... that's a hard thought to swallow.

    Quote Originally Posted by darkeyed_daisy View Post
    Are you working? What kind of future plans do you have? What are her dreams? Do both ideals meet together to form a happy desirable marriage/life? I have been through a few undesirable relationships with my daughter. As a mom, I had to keep my mouth shut and pray for her eyes to be opened to his ways. On a couple of really bad days, I contemplated how I could bury the guy in the back yard without getting caught buying the tarp and shovel. She finally saw what everyone else could see.

    I would think that if you are a good guy with goals and plans who respected my daughter, then I would have no problems welcoming you to my family. Of course, your girlfriends parents may not have had any experience with other disabled people and may be stuck in what I like to refer to as the "black hole of ignorance". People assume things and it makes me angry.
    I suspect that those were mostly rhetorical questions, but I'll tangentially address them nonetheless: as my girlfriend said to me on the phone last night, the ironic thing is that, if it weren't for the disability, I'd be the type of guy her mom would immediately encourage her to marry. So, really, it's just the wheelchair, and the future that it could potentially entail. And while I'd like to write it off as ignorance and assumptions, her mother used to be a physical therapist, so, on top of any existing prejudices from being a mother and being Asian (disabilities aren't looked upon too highly in Chinese culture), there are the very real concerns she has as someone who has worked with people in our situation. Ignorance is a little easier to argue against, knowledge and personal experience though...

    Quote Originally Posted by darkeyed_daisy View Post
    I wish I had done some things different like be a better advocate for my needs and focused a little less on working so many hours. I ignored some little health things that are big things now. I think that your quality of life depends on you and how healthy you strive to be.
    As someone who definitely failed to do this when I was much younger and unaware of the long term consequences of not doing certain things, I'd love to hear more about what these little things were that could have helped avoid your current circumstances!

  6. #6
    Quote Originally Posted by faji_tama View Post
    Not at all, and I certainly appreciate the outlook, even if it wasn't really what I wanted to hear. I knew that we SCI folks had a few more things to worry about than others, but the gravity of the matter as indicated by your posts was far heavier than I had expected. And not to suggest that you're being an alarmist or fearmonger, but I would definitely like to hear a bit more from other folks on here about this matter (particularly ones like SCIfor55yrs and darkeyed_daisy who've been dealing with SCI for decades now) about how their condition and situation has changed over the years. I'm 27 years into my paraplegia, so if these are matters that I should be concerned about (in that I can actually do something about them), I'd certainly like to know!



    This story brought a smile to my face, but also a twinge of sadness at how things with the MIL turned out. With the both of us coming from very Asian households and backgrounds, family (and therefore, family approval) is a big deal, and the thought of her mom pushing back against this because of how my health my degrade, my girlfriend pushing back and fighting for us regardless, then only to be unhappy in the end because things turned out exactly as her mother predicted... that's a hard thought to swallow.



    I suspect that those were mostly rhetorical questions, but I'll tangentially address them nonetheless: as my girlfriend said to me on the phone last night, the ironic thing is that, if it weren't for the disability, I'd be the type of guy her mom would immediately encourage her to marry. So, really, it's just the wheelchair, and the future that it could potentially entail. And while I'd like to write it off as ignorance and assumptions, her mother used to be a physical therapist, so, on top of any existing prejudices from being a mother and being Asian (disabilities aren't looked upon too highly in Chinese culture), there are the very real concerns she has as someone who has worked with people in our situation. Ignorance is a little easier to argue against, knowledge and personal experience though...



    As someone who definitely failed to do this when I was much younger and unaware of the long term consequences of not doing certain things, I'd love to hear more about what these little things were that could have helped avoid your current circumstances!

    Honestly , it sounds awful I know becausemanual chair offers a lot more versatility and freedom, but I have heard a lot of people even paraplegics wish they just put aside their pride and used an electric chair when appropriate, just to save their shoulders, maybe even use a transfer board!

    The increased likelihood of bladder cancer, which is A scary reality not much can be done about that because catheters are almost always necessary, you could get a urostomy. But with anything adequate nutrition, antioxidants help fight free radicals, As well as inflammation which will help the joints, minerals help keep the bones as healthy as possible an investment in a vibration plate may be a way to help reverse osteoporosis if you start early enough and can commit to half an hour every day, you may need to try biphosphonate's with it.

    The thing that I find so troubling about SCI is poor health is not a result of bad choices,The injury just does it on its own and it has a snowball effect it catches up with you even if you make the best choices I've seen that in four years I don't want to imagine what ill be like in 30. But it seems painfully obvious.
    Able-bodied people who end up with osteoporosis, are often lazy and/ or make poor health choices. at any age it can be reversed with weighted exercise and adequate nutrition and eliminating the stress response in the body, this is not so with SCI. The likelihood of cancer can be very much decreased by exercising daily ( not something easily done for SCIas overuse of the shoulders become a serious problem ), nutrition, educating yourself on what to eat. With the spinal cord injury you really can't afford to just eat whatever you want, and drink all your water intake is very important, and your calcium intake is very important I would've buys all of us to get abundant antioxidant as fact is I think we are more prone to cancer in general. Bodies are in a constant state of stress because of the damaged central nervous system, nerve pain and spasms are just an example of a response of that, we can use system, the body completely realtors, there's no questioning there are cellular repercussions. What I'm getting at is nutrition is absolutely vital, we do not have the luxury to fool around with junk food. Be smart.
    Last edited by JamesMcM; 04-27-2016 at 08:17 PM.

  7. #7
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    There are quite a few older SCI's here. I just met a man today in town that is 48 years post SCI and relatively healthy other than normal aging. He is competing in some Veterans games later this summer including hand-cycling.

    I am 27 years post T12-L3 incomplete with L1 crushed and 20 when injured. My biggest issue is fatigue and overuse. I walked all those years so I have now resorted to using a chair. I would have taken much better of my body/joints had I known "no pain, no gain" doesn't apply to us.

    I can understand the wanting what is best for my own daughter and thinking someone perfect is out there but rarely is happiness that simple. If a good man in a wheelchair loved her and treated her with respect, I think I would have to really consider the chair to be a non-issue as her parent. Are you working? What kind of future plans do you have? What are her dreams? Do both ideals meet together to form a happy desirable marriage/life? I have been through a few undesirable relationships with my daughter. As a mom, I had to keep my mouth shut and pray for her eyes to be opened to his ways. On a couple of really bad days, I contemplated how I could bury the guy in the back yard without getting caught buying the tarp and shovel. She finally saw what everyone else could see.

    I would think that if you are a good guy with goals and plans who respected my daughter, then I would have no problems welcoming you to my family. Of course, your girlfriends parents may not have had any experience with other disabled people and may be stuck in what I like to refer to as the "black hole of ignorance". People assume things and it makes me angry.

    As you age, taking care of your body and mind becomes the priority. As for reproductive concerns, there are men/women both who have had children and are great parents. Your biggest worry will be keeping up with them. lol You make some adjustments but otherwise, life with children is just like normal. Well if there is a normal...lol

    I was told that SCI immediately ages you 10 years. It has something to do with the immune/healing response of hormones rushing to the injury site (fight or flight they call it). As I am aging, I fully believe that now although when I was younger I thought it hogwash. I wish I had done some things different like be a better advocate for my needs and focused a little less on working so many hours. I ignored some little health things that are big things now. I think that your quality of life depends on you and how healthy you strive to be. Staying active, avoiding stress, and finding a passion to focus on is what keeps you healthy...or my thoughts anyway.

    Keep in mind, all people are at risk for illness/injury and life doesn't always go as planned. I don't think your injury makes you any more/less likely to have a productive life/family/children as long as you don't get busy and ignore your health needs.
    Last edited by darkeyed_daisy; 04-26-2016 at 08:43 PM.
    T12-L2; Burst fracture L1: Incomplete walking with AFO's and cane since 1989

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  8. #8
    Senior Member lynnifer's Avatar
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    31yrs post.

    Pushed a manual full-time for 29yrs ... bought a used power chair for part-time use. Still have my car to transfer and lift my chair into but haven't used it that much over the last two years. I'm not ready for a van ... most things I can access with the power chair for now (drug store, grocery. etc). Use my manual at home, use the power for walking the dog ... if I get in it to walk the dog, I stay in it. During the warmer weather, I'll occasionally take my manual out to a forest trail so my dog can sniff her little heart out along a nature trail and I get some much-needed exercise.

    I limit my transfers (still have to transfer to a bath lift, toilet and in/out of bed). I went back to a transfer board to save my shoulders about five or six years ago - I think that really helped. If I strain or hurt something - I treat it right away either through a chiropractor or OTC pain meds, therabands and ice/heat. I very rarely hurt myself though because of the precautions I have taken. I have a new bed and went to a board to get in only ... my new bed's a bit high with a memory gel or foam on top with an air mattress overlay ... just asking for an accident to transfer to that so a board is safer.

    The only time I feel my shoulders is Spring or Fall in cold rain. I can tell when we're going to get precipitation.

    Some bad things are bladder and bowel ... I didn't realize those were going to backfire on me and surprised to learn that your bladder/bowel management methods are going to change at some point in your life. THEY WILL.

    My motility has REALLY slowed down; I assume because I am flaccidly paralyzed. Fatigue was huge ... actually got worse since I have all the time in the world now, but I certainly don't miss getting up at 4:45am for dayshift!

    Plan, plan and plan some more. One fall could mean a leg or hip break and a loss of being able to attend work and an unplanned six months off ... hopefully you have a job with short and long term disability etc. Even a popular formerly regular poster here had an unexpected fall and is on short term disability for now trying to heal in constant pain. IT can happen to anyone, so it's important to have that back-up through work financially if you can ... luckily he did.

    I did my 13yrs penance with someone but he was pretty irresponsible so his parents adored me, lol. I did date someone whose mother grew to like me but she was hesitant at first, until she learned I worked and lived on my own and got to know me.

    I'm not sure I could deal with in-laws like that ... in fact, I'd probably roll away ... but like I said, I did 13yrs and am perfectly fine on my own. Kudos to the 'ole feller' as I didn't know that about the in-laws.

    I worked for 20yrs total, having been paralyzed at 12. I had a couple of falls and that was it - time to look after myself and put myself first so I stopped working. The last fall led to a prolapsed rectum - it was a hard one and I twisted awfully while trying to hang on. What was good was that I set myself up well with long-term disability, group life insurance and an excellent drug, dental and extended health care plan for life.

    I'm not sure where dd heard the 10yr aged thing ... but I believe it! I can feel it!
    Last edited by lynnifer; 04-27-2016 at 01:05 AM.
    Roses are red. Tacos are enjoyable. Don't blame immigrants, because you're unemployable.

    T-11 Flaccid Paraplegic due to TM July 1985 @ age 12

  9. #9
    Senior Member lynnifer's Avatar
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    Wanted to add .. the longer you're in a chair, the greater your chances of a pressure sore. That can sideline a person for a long time. Just another thing to consider.

    I wouldn't know what to say to the MIL ... jeez a former physiotherapist saying this!
    Roses are red. Tacos are enjoyable. Don't blame immigrants, because you're unemployable.

    T-11 Flaccid Paraplegic due to TM July 1985 @ age 12

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    I have a friend who is a low para who is dying because of bladder cancer. She has been in a chair some 38 years and our Accident Compensation scheme have accepted that the frequent catheter usage in the past was the cause of the cancer so related to her original injury. At least she is covered for the help she needs in the time she has left, she is only 56 years old

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