The damage done by the polio virus has largely been eradicated across the world. While thirty years ago we may have been looking at hundreds of thousands of cases each year, now we are fortunate to have just a few hundred at most. This has been achieved by a worldwide vaccination process that protects children around the globe.
For those who have suffered an acute attack of polio, though, the ongoing health problems, even many years later, can cause a range of disabilities. Post-polio syndrome is characterised by weakening of the muscles, muscle shrinking and general fatigue, as well as muscle and joint pain and trouble sleeping. Post-polio syndrome can develop some 15 to 40 years after an acute infection and there is currently no cure.
Supporting Someone with Post-Polio Syndrome
Someone who has developed symptoms may need help with mobility issues, perhaps using a walking stick or scooter to get around. They will have periods when they are easily tired and will need to rest. Monitoring weight and keeping this down can help with mobility problems and if joints and muscles hurt then medication can be used to dampen the pain.
While the disability may be obvious, most people suffering from post-polio syndrome will want to live as independently as possible. Providing support for this as well as noticing times when a person may be fatigued by their condition, often a little irritable, is something that friends and family can be aware of and help with.
Probably one of the bigger problems is helping someone with PPS cope with the emotional side of things. Joining support groups can allow everyone get a better picture of what is happening and what to look out for. It can give you confidence in dealing with the condition and help you develop the plans together for moving forward.
Post-polio syndrome can also cause breathing difficulties and lack of sleep which can exacerbate factors. Sufferers may develop anxiety and depression and some form of psychotherapy can help with controlling these particular problems. Assistance and support from family and friends can go a long way but sometimes aren’t quite enough and it’s important to accept when more professional aid is required.
Depression can be characterised by feelings of worthlessness and guilt. There may be eating problems such as loss of appetite or weight gain from overeating. The person might be excessively irritable and prone to crying. All these would suggest that there is some mental health issue that needs to be addressed. Anxiety disorders can also be a problem with the person worrying, having panic attacks or developing compulsions.
As with any disability, understanding and compassion can be a great help. Communication is also key especially when you suspect that the mental health of a loved one is being affected by their condition. Finding ways to cope with these problems and the effects of the syndrome are all ways that friends and family can provide support.