Tuesday, 28 March 2017

Behind The Wheel With Neuropathy

Today's post from foundationforpn.org (see link below) addresses a very practical difficulty many people living with neuropathy have and that is getting behind the wheel and trusting your foot-pedal coordination in a car. The idea that you may cause an accident, with neuropathic feet losing feeling on the brakes or accelerator, leads to many people giving up driving altogether. There are no known statistics of accidents happening to neuropathy drivers but you can rest assured they must happen across the world. The solution offered in this article (hand controls for brakes and acceleration) are prohibitively expensive for most people and unless you have an extremely generous insurance coverage or state support system, you're going to have to cough up the bill yourself. This leaves people with few options. It also highlights a problem that's almost never talked about and that is nerve damage and driving. You'll be tempted to not disclose your condition if you already find insurance premiums way too high but where does that leave you with the law and responsibility for other road users! Liable to criminal charges that's what. Yet driving can provide neuropathy patients with such a feeling of independence that the idea of giving up the car fills you with horrors at having to stay home, or rely on others for lifts. It's up to us to press car manufacturers, insurance companies and local health authorities to reduce their costs, premiums and support for car adaptation (yeah, the pigs are flying across the room as I write!). Yet what else can we do? Each individual will know when their lack of feeling in their feet presents a substantial risk on the road and then I guess, it's up to us to act responsibly but rest assured...it's a real problem.

Driving with Peripheral Neuropathy
March 6, 2017
Source: http://www.themobilityresource.com/

Staying safe and independent and continuing to drive with peripheral neuropathy

“It was dark out as I pulled into the driveway. My wife and I were discussing the news story being broadcast on the radio. As I turned toward the garage, I took my foot off the accelerator and moved toward the brake. But I couldn’t do it! I couldn’t feel where my foot was. The car kept creeping toward the garage door and I still couldn’t get my foot onto the brake. And then, BANG! The car hit the garage door and came to a stop.”

This frightening story is shared by Jack Miller who suffers from idiopathic peripheral neuropathy. The lack of feeling he describes in his feet is a common symptom of this often debilitating condition. Symptoms such as experiencing weakness or not being able to hold something, not knowing where your feet are and experiencing pain that feels as if it is stabbing or burning in your limbs can make driving difficult and even dangerous.

“The first thought I had was, ‘What if that had been a woman pushing a baby across the street in a buggy? I’m not going to drive anymore until I get hand controls on my car.’” Jack is referring to just one of many emerging technologies that broaden opportunities for people with disabilities to drive vehicles with hand controls and adaptive automotive products and devices. In recent years, technological advances have introduced automotive adaptive devices which reduce the physical effort required to control and/or operate a vehicle or alter the way in which driver control initiatives are applied to the vehicle control systems. With these tools and systems people with disabilities can once again enjoy the freedom and independence associated with being able to drive.

“The next morning I got on the computer and a brief internet search of ‘car hand controls’ led me to a number of companies and eventually to the name of an instructor.” Driver rehabilitation specialists perform comprehensive evaluations to identify the adaptive equipment most suited to a person’s needs. The use of this equipment usually requires the driver to take and pass a special training class which educates on the nuances of driving with the controls. Jack felt that it was important to get a system that had a “lock out” feature so he could disable it when others drove the car in the regular manner. “I didn’t want the possibility that they could accidentally hit the hand control and accelerate and cause an accident.”

Unfortunately the freedom Jack found does come at a price that for some may be prohibitive. The good news is that funding assistance to purchase new adaptive vehicles or to retrofit existing vehicles is becoming increasingly available. Medicaid assistance varies by state. Medicare may pay for adaptive equipment following a specialty evaluation performed by a qualified practitioner. There are additional programs through Social Security, state vocational agencies and non-profit organizations including local “Centers for Independent Living” that can provide additional information. A number of automobile makes are also stepping up to provide persons with disabilities a wide range of rebates and incentive programs. Check with your auto dealer for those details. Finally, often sales-tax exemptions on equipment purchases and other out-of-pocket expense can qualify for tax deductions as medical expenses. Contact your tax adviser or review the IRS tax code for medical equipment.

Jack is enjoying his regained freedom and confidence that with these adaptations he, his passengers and those on the roads with him are all safe: “So after 2 months of having to depend on others to take me places, I once again had the freedom that my own ‘wheels’ gave me and without the fear that my peripheral neuropathy could cause me to have a serious accident that could cause damage or death to others. It truly was a great solution.”


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