Rethinking the Person and the Population

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By Andrea Spridgen
Andrea Spridgen

One of the challenges in providing O&P care is that each patient presents uniquely, whether in gait deviations, skin conditions, motivation levels, or that no two residual limbs are alike. This is compounded by the wide variety of patients needing care: children, the elderly, and military veterans with polytrauma, as well as people with post-polio syndrome or multiple sclerosis who may have special treatment needs. The diversity of patient populations within O&P is explored in this issue.

In "Keeping Up With Senior Evolution: Meeting the Changing Needs of an Aging Population", the experts The O&P EDGE interviewed stress the need to discard preconceived notions of what an older patient may-or may not-be able to achieve. The complexion of this population is changing, and medical advances are helping them to be healthier longer; older people today, in general, are more active than the generation before them. As the experts attest, individual patients may exceed even revised expectations of what a senior O&P patient can achieve in his or her rehabilitation. One challenge confronting the profession then, as Gerald Stark, MSEM, CPO/L, FAAOP, points out, is to help educate third-party payers and move them beyond predetermined ideas of what is appropriate treatment based on age alone.

"Expanding Clinical Skills and Knowledge: Rehabilitative Care for Wounded Warriors Meets Unique Challenges" explores issues confronting those treating military personnel and veterans wounded on active duty, many of whom have sustained polytraumas. As with other populations, every injured service member is individual in his or her recovery. But a thorough understanding of the interconnected nature of the comorbidities of traumatic brain injury, multiple limb loss, and vision, hearing, and balance issues that come with many of the injuries sustained from explosive devices, which account for three-quarters of recent combat injuries, can assist O&P practitioners and others on the rehabilitation team in helping these patients move forward in their lives.

Reinforcing that having a good understanding of what to expect from a special patient population, while recognizing that within that population there are wide variations, is "Refining the Portrait of Late Effects of Polio." This article examines a large cohort of individuals with post-polio syndrome (PPS) in Sweden. It provides practitioners with an overview of the disease's effect on such things as muscle strength, gait performance, and activities within that patient population to provide a context in which to place their own patients with PPS and guide them in addressing possible patient concerns.

Learning more about the characteristics of special populations is valuable in guiding treatment, but as the articles in this issue attest, the characteristics are ever evolving. And all patients should be viewed as the individuals they are.

Happy reading.