Lymphedema is a condition that typically results from blockage throughout the lymphatic system and is common in older adults. Although there is currently no cure, it can be maintained through treatment. InnovAge has a team of certified lymphedema therapists who work with seniors enrolled in the Program of All-inclusive Care for the Elderly (PACE).
Lymphedema typically shows up in those recovering from lymph node removal or damage to the lymphatic drainage system and can bring challenges such as bacterial infections. Symptoms include swelling that generally occurs in the arms and/or legs. Hot temperatures can aggravate the condition and cold weather can increase dryness in skin, placing seniors at risk for infection. Older adults with lymphedema are also at higher risk of falls and wounds.
Lymphedema Program at InnovAge
Before 2017, InnovAge PACE participants with lymphedema were referred to outside providers for treatment. After seeing initial success, it was decided to further specialize lymphatic care at InnovAge. “We decided we can’t do a one-time consultation with lymphedema patients,” says Sarah Johnson, occupational therapist. “People with lymphedema have to deal with it their entire life. The treatments have to be ongoing or they won’t work.”
The team is dedicated to breaking the cycle of swelling and infection risk by using massage, exercises, compression garment fitting, compression bandages, and skin care education.
InnovAge’s lymphedema program officially launched in June 2019 and has grown to serve about 100 seniors in Colorado
. It’s now being evaluated for expansion across the company. The occupational therapists involved in the program have earned or are earning their certification with the Lymphology Association of North America (LANA),
including Kendra Salfer. “We’ve come far in a short amount of time. We’ve made a difference in a lot of lives,” she says.