Understanding Spinal Cord Injury
While the cause and nature of the spinal cord injury varies with the individual, and each person responds according to their personality and prognosis, there are some emotions commonly experienced by those who have had a spinal cord injury:
- Feelings of dependency may cause your loved one to withdraw. For many people, the idea of losing even the smallest bit of self-sufficiency can be almost unbearable.
- He or she may believe they’ve become a burden on you and others. The person may feel they’re “dragging everybody down” and that the family would be “better off ” without them.
- Struggles with self-image and self-esteem, and fear of abandonment may contribute to expressions of anger or isolation.
- Embarrassment, or even shame, may arise from unexpected physical changes and loss of their abilities.
If these feelings become severe, persistent or cause loss of hope it may be symptoms of depression. If you think you’re loved one is depressed talk with their doctor and get help.
Rehabilitation and Recovery
Your first experience as a caregiver for a spinal cord injury (SCI) usually comes during rehabilitation (rehab). The rehab team will take the lead in your loved ones recovery. During this time there are some things you can do to help.
- Visit and talk with your loved one often. Find activities you can do together, such as playing cards/games or watching TV. Keep in touch with your loved one’s friends and encourage them to visit.
- Help your loved one practice and learn new skills.
- Find out what he or she can do independently or needs help with. Avoid doing things for your loved one that he or she is able to do without your help.
- Learn what you and your family can do after your loved one returns home. This may include helping him or her with the wheelchair, getting to and from the bathroom, and eating.
- Remove all throw rugs, which can make maneuvering in a wheelchair difficult.
- Remove all but the essentials from the kitchen and the bathrooms, and install grab bars in the bathrooms.
- Make sure your fire detectors are in working order, and have fire extinguishers on hand.
- Make sure you and your loved one have a safe route out of your home in the event of an emergency.
- Draw up a checklist of more extensive retrofits that your home may need, and prioritize them.