Helping A Loved One Adjust To Life In A Wheelchair

November 9, 2016 | 6:00 am | By Pants Up Easy

It’s not always easy to see a loved one go through serious life changes, especially when it involves a major crisis like a spinal cord injury. Sometimes, it seems that there isn’t much you can do for them, and the only thing you can offer is some moral and emotional support. However, when your loved one is paralyzed and needs to adjust to life in a wheelchair, you’ll want to do as much as you can to help them through these changes.

  • First, just be there.

This adjustment is not going to be easy for your loved one, and it poses challenges for you as well. I know this is not a comfortable situation for you, and it’s certainly not comfortable for the person who now finds himself or herself in a wheelchair. They’re not only dealing with a brand new physical condition. It’s also going to be a big lifestyle change. Life in a wheelchair means less independence and that’s not something everyone can adjust to quickly or easily. Let them know that you’re there for them, without constantly reminding them of all the things they can’t do any more. Don’t draw unnecessary attention to the wheelchair, but don’t completely avoid mentioning it either. It’s admittedly a delicate balance that you’ll need to maintain.

  • Be prepared to do whatever is necessary.

It can be really difficult for someone who was previously very independent, and who may have also supported your needs in the past, to ask for help with simple daily routines. But in the early days of adjusting to life in a wheelchair, your loved one may be painfully aware that they can’t do those simple tasks on their own. Make it known that you’re there to help with whatever is necessary, and be prepared to do so. Be ready to help reaching things above the level of the wheelchair, with dressing, moving in and out of the wheelchair and bed, and even with bathing and going to the bathroom. Eventually your loved will likely develop routines that will allow them to maximize their sense of independence. Of course, how much they can accomplish on their own will depend largely on the type and severity of the damage to their spinal cord.

  • Help make changes to their environment.

Most of us don’t live in homes that are wheelchair-friendly, but you won’t necessarily know about that until there’s actually someone in a wheelchair in the home, trying to get through their daily activities. Chances are that there’s a lot that can be done to make the home easier to navigate for someone in a wheelchair. Hopefully your loved one is already working with an occupational therapist, who will help identify the modifications that will help your loved one. Installing guide rails in strategic locations, and ramps instead of stairs at entrances, are just a couple of the home enhancements that make life in a wheelchair so much easier.

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