How To Help Your Loved One Reestablish Independence After A Spinal Cord Injury

October 14, 2016 | 8:00 am | By Pants Up Easy

There is no question that a spinal cord injury is a dramatic and devastating event. Needless to say, it changes the life of the individual who suffered the accident. But it’s also a challenge for family members of the victim. When your loved one has lost much of their independence, it’s going to impact your life as well. We all expect to have responsibilities towards our family members, providing physical, emotional, and financial support. However, the need for additional care that’s involved in living with a family member with paralysis is something we don’t really expect or ask for. Somehow, though, there is a new set of demands placed upon us. 

Perhaps the most life-changing aspect of a spinal cord injury is the loss of independence. Depending upon the nature and severity of the accident and the extent of the resulting paralysis, there are varying degrees of how much autonomy your loved one may be able to retain. It’s a shock, to say the least, to lose the ability to perform what were previously simple, routine, daily tasks. Fortunately, there are things that you as caregiver can do to help your loved one regain at least some sense of their independence.

1. Make your home wheelchair-friendly

It’s not an easy adjustment for your loved to transition to spending most of their waking hours in a wheelchair. One of the first things that you can do to help make things easier and less frustrating is to make some simple changes to your living space. An occupational therapist can assist you by evaluating your home and recommending modifications that will allow the patient to move around more independently. There are a number of simple changes that provide mobility and help restore a sense of independence. For starters, make sure that floor surfaces are smooth and even to allow easy passage of the wheelchair. Obstacles should be cleared from the pathways your loved one will be traversing. Basic necessities that are needed on a daily basis should be kept within arm’s reach of someone in a wheelchair, not in high cabinets that can’t be accessed without standing or stretching too much. Something as simple as coming and going through the front door can present a great degree of frustration for someone in a wheelchair, especially if there are steps involved. Installing ramps instead of or in addition to steps at entrances to the home will facilitate the ability to go in and out with independence. Removing cabinets, especially those with doors, below sinks, will make the sink much more accessible to someone in a wheelchair. Guide rails, placed in strategic locations around your living space, provide additional assistance for navigating around the home. Lifting devices can be most useful to help people with paralysis transferring in and out of their wheelchairs, as well as dressing. Pants Up Easy’s products serve just that purpose, allowing the individual to independently pull his or her pants up while in a seated position.

2. Be a source of moral support, too.

 The physical limitations on a person with a spinal cord injury are easy to recognize. The psychological and emotional aspects, however, are not necessarily as obvious, nor are the solutions as simple or clear-cut as installing a ramp. The experience of losing one’s ability to get through their day without frequent hands-on help, along with the accompanying experience of one’s life dreams being shattered, can have a devastating effect. It shouldn’t be surprising that anxiety and depression are common among those with a spinal cord injury. It’s important to find ways to empower your loved one so to retain as much autonomy and self-confidence as possible. Allowing the person to make as many of their own choices as possible, including such simple decisions as deciding what to eat or what movie to watch on TV, will go a long way towards reestablishing a sense of independence.

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