April 1, 2016 | 8:00 am | By Pants Up Easy
Losing the use of one’s legs after an injury or illness that affects the spinal cord can be a completely life-changing event. Activities that once were simple routines become much more complicated when one can’t stand or walk, and some may even be impossible. But it’s not just a change for the person in the wheelchair. It can also be quite a shock to those around them – the family members and loved ones who now become caregivers. There are a lot of adjustments that have to be made to provide support to someone who can’t do everything on their own that they used to be able to. You’re in the position of providing vital support that’s really going to affect the quality of their future life. Let’s look at some points about wheelchair assistance that every caregiver needs to know.
Not every spinal cord injury (SCI) is the same, and not every patient is the same, due to a variety of factors. So don’t try to find a list of rules or policies about how things should be done. Every patient’s situation is unique, and so is the care and help that they need.
It’s important to have an understanding of the condition of the person you’re caring for and their particular needs. Do some research. Speak to the patient. Have conversations with other family members and others involved in this person’s care.
The person in a wheelchair may never be able to drive again, but they’ll certainly have occasion to travel by car. If you’re going to be the one driving them, a handicapped parking sticker can be a tremendous quality of life improvement. It will allow you to park your vehicle in the closest possible spots, so you can get out, leave the car, and provide wheelchair assistance as they go in and out of the car and the building. Compare this to having to park in a more distant spot, or double parking, and then leaving the person in the wheelchair while you move the car to and from another parking space.
There is a lot that you, as caregiver, can do to the home, to make it easier for the person in the wheelchair to get around the house. Improvements like ramps (instead of stairs) at the entrances will make it so much easier to get in and out. Widening the hallways facilitates much smoother movement through the house. Doorways themselves can also be widened to allow easier wheelchair passage. Sinks and counters can be rebuilt at wheelchair height for easier access. Grab bars can be installed in strategic locations. These are just a few examples, and there are plenty of other improvements that can be made.
Providing wheelchair assistance can be exhausting, both physically and emotionally. Caregivers are at risk of burning out, and are subject to stress and depression too. Make sure to take some time for yourself (if and when that’s possible), and don’t neglect your own needs like eating and sleeping properly.