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Social Supports after a Spinal Cord Injury 

The Importance of Social Support after a Spinal Cord Injury

Spinal cord injuries (SCI) are clearly challenging and threatening events to individuals and when a loved one suffers a spinal cord injury – social support is an absolute necessity.  The lack thereof can be considered detrimental to a victim’s overall physical and psychological well-being.  Also – the lack of social support has been found to be related to negative psychological outcomes and adjustment after a spinal cord injury, and has actually been identified as a predictor of early mortality, and associated with low hopelessness and depression.

Both family and peer support have been reported as facilitating the adjustment process. It’s important to have people around to help provide informal support and advice to people with spinal cord injuries throughout rehabilitation. Studies have shown time and time again that family relationships strongly influence life satisfaction of people with catastrophic spinal cord injury.

A quadriplegic spinal cord injury can have devastating effects on children and their families.

The parents of a child with spinal cord injury will no doubt face their own new and unique set of challenges. From our experience as Hamilton Spinal Cord Injury Lawyers, the emotional recovery of a child following either a paraplegic or quadriplegic injury is dependent on experiencing a planned and controlled daily routine, and therefore it is crucial that parents try their best adapt to their child’s new situation and establish a new sense of structure and normality.  Parents must understand that it is essential that support is provided from the beginning and the child is treated with respect as he or she begins to rebuild their life, remembering that the rehabilitation process is both physically and emotionally intrusive.

If an accident is the cause of the paralysis, parents may blame themselves for not adequately protecting their child from danger; if one parent gave the child permission to do whatever caused the incident, he or she may feel guilt while the other parent feels anger.  At the same time parents experience these emotions, other children in the family may need reassurance-both both that their brother or sister will be okay and that their own needs will be met. Depending on how a family responds, these and other changes have the potential to either break down or strengthen  it.

Social Support following Discharge from the Hospital

Following discharge from the hospital, family members (along long with personal care workers) often assume the role of caregivers while helping their loved one with daily activities, such as feeding, dressing, and transfers, and with some personal care. Many family members adopt this new role with little or no education and support, and as a result encounter problems with overload, financial strain, impaired quality of life, and health and emotional problems – but rather do so out of love and support.

Things are going to be difficult – there is no  doubt – but family members should try to work together to get through the initial adjustment after an injury and reestablish new routines and rituals, while preserving as much of the past as possible.  Parents should assist in the transition from the start by having their able-bodied children take part in planning how the family will adapt to the paralyzed sibling’s return home from the hospital or rehab center.

This may include housing modifications (such as moving the returning child to a first-floor bedroom, as well as helping to decorate it), figuring out which chores he or she can still do, and which need to be given to others, and taking a trip to the market to stock up on his or her favorite foods. Assuming that the victim will more likely than not dominate much of the parents’ time at first,

social AND FAMILY support following an SCI

moms and dads might want to participate in special activities with their other kids ahead of time-even if it’s only a movie or a basketball game in the driveway – and have discussions about how life is going to be – and to reassure their love for everyone in the family.

The goal with families and/or friends and loved ones is to make the return home a positive and natural step, and to alleviate some of the anxiety that siblings and everybody in the household-may be feeling. Even if a family camping trip or a week at the beach needs to be temporarily rarely postponed, all the kids in the house should be made to feel special and taken care of during this challenging period. The return home will be challenging and the start of a new life for not only the spinal cord injury victim, but everyone.

Should brothers and sisters help with the actual “personal care” of their sibling with an SCI?

The general advice we hear from occupational therapists and psychologists is no – but one should always inquire. In our experience, once the injured child is back in the home, it is best that brothers and sisters leave such tasks as bathing and bowel and bladder care to others and not become personal care attendants for their siblings for private matters.  Occasionally lending a helping hand is fine but getting involved in the personal care of the sibling with the spinal cord injury has actually shown that the care can actually do more harm than good. The sibling with the injury might feel inadequate or uncomfortable – and at a time where we are trying to implement a returned self-esteem and psychological stability, things may take a turn. It can also lead to resentment that simmers below the surface and has the potential to disrupt the household’s equilibrium. It’s better that personal care be left to the rehabilitation workers.

Children with spinal cord injuries do benefit from having an able-bodied sibling at home.

Children with SCI often benefit from having able-bodied siblings lings at home or school with whom they can discuss their concerns about adjusting to life in a wheelchair. Time will pass and things will change. The sibling with the spinal cord injury, in most circumstances will open up.  Brothers and sisters can play a crucial role in helping a paralyzed teen through these challenging years by serving as unconditional advocates and sounding boards. As these siblings grow into adults, the likelihood is good that this familial bond will continue as an especially strong and satisfying one for all involved. It’s important that able-bodied siblings try their best to become confidants, friends, supports and people that their injured siblings will be able to count on as everyone gets older.

Keep smiling! A positive attitude is crucial in a time of psychological difficulty and change.

A positive attitude is essential to adjusting to life after SCI. Some newly injured individuals become so angry over their physical changes that tension and anxiety fill their homes. Family members, frustrated by seemingly unreasonable demands for attention, may avoid helping out-a reaction that can magnify the injured persons feelings of loss. Siblings may feel forgotten or resent the extra time devoted voted to their injured brother or sister, while parents who overprotect protect their newly injured child may actually end up limiting their son’s or daughter’s independence and reducing his or her self-esteem.

There is no doubt that suffering a spinal cord injury will pose a huge challenge and require adaptation and resilience in order to cope with a new life. However, it’s important to also understand that the spinal cord injury victim will more likely than not suffer brutal stages of grief and psychological complications immediately post-accident and into the near future. Families and their siblings will be need to be prepared to accept and deal with their injured loved one facing negative emotional reactions which might last for quite a while. It’s not uncommon for the injured victim to suffer psychological and psychosocial problems due to lack of privacy, loss of independence, a sense of helplessness, the inability to control basic bodily functions, change in image, fatigue, sadness, crying etc.

It’s important to understand the post-traumatic stress reactions and psychological complications are extremely common in victims that suffer a major stressful event like a spinal cord injury resulting from a motor vehicle accident, motorcycle accident, being hit by a car etc. It’s important that parents, brothers, sisters friends and loved ones or patient with the spinal cord injury victim, except that there will be ups and downs, good days and bad and try to work hard to keep the spirits up in the household, try to laugh, practice being a good listener, encourage expressions and emotions while at the same time try to reinforce independence, step-by-step.

The key for families is to keep the communication lines open.

Because spinal cord injury often forces family members to reconsider consider their roles within the unit, it may cause some initial resentment, though most people come to accept the situation.  A stay-at-home mom who becomes paralyzed may initially feel a great sense of loss because she can no longer get to work, be the mom she was or help around her home, but she can eventually learn ways to manage all of them from a wheelchair. Her husband, meanwhile, might grow to resent his new duties (whatever they are) until he realizes the stronger bonds he is forming with the children and his wife. A newly disabled teen may intentionally ignore his doctor’s advice vice and develop dangerous complications such as bed sores in an attempt to “control” his parents and gain their attention; eventually, however, he may see the importance of a healthy lifestyle style and the freedom, as well as the parental respect, that it brings. The key for families is to keep the lines of communication open and to accept one another’s reactions as part of the healing process.  Although no two cases are exactly the same, the overriding message does not change: No matter what their support system or level of injury, people with SCI can adjust and move forward. No doubt they will experience significant lifestyle changes that will require patience and resolve. Family members and friends must work to understand these changes, as well as their own needs and feelings.  Only through this kind of determination, healthy attitude, and proper knowledge can everybody come together to form the support system that is so crucial to tackling  the daily challenges ahead.

The importance of following the recommendations of a life care plan as best you can.

As a part of the resolution of your case, our Hamilton spinal cord injury lawyers will have hired life care planners to prepare and produce a life care plan for you and your your family. It is important that parents be able to effectively implement the life care plan and to apply the recommendations contained in it.

The life care plan is a complex document and has to functions –  designed to meet the specific long-term needs related to all aspects involved in managing injuries and chronic illnesses over time.  Firstly, the life care plan is to propose the associated costs that a spinal cord injury victim will need throughout the course of his or her life expectancy. The life care plan is based upon the costs charged by the service providers and vendors within the individual’s local area. It’s important that if you are claiming compensation from someone that hurt you, there is a comprehensive assessment done based on data analysis and research, that provides and organize concise plan for your current and future needs with associated costs. It’s important to acknowledge the cost of everything from home modification, wheelchair maintenance, to attending care providers, to medical supplies, transportation etc. that are known in the present and projected into the future. Secondly, the life care plan will include a multidisciplinary approach and include professionals from seemingly disparate fields such as accounting and economics, occupational therapy, rehabilitation therapy, education, medical technologies, supported and assisted living, nursing, psychology, dietary and nutrition, pharmacology etc.  who may be called upon to offer advice or support for a spinal cord injury victim who is coping with a their life altering  injury. Each profession perceives issues in the case from a unique perspective, offers distinctive skills, and can  propose recommendations in the best long-term interests to the individual and his or her family.

It’s very important that parents fry their best to be successful in implementation of the life care plan recommendations and take ownership of the tasks and continue with seeking appropriate, quality services, and being strong advocates for their children. There will no doubt be hours upon hours of supplemental assistance needed to help a child or your one with a spinal cord injury – but – if we are able to obtain adequate compensation to cover the long-term costs of care and rehabilitation (and reduce the exposure of cost for care and rehabilitation as your loved one ages ) and independence is consistently encouraged, things will generally work out well in the long run throughout the reduced life expectancy of your loved one.

Spinal cord injury Ontario is a valuable resource.

Spinal cord injury Ontario is a fantastic organization that was started after the second world War, when soldiers returned Ontario and were rejected socially, economically and vocationally. The group was founded and structured by veterans with spinal cord injury who began advocating for better services and assistive devices to help them in day-to-day life. The organization delivers in Champion’s excellence in support and advocacy for individuals in Ontario that suffer from paraplegic and quadriplegic paralysis.

The organization has a fantastic peer support program to help assist people with new injuries and transition from hospital, to rehabilitation center, and eventually to home. There are multiple resource centers throughout the province and we encourage you to contact spinal cord injury Ontario. You can reach the peer support or family support program by calling toll-free at 1-877-422-1112 or emailing peerconnections@SCIOntario.org.

What is our role?

Our role as spinal cord injury lawyers and Hamilton are to help represent spinal cord injury victims and comprehensively demonstrate your loved ones degree of disability and economic losses in order to justify the damages sought by the person that caused the devastating injuries. We work with the best occupational therapist and life care planners to account for all present and future medical and rehabilitation needs as well as the computation and accounting of economic damages that are suffered and will be suffered throughout the life expectancy of your loved one. In short, we ensure they are taking care of and once this happens, it makes not only the victims life easier to manage financially, but relieving the financial stress and burden on the family in turn relieves the emotional stress, potential burnout, fatigue and worry about the future.

If you are loved on a suffered a spinal cord injury – or if you have any questions at all  – call us at 905-333-8888 or fill in a contact form and contact us privately. We would be happy to answer any questions you may have.

*This information has been obtained from our experience and knowledge of spinal cord injury law as well as Medical Peer Reviewed Journals and Medical Studies from SCIRE (Spinal Cord Injury Research Evidence)



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