Tips for caregivers of individuals with spinal cord injuries

If your loved one recently got into an accident that resulted in a spinal cord injury (SCI), you may find yourself in the new and daunting role of a caregiver. Because this is a brand-new situation for both you and your loved one, there will likely be a steep learning curve. Take it slow and remember that while caregiving can be frustrating, patience is key.

What is a spinal cord injury?

A spinal cord injury occurs when there is damage to the spinal column, more specifically the roots and cord of the spine. Damage to the spinal cord can affect both motor and sensory functions of the affected individual and can cause injuries such as tetraplegia, paraplegia and triplegia.

Spinal cord injuries come with a wide array of symptoms and common ones include:

  • Paralysis, either full or partial
  • Possible need for a respirator
  • Change in bladder/bowel function
  • Need help feeding, bathing
  • Pain (nerves, muscle, general)

Caregiving tips

  1. Inform yourself: Take some time to do some research on the type of spinal cord injury that your loved one is dealing with. When you are informed about the issue or concerns you are having, they can be easier to deal with.
  2. Find support: It can be hard to remember that you are not alone in this situation. Find a support group of others that are in a similar situation and share your story while getting a shoulder to lean on.
  3. Be patient: Neither you nor your loved one has been dealing with this your entire life. When you start to get frustrated, take a beat and remember that the best thing you can do is try.
  4. Stay organized: The last thing you want is to lose important documents. It may be wise to start a filing system with important medical, legal and financial documents in relation to the injured.

Dealing with a spinal cord injury is challenging when you are the one who is injured, but it can be demanding to be a caregiver as well. It is wise to remember that you are doing the best you can.