A spinal cord injury is a life altering event that can be scary, confusing and emotionally draining for everyone involved. Amidst all of the changes that a spinal injury causes, it is important to be supportive. Below, we offer some suggestions to help you offer support to loved ones after a spinal cord injury.
Being Supportive After Spinal Cord Injury
According to the United Spinal Association, near half of all individuals with spinal cord injuries (SCI) need personal assistance with regular, day-to-day activities.
Following are some tips to help you be more supportive to a loved one who has just experienced a spinal cord injury.
#1 - Understand the spinal cord injury.
While you may not be able to empathize with all that the person is going through, it helps to learn as much as you can about their spinal cord injury. Doing so will help you better understand how their particular injury affects them, including the types of treatment needed and emotional effects.
#2 - Encourage exercise & physical therapy.
Building and/or maintaining strength is important with any injury - especially a spinal cord injury. Regular exercise and physical therapy will help the person build strength as well as boost his/her mood.
Know what types of exercises/physical therapy the person needs or is going through, and offer to go with them or exercise alongside of them. This may make an otherwise difficult task more enjoyable knowing that you are accountable to each other.
#3 - Reinforce goal setting.
Without clear goal setting, it is often difficult to see the bigger picture. Having and setting goals gives the person something to work towards - whether it’s finishing a specific physical exercise or finishing work on a college degree. Help motivate them to keep them pushing ahead.
#4 - Don’t always help immediately.
It is natural for us to want to immediately help someone who we perceive as struggling with something. However, in the case of physically disabled persons, it is sometimes better to demonstrate restraint.
With spinal cord injuries, you can’t and shouldn’t do everything for the person. Give them an opportunity to act independently and only step in when asked or when it is more obviously appropriate.
This will save the person embarrassment and frustration.
#5 - Consider a spinal cord injury support group.
Navigating spinal cord injury on your own can be challenging. Regardless of whether it’s you or another loved one you’re caring for, speaking to others who are experiencing the same thing can prove rewarding while offering the emotional support you need.
United Spinal Association - The United Spinal Association provides a comprehensive list of spinal cord injury support groups. Search by state.
Spinal Cord Injury Associations & Organizations - Offers a list of spinal cord injury associations and organizations within the United States.
North Carolina Spinal Cord Injury Association (NCSCIA) - Offers a comprehensive list of spinal cord injury support groups throughout the state of North Carolina.