A spinal cord injury is a serious, life-altering event that can have a lasting impact on the injured person, their family and others close to them. Learning to adjust to life with a spinal cord injury consists of maintaining a positive outlook and staying committed to different types of therapy and treatment options. Moral support and love from friends, family, as well support groups are among the most important resources to helping a spinal cord injury patient adjust to life once they return home from the hospital or rehabilitation program.
Tips for Adjustment and Better Living with a Spinal Cord Injury
- Find a Long-term physical rehabilitation program: Studies have shown that spinal cord injury patients who actively participate in rehabilitation programs and individual treatment plans experience better outcomes, independence, and quality of life when compared to patients who do not put effort into rehabilitation or those who leave treatment early. Patients should consider established facilities with specific experience working with paralysis patients.
- Establish and maintain an exercise regimen: Studies have proven that patients with paralysis who exercise regularly enjoy less health complications and a better quality of life compared to those who do not exercise or stay active. Spinal cord injury patients who remain sedentary and gain too much weight face an increased risk of secondary complications including diabetes, hypertension, and coronary artery disease. Structured exercise activities within the patient’s capabilities must be added to a regular schedule to reduce the likelihood of secondary complications and to enhance their physical capacity to handle stress and illness. Exercise can consist of modified yoga, outdoor recreation, or water therapy.
- Explore all options for adaptive equipment: A patient adjusting to life with paralysis often faces considerable mobility limitations in and out of the home. Before a spinal cord injury patient returns home, family members should talk with physicians and rehabilitation specialists about adaptive equipment options and other ways to prepare the home for wheelchair access. A manual or powered wheelchair may be a necessary part of life. A home may need to be fitted with wheelchair ramps, special hand grips, and bathroom modifications designed specifically for spinal cord injury patient mobility. A person living with paralysis might still be able to operate an automobile, but may require adaptive controls. It is important that a patient continue on with scheduled physical therapy sessions until they reach a comfortable range of capability with any adaptive equipment.
- Continually search for new resources and support online: Attending support groups and counseling sessions can be an important source of support for people living with a brain injury and should continue indefinitely. Spinal cord injury patients and their families can look online to learn more about their injury, learn about funding and research initiatives, and find details about local support groups. Listed below are a few blogs, support groups, and educational resources geared toward helping those who are adjusting to life with a spinal cord injury:
The Kessler Institute