When someone in the family suffers from a spinal cord injury or SCI, the news can feel overwhelming to the whole family, and feelings of helplessness, depression, and overall sadness can arise. Unexpectedly, a loved one who has been diagnosed of SCI can evoke a gamut of emotions for a lot of people, including worry about the future, the level of disability that the family member has sustained, and just how the whole family is going to deal with their loved one’s injury and his life. Nothing can really ever prepare us for the effects of spinal cord injury.
Feeling miserable during this time is a naturally acceptable feeling any time since the injury happened, even the period of rehabilitation or when the loved one has left the hospital to try to cope at home. Not everyone feels the same, though, and there is no wrong or right way to feel.
From the time of injury, the family may feel that nothing is going to be the same again. With time, reassurance, and guidance from the medical health professional team as well as the loved one’s family, life could again be lived with meaning. In fact, oftentimes relationships are strengthened and bonds get deeper. Perhaps this is because the SCI patient is most often at home, thus he has more time spent with the family with the opportunity to develop deeper relationships with their spouse, child, or other family members, for that matter. This may be something that he previously did not do before he suffered the injury.
The Family’s Challenges
After a spinal cord injury, the whole family would have to make the necessary adjustments. This will also depend on the level of injury that the loved one has sustained. As mentioned, the family’s relationship with the SCI loved one may change too, and it is possible that he or she will be staying in the hospital only for a while to recuperate at home, or may be hospitalized for a longer period. If it is the latter, then emotions such as a yearning for physical and emotional intimacy, stress, thoughts of retirement and the future, and other things that were part of the loved one’s life with his family before the injury. There are some days when you feel hopeful and optimistic about your loved one’s prognosis and rehabilitation. Other days, though, may feel challenging, tiring, and really depressing for both the patient and the family.
The SCI patient also faces a myriad of challenges, as he is the most affected of all. His activities will now have to be managed differently, and the whole family, including the patient himself, must work together to learn and find ways to adapt to the different aspects of the patient’s life. As the patient undergoes rehabilitation, he may be able to come home to his family for a few days. This often inspires the patient to cooperate with his treatment and get better, making it easier for him to shift move from hospital to home.
All of us feel strained at some point in our lives and we all try to manage it in our own ways. The increase or decrease in our adrenaline levels influences how stress affects us mentally and physically. Physically, people may manifest symptoms like dry mouth, lack of sleep, headaches, mood swings, muscle weakness, and anxiety, among others. Your close friends would ask you if you are fine and if you’re coping well, but these questions may not be easy to answer. Some patients are stronger and more resilient while others have weaker spirits and are more difficult to encourage.
We can’t always control the outside sources of stress but how we feel and act during these times will definitely impact the way SCI patients and their families will cope with the problems that may confront them. One simple way to help deal with stress is to imagine yourself in a certain situation that might cause you stress and then imagine what you can do to change the situation and be able to resolve it. It could also help if you list the things that you prioritize and do what needs to be done first – and do it head-on.
Help And Support
Support for the family and the SCI patient is available for dealing with emotions such as stress, depression, sadness, and others. It is vital that a doctor is consulted if these feelings do not go away for quite some time. Additionally, most spinal facilities have a psychologist or counselor who is capable of providing professional emotional support and guidance. Seeking emotional help is not a mistake at all, especially during a challenging time, like having someone from the family diagnosed with spinal cord injury. When a loved one in the family suffers from SCI, it does take time to take it all in. This starts from when the information is disclosed to the patient and then to the family, making wise decisions about the loved one’s treatment and rehabilitation, and adapting to the changes caused by the injury. Nothing is easy and asking help for dealing with the emotional journey is definitely acceptable.