Spinal Injury Carers
Living With SCI
A spinal cord injury can have a devastating effect on a person’s life and dealing with the immense changes can be particularly traumatic.
The amount and level of care needed will depend on the severity of the injury. Recovery times can range from months and years to permanent, irreversible disability.
Here’s a look at life after a spinal cord injury, associated symptoms and how a specialised spinal injury carer can help with a patient’s needs.
What is SCI?
Spinal cord injuries are most commonly caused by a severe blow and subsequent damage to the spine such as the result of a car accident or sporting injury. It can also be the result of an infection or a birth defect such as spina bifida.
The spinal cord carries messages from the brain to enable us to move, touch and feel. When the spinal cord is damaged these messages are blocked.
Complete SCI means there is no movement or feeling below the injured area. Incomplete SCI means there is partial movement or feeling. SCI affecting the legs is known as paraplegia. SCI from the neck down is known as quadriplegia.
Full or partial paralysis is not the only symptom associated with SCI. The inability to move or feel can also affect other areas of the body such as:
- bladder and bowel control
- breathing difficulties, the need for assisted breathing apparatus and sleep apnea
- muscle pain
- phantom pains in other areas of the body
SCI patients are more susceptible to skin infections and respiratory infections that often lead to pneumonia. SCI can also lead to depression, anxiety and even suicidal thoughts if a patient feels overwhelmed and unable to cope.
The first year is the hardest as patients learn to adjust and live with their condition. During this time the patient will undergo intensive physical and occupational therapy.
However, with the right care, therapy and support, many adapt well and continue to live happy and fulfilling lives, continuing to work, play sports and drive.
Daily exercises are essential for keeping muscles flexible and strong and to improve blood flow and circulation.
Lack of movement can make SCI patients susceptible to obesity so a balanced healthy diet is essential for maintaining a healthy weight.
Many patients will require some level of professional home care, either live-in or respite care for family caregivers. Specialised spinal injury carers have additional knowledge in the treatment and prevention of pressure sores, manual handling, personal care and communication assistance.