Spinal Cord Injuries: 5 Tips for Family Members

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By Staff Reports

(DGIwire) — The onset of a spinal cord injury (SCI) is accompanied by a massive amount of stress on top of the physical injury. Although the patient with the injury obviously bears the brunt of this psychological trauma, it also places a considerable burden on his or her family members—who might now be transitioning into the role of caregiver. Living with SCI is a complex process, requiring adaptation with changes in the physical, mental and social functions for those affected and their families.

Here are a few valuable suggestions to keep in mind:

  • Stay healthy: Providing care while holding down a job, running a household or parenting can burn anyone out, and stress is known to contribute to a variety of health problems, according the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation (CRF). The more family members keep their own well-being in balance, the more they will enhance their coping skills and stamina. By taking care of themselves, they will be better able, both physically and emotionally, to provide care for their loved one.
  • Seek support from families of other SCI patients: There are numerous online resources, such as the Peer & Family Support Program operated by the CRF, that offer support networks for families that are helping an individual with SCI and that clarify the specific role of the caregiver. Peer mentoring is available to family members and caregivers as well as the patients themselves.
  • Be aware of the secondary conditions that can accompany SCI: Family members should educate themselves about a range of potential illnesses that their loved one is at increased risk for. According to the CRF, these can include deep vein thrombosis (blood clots), autonomic dysreflexia, pneumonia, pressure sores, low blood pressure, pain, bladder and urinary tract infections and bowel management issues.
  • Building up a sense of independence and self-care: According to a study of SCI coping strategies published in the journal Spinal Cord, trying to foster a sense of independence and self-care was one of the most prevalent among patients. Families can assist in this endeavor by encouraging their loved one to seek information on their own, to learn to utilize whatever devices are available to increase mobility, and to seek employment opportunities open those with SCI.
  • Keep informed on studies of new treatments: A clinical research study is recruiting subjects to study a potential therapy for cervical spinal cord injury. The Pathway Study, being conducted by StemCells, Inc. at various sites around the U.S. and in Canada, is evaluating human neural stem cell transplantation as a potential therapy for those with cervical spinal cord injury. The purpose of the study is to evaluate the safety and potential benefit of an investigational product called human central nervous system stem cells (HuCNS-SC®) for people with this type of injury. To learn about eligibility for enrollment in the study, please visit www.sciresearchstudy.com.

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