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Getting You Back On Track

13 August 2015

After a spinal cord injury your life is never likely to be quite the same again but there are a whole range of therapies, aids and equipment that can be used to try and get your life back on track. There are also likely to be things which you are simply now unable to do in your daily life and therefore you may require domestic assistance to help you manage. Our blog post today goes through some things that may reassure you there are options out there to help ensure your life returns to as close as it was before your injury.

Domestic Assistance/Care

Domestic assistance can be varied and can cover the following:-

  • Shopping and food preparation – you may not be able to carry heavy bags of shopping for example or prepare certain types of food.
  • Cleaning – you may not be able to perform heavier domestic tasks such as vacuuming and interior window cleaning.
  • Laundry – you may have difficulty carrying heavy loads of washing, putting washing into the machine and hanging it up to dry.
  • Gardening and handyman tasks – you may have difficulty in carrying out tasks such as mowing the lawn or interior decorating.
  • Childcare and pet care – you may require assistance in looking after your children and caring for your pets.
  • Holidays – you may require assistance for example in sourcing wheelchair suitable accommodation and trips, carrying heavy luggage and transporting sufficient bowel and bladder care equipment.
  • Continence issues – this is likely to get increasingly more difficult as you get older and you may need assistance from specialist nurses in incontinence procedures such as catheterisation.

Members of the family and friends may be able to assist with the above, but we can help arrange for paid carers to assist you in your daily activities, with regular visits or a live in carer or carers to assist on your holiday.

Aids and Equipment

Aids and equipment that has been recommended and found of use to our spinal cord injured clients include the following:-

  • Walking aids – these can be essential in the maintenance and functional abilities.
  • Manual and powered wheelchairs – to aid independence by encouraging local outings. You can also be advised on different seating options to support your postural and mobility needs.
  • Hygiene items – such as hand wipes, hand wash liquid and lubricating creams. Impairment of bowel and bladder functions as a result of a spinal cord injury needs careful management. Sensory impairment and episodes of incontinence mean increased risk of skin breakdown and maintenance of hygiene is important to help minimise the risks.
  • Special baths – maintenance of hygiene is very important to avoid skin breakdown, particularly where one has suffered a sensory disturbance combined with bowel incontinence. Therefore the provision of a special bath with integrated bath lift where appropriate may be necessary.
  • Pressure relieving cushions – to minimise the risk of developing pressure sores.
  • Portable ramps- to enable access to various properties.

Transport

Transport is also an important consideration for someone who has suffered a spinal cord injury and vehicle adaptations can be carried out following specialist assessment at a drive in centre, such as the National Spinal Injuries Centre at Stoke Mandeville.

Option for leasing an adapted vehicle through the The Motability Scheme are also encouraged. Considerations include adequate boot space and a wheelchair hoist to lift the wheelchair or scooter into the rear of the car for storage on the journey, if required.

Therapies

There are various therapies that can be used to help improve your physical and mental wellbeing after suffering a spinal cord injury, the main therapies of which are physiotherapy, occupational therapy and psychotherapy.

Physiotherapy

An important therapy is physiotherapy. Physiotherapy helps restore movement and function. This may include exercise, manual therapy techniques where physiotherapists use their hands to relieve muscle pain and stiffness, aquatic therapy (physiotherapy in the water) and other techniques such as heat, cold and acupuncture to help ease the pain. The nature of the therapy will depend upon the level of the spinal cord injury. Physiotherapists will help to strengthen your muscle power, improve neural recovery and gait (where possible) and assist with bowel and bladder management. Physiotherapists can also assist with breathing.

Our clients have also benefited from recommendations by expert physiotherapists for personal training. A therapy assistant can also be sourced as social support as a means of exploring leisure opportunities beyond the confines of the immediate environment.

Occupational Therapy

Occupational therapy is the assessment and treatment of physical and psychiatric conditions using practical solutions to prevent disability and promote independent function in all areas of daily life. Occupational therapists will look at changes in motor function, posture, hands and arm problems and changes in sensation. Occupational therapy can be used for example in simple things such as dressing and getting to the shops or to work. It involves changes to your environment and the use of various equipment. Recommendations for our clients have included:

  • Wet rooms (owing to the practicalities of how you now wash)
  • Commode shower chairs (owing to continence difficulties)
  • Riser recliner armchairs (to assist with easier transfers from sitting to standing)
  • Long reaching hand aids (owing to difficulties in bending to the floor and picking up items)
  • Pressure relieving mattresses (owing to the loss of sensation in the buttock region).

As people who have suffered spinal cord injury have sensory and physical loss in the lower limbs, chiropody services are also often recommended to maintain healthy feet and nails.

Psychotherapy

Psychotherapy is a type of therapy used to treat emotional problems and mental health conditions. It usually involves talking to a trained therapist (either with or without your partner, one to one or in a group) allowing you to look at the source of your problems and worries. It helps you develop strategies so that you can cope with life and particularly in this case, helping you adapt mentally to the changes in your physical status. This is especially important for people who have suffered spinal cord injury as they are understandably susceptible to depression.

This article forms part of a series written for the Spinal Injuries Association (SIA) ‘Ask the experts’ blog. As a Gold Corporate Partner of the SIA you can rest assured that we are legal experts in spinal cord injuries. We have many connections in the Spinal Injury world and have a great deal of experience and success in gaining appropriate compensation for our clients who have sustained a spinal cord injury. Follow our #spinalinjuryjourney on Twitter.