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Caring for the Paralyzed

By Jennifer Bradley, Staff Writer

(Page 2 of 3)

The Reeve Foundation explains that being uninsured or underinsured does not mean there are no ways to get health coverage. Hospitals which accept federal funds on any level must provide specified amounts of free or reduced-fee care to patients. The hospitalís financial department can provide qualification information to caregivers.


Loved ones living with paralysis may experience a host of secondary conditions to varying degrees, depending on the location of the paralysis and its severity.

Some of these include blood clots, pneumonia, low blood pressure, pressure sores, spasticity, pain, bladder or bowel infections, and autonomic dysreflexia (AD), an emergency that must be treated immediately.

For general body health, a good rule of thumb for caregivers to know is to change a loved oneís position every two hours. Pressure sores, if not found and left untreated, can lead to a serious complications. They develop when an area of the skin is under a prolonged period of pressure. It can be helped if the pressure is relieved regularly (thus, the changing position guideline).

Choosing a rehabilitation facility is a very important decision and one that significantly will impact the progress of a loved one with paralysis. A caregiver should look for accreditation by the Rehabilitation Accreditation Commission (CARF) for spinal cord injury, which indicates that the facility meets a minimum standard level of care. Always ask if the facility has previous experience with the specific diagnosis and level of paralysis a loved one is facing.

The importance of regular exercise for someone with paralysis cannot be understated. Scientific studies predict that most recovery will come within six months of injury, and is complete within two years. Christopher Reeve proved that these medical expectations could be beaten, and did, having significant improvement five to seven years after his accident. Many believe that this was because of the exercise routine he began the year he became paralyzed. Though his regimen was targeted toward his needs, and each loved one that is paralyzed will not have the same outcomes, professionals all agree that exercise is a good thing for all those suffering with any form of paralysis.


Depression is very common in a newly paralyzed person, and there are warning signs a caregiver can watch for that will red flag this as an issue. They may include: oversleeping, change in weight, loss of interest and negative thoughts. Changes in mood can be gradual, so it may be harder for a caregiver to see a noticeable difference. Many times, other people will notice it first. A caregiver must be open to the observations of those who care for a loved one, but may not be a primary caregiver.


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