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Caring for the Paralyzed

By Jennifer Bradley, Staff Writer

(Page 3 of 3)

In a paralyzed individual, the onset of depression is two or three times greater than in someone without the condition. Though it’s very treatable when addressed, extra care must be given regarding prescription drugs. The side effects of some of the anti-depressants can be stronger for those living with paralysis. Weight loss or gain is a common concern, especially for those in a wheelchair or dealing with pressure sores.

To help combat the emotional downside of paralysis, there are things a caregiver can do. First, be candid about talking with your loved one about your feelings as well as theirs. Putting a person’s mind at ease is a huge hurdle to overcome at the beginning of such personal caregiving.

It also helps to maintain active conversations about family, friends, activities, plans, etc. A loved one should keep an interest in the world around them, whether it is through personal relationships or world and local news. Having a sense of what is going on around them while they are in the first stages of paralysis and treatment will help maintain optimism and interest and reduce the feelings of loss and disconnect.

A caregiver can encourage visitors to do the same—talk openly about the obvious “elephant in the room,” but also about their lives, mutual interests, friends and community happenings. Laughter is healthy, as is taking a loved one’s mind off of themselves and the difficulty surrounding their situation.

For many decades, it was thought spinal cord injuries were incurable. Today, advances are being made in research to restore sensation to nerves and muscles damaged by accidents, stokes and chronic diseases. The question is not whether major breakthroughs in treatment will occur, but rather how quickly they will be realized. For caregivers caring for those living with paralysis and their families, the future is one of hope of recovery.


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