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ARTICLES / Spinal Injury / Spinal Cord Injury

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Spinal Cord Injury

By Marian M. Inguanzo, MSW, ACSW and
Mitchell A. Kaplan PhD, CPSP

(Page 3 of 3)  

The physical disabilities associated with a spinal cord injury represent a major life altering traumatic event that can have physical, psychological, and social ramifications for the individual and his or her family members who must now take on the role of caregivers. Social service professionals know that the   long-term care of a family member with a severe physical disability such as a spinal cord injury can be very demanding for those doing the caregiving. Studies conducted by the National Association of Family Caregivers indicate that the stress of taking care of a loved one with a long-term illness or disability can have devastating effects upon the physical and emotional health of the caregiver, leaving them unable to provide the level of assistance their family member requires. In addition, the physical and emotional stress of providing long-term assistive care to a family member with a spinal cord injury, the disability also places a considerable strain on a personís family relationships and financial resources. Data from clinical research conducted on this disability population over the last several decades has revealed that persons living with spinal cord injury are at increased risk for the development of several secondary comorbid medical conditions such as clinical depression and drug and alcohol abuse dependence.

Spinal cord injury can also place a severe strain on an individualís marital relationship when one partner has to take on the unfamiliar role of providing the other with continuous assistance with the tasks of daily living such as dressing, eating, showering, and in some cases, getting in and out of bed. They also must assume the complete responsibility of maintaining the financial stability of their household while still performing their caregiver responsibilities. The increasing pressures of trying to balance their breadwinner and caregiver responsibilities can often lead to marital discord between the able bodied and disabled partners, resulting in a decline in intimacy and basic communication. The constant struggle to cope with medical complications and increased physical  dependence of the spouse with the disability can often lead to a heightened risk of depression and feelings of resentment on the part of the nondisabled partner. These feelings can often result in the termination of the marriage through divorce.


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