According to Tiffiny Carlson, a C5/6 quadriplegic, adjusting to life after a spinal cord injury isn't easy. Although skills and techniques are taught in rehab, it is impossible to cover all of the basics in that short amount of time, she says.
Tiffiny describes how individuals can learn tips from the internet if one is willing to put in the time and effort. She believes individuals should have access to readily accessible material so that they can acquire knowledge about their injury and what to expect right away. Tiffiny points out her top five vital things she feels will help with adjusting to life after a spinal cord injury.
How to Talk with Family and Friends
First, Tiffiny gives tips about how to interact with family and friends. Tiffany describes the feelings and emotions she felt when she was newly injured. "Everything seems brand new, and not in a good way like when you fall in love," she writes.
“Going home after a spinal cord injury is one of the hardest things to do. Everything seems brand new, and not in a good way like when you fall in love. It seems like you are a ghost in many ways, and this is especially so when you interact with family and friends.”
Tiffiny states that many rehab facilities do not teach people to mentally deal with being suddenly treated differently. She indicates that rehabs should have better "mental health programs to help with this huge transition." Tiffiny writes that individuals should ultimately remember that, "… this is not an easy thing so if you are struggling with it as well, know that you are among friends."
How to Dress
According to Tiffiny, dressing in a wheelchair can be very challenging. From her experience, most rehabs will make people aware of where to buy adaptable clothes, but not teach them how to dress with style, or how to adapt clothes already bought. They won't "teach you how you can still be hot and feel sexy, whether you are a man or woman, after a spinal cord injury," she writes.
“Even more so, rehab facilities never teach you how you can still be hot and feel sexy, whether you are a man or woman, after a spinal cord injury.”
Tiffiny gives the example of women having to learn from social media how to wear high heels. "It would be great if rehab facilities would start teaching these kinds of things to help people feel more confident in themselves," Tiffiny writes.
Long-term Effects of SCI and How to Cope
“Many rehab facilities will teach you how to take care of your new body, how to return to work and how to date again, but one thing they will rarely teach you is the long-term effects of your spinal cord injury and how it will affect your body,” says Tiffiny. She gives a few examples of long term health effects such as osteoporosis, hemorrhoids, skin issues, and mental-emotional health.
"It would be great if they taught you not only about this, but how to deal with the frustrations that come along with it."
How to Hire Good Caregivers
One of the most important things Tiffiny feels people should learn before leaving rehab is the ends and outs of hiring reliable caregivers. Tiffiny states individuals are told how to find a health agency, but not taught the skills to find a good home health aide. "Many people have to learn this on their own, which is never a good thing when it comes to caregiving," she says.
“Do know that you can find your own caregivers with many insurance plans. You can be in control who comes into your home, and there are skills on how to find the right people.”
Maintaining a Healthy Self-Esteem
The last topic Tiffiny feels should be addressed while in rehab is how to maintain a healthy self-esteem. She states many individuals struggle with self-esteem after a spinal cord injury. Tiffiny says she knows of many people who have a spinal cord injury that find comfort in talking with a therapist. Tiffiny also recommends dressing well, good hygiene and staying busy as good esteem boosters.
Tiffiny concludes by writing, “Always remember that the experts never know everything and that there's always more to learn especially when it comes to living with a spinal cord injury. Thankfully, the internet exists. If it didn't, we’d be back at the throes of rehab facilities, which is never an age we want to return to.”
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