Not many people think that one day they will take on the role of a caregiver for a paralyzed loved one. It’s just not part of the happily-ever-after that we envision for ourselves when we dream of marriage, children and futures full of joy and excitement. But the difficult truth is that spouses, children, parents and friends sometimes fall victim to debilitating accidents. They sometimes require the kind of full-time care that forever changes not only the paralytic’s life but also the life of the caregiver as well. And research shows that most caregivers come from the immediate families of those who have become paralyzed. Take Dana Reeve and Kate Willette as examples:
Dana Reeve understood the profound transformation that comes when a spouse becomes paralyzed. After her husband, actor Christopher Reeve, suffered a spinal cord injury while horseback riding, Dana became his primary caregiver. She went through the intimidating process of learning how to care for a paraplegic, experienced all the stages of grief and came to realize the challenges and limitations that are associated with her new life as caregiver.
Having gone through the process, she had some tips to share, which we have summarized below:
- Do not isolate: You will feel tired, alone, and like no one can possibly understand what you are going through. But don’t allow yourself to become isolated. Share experiences, stories, and tips with other caregivers who will be able to offer comfort and guidance when you need it.
- Let yourself grieve: Your loved one has suffered a terrible loss. But don’t forget: so have you. Nothing can ever be as you once hoped. To thrive in your new reality, you must mourn and release the reality you lost when your spouse or loved one became injured.
- There is hope: Once you have grieved your old reality, you will find that there are immense rewards and satisfactions in the life of a caregiver. That is not to say that there will no longer be days of profound sadness. There will. But the satisfaction and excitement to love and find peace through difficult circumstances will comfort and enrich you in ways you never imagined.
Author and speaker, Kate Willette, writes about her husband’s spinal cord injury and its effects on their lives in her memoir, Some Things Are Unbreakable. From her own experiences, she offers the following tips for new caregivers, which we have summarized:
- Freely Choose: Something has happened to your spouse or loved one, and yet your own life has been turned upside down. That can be hard to accept at first, but sooner or later you do have to accept it. You must freely choose to continue loving this person, to stay with them and to truly care for them. Otherwise, you will forever feel like a prisoner – and an angry one at that.
- Laugh: As much as possible, cultivate a sense of humor about circumstances, about challenges, about life. After all, laughter can be the best medicine.
- Communicate: Always keep open lines of communication. Don’t bottle anything up.
If you are caring for someone with a paralysis, it is important to know that there are resources out there, designed to help you. Designed Living is one of those resources. We will facilitate all of your loved ones’ medical needs. For more information on our services, contact at (949)353-5400.