A spinal cord injury (SCI) is devastating, but it shouldn’t prevent you from living an independent and fulfilling life. Many people gradually rebuild their lives by ensuring the right adaptations and assisted living equipment are in place. Our latest blog discusses the psychological impact of a SCI and how important a suitably adapted home is on physical and mental health and wellbeing.
Adapting to a Spinal Cord Injury
After experiencing a spinal cord injury, there is likely to be a lengthy period of readjustment whilst coming to terms with a new level of mobility. As individuals, we cope with situations in different ways, and the same is true following a spinal cord injury. You may experience a range of feelings and emotions such as distress and trauma following an accident Loss of motivation, depression and anxiety, concerns around relationships and the future, and the management of pain and spasms are also considerations. The worry and stress of living in an unadapted home can contribute to the reduction of physical and psychological wellbeing.
Suitably Adapted Homes
The provision of a suitably adapted home plays a crucial role in your rehabilitation. A study carried out by spinal cord injury charity, Aspire found that correctly adapted housing enables spinal cord injured (SCI) adults to ‘maintain freedom and independence by providing all the adaptations necessary to take care of themselves, to be able to move freely around the home, to pursue leisure and employment opportunities, and to maintain personal dignity. In enabling all this, adapted housing is proven to provide people with the resources to develop a good quality of life. It also helped people with a spinal injury feel that they were ‘not a burden’ to anyone and, equally,
the wife/husband/partner did not feel they had to be responsible for everything in the house, such as looking after children or carrying out daily chores.
The study found that unadapted housing took away an individual’s dignity and compromised the personal hygiene that was crucial to having a good quality of life. SCI adults became reliant on others – notably the family – to assist them with daily personal bodily needs, including going to the toilet and washing.
Period of Adjustment
Living in suitably adapted housing has also proven that SCI adults felt independent and more confident about continuing with hobbies, work and social lives due to the fact they didn’t feel reliant on others.
Stiltz customer, Dani Watts, 31, suffered a spinal injury in 2018. “After a spinal injury, there is obviously a period of adjustment and rehabilitation. But compared to moving back home, being in hospital is the easy part. When you get home and out into the real world, it is so much harder. You only become disabled when you are in an environment which is not adapted.” Dani continues, “Before our home was adapted, I used to have to rely on my partner to carry me up and downstairs. Before he went to work, I used to have to decide if I wanted to be upstairs or downstairs that day! The effect of living in an unadapted home had a significant and negative impact on my mental health and wellbeing.”
Living in an adapted home can also be a crucial factor when considering rehabilitation and physical health. It can mean physical activities are increased (such as moving freely around the home, carrying out daily living activities, etc.), new physical skills can be developed quicker (for example practising new wheelchair techniques around the home, including transferring safely to and from a wheelchair, utilising adapted bathroom/wet room and managing bowel care.
Relevant home adaptions are essential to ensure a level of independence and normality. This can include wheelchair ramps, door widening, adapting a kitchen, installing a wet room, stairlifts, homelifts etc. It is important that SCI adults feel safe and can move freely around the home to carry out daily activities such as personal care, cooking, and taking care of children. Movement between floors is essential in order to improve confidence and wellbeing, with the aim of establishing a normal life as possible. The installation of a homelift can achieve this. The Stiltz Trio + is designed to safely accommodate a wheelchair user to enable safe and easy access between floors. It can be installed discreetly and virtually anywhere in the home.
Often, stair lifts are specified for those needing to move between the floors in their home. This is not a safe or practical solution for wheelchair users. Transferring between a wheelchair and stair lift, especially at the top of the stairs without assistance is not only daunting but can be very unsafe. Not to mention an impractical two wheelchairs will be needed – one upstairs and one downstairs – and the stair lift itself will also encroach on the stairs creating a trip hazard.
Aspire is a leading national charity that provides practical support to people who have been affected by Spinal Cord Injury.
Spinal Injuries Association (SIA) provides services to share information and experience and campaign for change, ensuring SCI adults can lead a full and active life.
Back Up is a national charity that inspires people affected by spinal cord injury to get the most out of life.
Via the NHS website, you can gain access to local support in your area. Simply add your postcode to generate a list of spinal injury centres and independent living advisors.
Funding – You may be entitled to a Disabled Facilities Grant to assist with the cost of adapting your home.
Financial Support – You could be entitled to disability benefits such as Personal Independence Payment or, if your income has dropped you may be entitled to income-related benefits such as Housing Benefit. For more information contact your local Citizens Advice.