In Australia, there are over 15,000 individuals with paraplegia (this link will take you to an article about paraplegia on the Better Health website). The most common cause of this condition is a serious spinal cord injury, which leads to the person becoming paralysed from the waist down.
When a person you know has recently become paraplegic, it can introduce a host of physical and mental challenges for them and their family.
Developing paraplegia can put a lot of stress on a person as they need to adapt to a new lifestyle, give up on certain physical activities they enjoyed, and become dependent on others to accomplish some of their daily activities.
As a caregiver, it can sometimes be difficult to truly understand what the person under your care is going through, and this may make them feel isolated. You also might not be able to give them the advice they need to help them deal with their situation.
Being paraplegic shouldn’t stop a person from living their dreams and getting through their daily lives, so to help the person under your care adjust to their condition, you should consider signing them up for a paraplegia support group.
These support groups aim to help individuals with paraplegia deal with their circumstances. Here’s a look at some of the benefits of joining a paraplegia support group.
Paraplegia doesn’t just affect a person physically; it can also have an adverse effect on their mental wellbeing, especially when they’ve developed the condition only recently. This can lead to the individual alienating themselves from others.
Support groups for paraplegia help individuals with the condition on a psychological level by allowing them to discuss their feelings and talk about the new challenges they face daily.
These groups will have other individuals with paraplegia who understand exactly what the person under your care is experiencing, and this will help them become more at ease, knowing that they’re not alone.
Depending on the service provider, these support groups may have virtual gatherings, making it easier for everyone to participate in group meetings.
Travelling to a particular location can be very difficult for a person living with paraplegia and their caregivers as they would need special modes of transportation. Without the need for travel, the person under your care can join these online gatherings whenever they want.
Advice from peers
Some individuals in these support groups may have been living with paraplegia for many years, and this makes them valuable sources of support and knowledge.
Members of the support group who’ve had paraplegia for a long time can give the person under your care advice on how to manage their daily activities, where they can access adaptive sports, and what resources are available to them.
This could also be a good opportunity for the person under your care to use their experiences to help another person living with paraplegia. Doing so will make them feel empowered and happier knowing that they made a difference in someone’s life.
Support for families
In many cases, family members of people with paraplegia are not familiar with the personal challenges that come with the condition, and because of this, they may not know how to cater to the needs of the person under their care.
Support groups for paraplegia can also give family members a hand by educating them about the condition and the support they can provide.
Group gatherings may also bring together the families of the members, allowing them to share their experiences, form meaningful connections with each other, and find solidarity.
Some individuals with paraplegia may find it difficult to relate with people without physical impairment, and this may make them feel alone and isolated. Social bonds are extremely important for a person with paraplegia, and without such bonds, they could fall into depression.
In paraplegia support groups, however, the person under your care can meet others who are experiencing the same condition as them. This may encourage them to socialise and make friends with other members of the group.
Anxiety and PTSD management
Individuals who developed paraplegia after going through a traumatic event, like a traffic accident, may have increased anxiety and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, which is usually called PTSD for short.
PTSD and anxiety can be crippling for an individual, leading them to become fearful and withdraw from society. These conditions could also make the person under your care less willing to undergo necessary treatments.
By joining a support group for people with paraplegia, the person under your care will meet mental health specialists and others who have experienced PTSD. This may help them overcome their anxiety and learn how to manage symptoms of PTSD effectively.
Freedom to be themselves
Many individuals with paraplegia try to hide the emotional turmoil they’re going through, so as to not worry their friends and family. Sometimes, they may even hide their true feelings about having paraplegia out of fear that people will look down on them.
Support groups for paraplegia provide members with a safe and supportive environment where they can just be themselves and be open about how they truly feel about their condition.
Within the support group, the person under your care will not have to worry about being judged by anyone, as the rest of the group will relate to and continue to help them cope with their situation.
Find a paraplegia support group near you
When caring for a person with paraplegia, assisting them with their daily activities is only part of the job. You need to help them cope with their situation on an emotional level.
If you’re looking for a support group that can help the person under your care, look for an all-abilities services provider near you. These organisations can provide many valuable services like NDIS-Supported Independent Living (this link will take you to a blog post on the Shine SC website about NDIS-Support Independent Living) and support coordination.
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