Although it can be terribly difficult to recover from a back, neck, or spine injury, helping a loved one recover can prove just as trying. It’s often frustrating and discouraging to witness a loved one struggle with everyday activities and fail to quickly improve.
If you feel you are alone in helping your loved one recover, consider this. While thousands of Americans experience some sort of traumatic back, neck, or spine injury every single year, just as many Americans experience the unsettling responsibility of having to care for friends or family members after traumatic injuries. You are not alone.
Your loved one might be the early stages of recovery, or perhaps they’re deep in the throes of recovery. Either way, there are certain things you can do to assist and support your loved one through physical rehabilitation:
- Be proactive
- Be present
- Be smart
- Be creative
- Be patient
- Be easy on yourself
Once you master these six steps (in no particular order), you won’t feel so burdened with the task of recovery assistance.
1. Be Proactive
You might not know exactly what your loved one needs from the get-go. But you can make a checklist of things that need to get done while your spouse, friend, parent, child, or sibling is inactive:
- Take care of kids or pets
- Clean and manage the house and garden
Your loved one will appreciate you for being proactive and taking on responsibilities without being asked.
2. Be Smart
Have you ever heard of S.M.A.R.T. goals? S.M.A.R.T. goals help you set goals and plan for success. When your loved one struggles during recovery, you can help them avoid discouragement with the help of S.M.A.R.T. goals.
- Specific. Target a specific area and aim for improvement (e.g. “I want to walk on my own.”).
- Measurable. Quantify progress (e.g. “By next Tuesday, I will take ten steps by myself.”).
- Achievable. Set goals that are reachable (e.g. “I will practice walking on my own every day.”).
- Realistic. Determine realistic results given available resources (e.g. “I will use a walker if I must.”).
- Time-bound. Specify a specific date and/or time to achieve results (e.g. “I will walk on my own by the end of next month.”).
Don’t get discouraged if your loved one doesn’t attain specific results by a specific “deadline.” Keep working with your loved one, professional caregivers, and doctors to determine S.M.A.R.T goals throughout the entire recovery process.
3. Be Present
Your loved one needs you. Rehabilitation is an emotional, stressful, and physically exhausting process. It requires constant love and support. If you don’t share the same residence as your injured loved one, visit often. Visits can turn into long chats that allow your loved one to focus on things besides injury and pain.
Be strong and open to communication when your loved one is struggling with a specific aspect of treatment and recovery. Sit together and listen to any needs you can assist with.
4. Be Creative
Although every injury is different, most injured individuals can benefit from the same thing: distractions. Distractions will help your injured loved one stop focusing on the pain and start focusing on the joyful aspects of life. There are a number of creative things you can do to distract your loved one, including the following:
- Movie nights
- Craft nights
- Book marathons
- Shopping trips
- Cooking nights
Do all you can to distract your loved one from the current situation and make every day seem a little brighter than the last.
5. Be Patient
“Patience is not simply the ability to wait—it’s how we behave while we’re waiting.” – Joyce Meyer
Recovery takes time. Exercising patience throughout the recovery process will help you better understand your loved one’s emotional, mental, and physical state. Patience requires a lot of love, understanding, and sympathy. It requires you to be selfless and put the needs of your loved one before your own.
6. Be Easy on Yourself
Everyone can benefit from a little “me” time. Take time to care for—and pay attention to—yourself during your loved one’s recovery process. Don’t take everything into your hands and refuse help from anyone else.
Send a sign-up sheet around your neighborhood to enlist extra help. Send an email to family members, friends, and coworkers and invite everyone to volunteer their time, energy, and love during your loved one’s recovery process.
Once you’ve gathered a circle of caring people, set a schedule so you can have one to two days off every week. Use the time off to rest and relax so you can give your all when you’re with your injured loved one.
You might need assistance or want to learn more about your role during the recovery process. In that case, be sure to speak with professional physicians, surgeons, and caregivers. Professionals will help you understand your responsibilities. They may even ask that you attend physical therapy sessions to witness your loved one’s progress.