Paraplegia is paralysis of the entire or part of the legs, trunk, or pelvic organs. This most commonly occurs due to an injury to the spinal cord, which damages nerves supplying the lower half of the body. Paraplegia leads to loss of sensation and movement of the affected parts. In addition, difficulty with bowel and bladder function might be happen, making home care a must.
Caring for Paraplegic Patients
The intensity of symptoms depends upon the location and extent of damage to the spinal cord. Immediate treatment is hospital admission following the spinal cord injury and later, neurorehabilitation during recovery to enable the affected individual to live an optimal and near-normal life despite limitations of movement.
Patients with paraplegia require special care to prevent infections and ensure that they have a decent quality of life. Despite interventions of an entire healthcare team, it is best if a family member or immediate professional caregiver understands the basic needs and can provide care 24×7 to the patient.
Patients generally gain a certain level of independence; however, most of them require daily home care services, especially if they are older in which case the condition may last for a lifetime.
Tips for home care of Paraplegic patient
1. Gaining independence using a wheelchair
Choosing the most accurate wheelchair depends upon a number of factors such as age, level of activity, and body type. There are different types of wheelchairs such as manual and electric wheelchairs. The most appropriate method of selection would be to try a couple of different types of wheelchairs and determine the level of comfort for the patient.
2. Readjusting furniture for better access
In order for the wheelchair to move freely, it is necessary that any possible barriers such as furniture should be placed appropriately. Wheelchair ramps or lifts for entering the house enable easier access. Placement of cabinets and drawers should be lower than usual and at a height which can be easily accessed by the patient. You may also consider shifting the bedroom of the patient to a lower floor or ground floor. Ensure that railings are present in the bathroom and showers to prevent any fall or trauma.
3. Prevent bed sores
Lack of activity or movement in the patient for long periods of time can produce bedsores. These can be very painful and can get further infected. Sores usually develop on the back or the backside of the legs due to a constant prone position. Help and encourage the patient to roll on to his stomach for movement. Repositioning of the patient every few hours is crucial for avoiding pressure sores.
4. Inspect urinary catheter
Regularly inspect the catheter to avoid a urinary tract infection, and produce further complications for the patient. Signs like presence of blood or pus in urine, blocked flow of urine, fever are signs of an infection and need urgent medical attention.
5. Daily chores require assistance
Daily tasks such as dressing, feeding, running errands may need assistance initially until the patient has adapted to doing it by themselves. Look for simpler alternatives to enable independence.
- Install zippers instead of buttons on clothes where possible.
- Use a straw for drinking liquids like soups, juices, water, etc.
- Opt for wrap-around clothing like lungis, long skirts over pajamas, salwar kameez, to enable easier access while using the washroom, especially in persons with loss of control over bladder or bowel function.
6. Encourage hobbies
It is important to encourage patients to lead a life beyond the wheelchair. Recommend them to read books, paint, visit a local library, or watch movies. They can indulge in activities based on their personal interest. This will keep them mentally occupied as well as give a purpose to life. It is important to maintain a healthy relationship with family and friends as it helps to adapt to the change that has occurred in the way of living.
With a little care, precaution, and understanding, paraplegics can lead a fulfilling life even on a wheel chair. It is necessary that we appreciate their distinctive needs to provide them a near-normal living.