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Are you the first line of support after a catastrophic injury?

If a loved one was involved in a bad accident, they may be dealing with serious injuries, which means you are dealing with them too. A spinal cord injury or traumatic brain injury can have a huge impact on the person's life, as well as the family members who are responsible for caring for the individual.

There are several points that caregivers need to remember when caring for an injury victim. Consider these points if your loved one is injured in a car crash or other type of accident:

Try to understand and meet the person's needs

You have to make sure that the person's needs are met, even when it is stressful and inconvenient. The person might need help with meal preparation and housekeeping. They may lean on you to give them rides, pick up the kids or run errands. They may require help with the most basic aspects of daily living, like showering and dressing. It can be difficult for people with a catastrophic injury to express their needs. Trying to determine what they need is sometimes guesswork, but you will soon work out a system.

Be ready to be the person's advocate in all things

You will have to be your loved one's advocate in almost every area of life. This is especially important when it comes to medical care. You have to make sure that your loved one gets the care that is necessary but that he or she is not being subjected to unnecessary things. If you know that your loved one had specific wishes and limitations about medical care before the accident -- or if you know of issues that have been decided on since -- you must ensure that the medical professionals comply with those wishes.

You may also have to serve as their proxy in business, legal and financial matters, such as paying the bills or hiring services. If the person is mentally or physically incapacitated, and has not appointed power of attorney, it may become necessary to petition the court to become their legal guardian on a temporary basis.

Don't forget self care

Caregivers need to take care of themselves. You have to ensure that you are well enough to handle the demands that come with caring for a loved one who suffered a catastrophic injury. You can't do this if you are so worn down that you can't even care for yourself. Making time for stress-relieving activities – or simply adequate sleep – will enable you to be a better caregiver for the long haul.

Speak up when you need assistance

Respite care can help you to get a break from caregiving duties for a short period if you need a little time off. This might be useful for a few hours of shopping or dinner out. You may be able to arrange a respite caregiver through the injury victim’s insurance coverage, or you might even be able to hire a private nurse to share the duties on an ongoing basis if you are overwhelmed.

Feeling like a "burden"

Your loved one might decline help or worry about being a burden to you. Reassure them that you are caring for him or her lovingly and gladly as it's what they would do if the roles were reversed. If the person who suffered such an unforeseen and tragic injury does begin to feel like a burden to you, you may be experiencing caregiver fatigue or the onset of depression.

A disabled or recuperating individual already has so much to come to terms with about his or her "new normal.” The last thing they need is guilt or hostility from their primary caregivers and the last thing you want is to create tension or add to their woes. Sometimes caregivers and family members need professional counseling and support services just as much as the person who is recovering from a catastrophic injury.

A good personal injury attorney is not concerned solely with the lawsuit. They will keep in touch and steer you to resources and strategies that have helped other clients cope with the stress and realities of a major injury in the family. 

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