Pushin' On: UAB Spinal Cord Injury Model System Digital Newsletter Volume 37 | Number 1 - Page 2
Caregiving after Spinal Cord Injury: Part 1 - Caregiver Health
The last issue of Pushin’ On
featured an article on having a
Personal Care Attendant (PCA) after
spinal cord injury (SCI). However,
a PCA is not always a workable
This is part 1 of 2 articles on
caregiving. This article helps
caregivers find a balance between
taking care of themselves while
caring for a loved one. Part 2 will
focus on the challenges of caring
for a partner/spouse.
What is the difference between a
PCA and a caregiver?
The two are often thought of
as the same because they both
provide the same daily care. The
difference is that a PCA is a paid
employee and not a family member.
You are a family member who
proves care. This relationship can
lead to unique challenges.
What can I expect early after
Life is usually chaotic and very
stressful during the early period
after injury. For a parent, spouse or
other close family member, there is
worry and concern for the condition
and recovery of your loved one.
There is often stress over juggling
work, family life, money issues,
and many other things that are
disrupted after injury. At the same
time, you are learning about the
many issues of SCI and how to
• Visit the SCI Model Systems
Knowledge Translation Center
for more information about SCI.
What can I expect after Rehab?
The first challenge is to establish
a new “normal.” You and your loved
one learned a lot during rehab,
but what works in rehab does not
always work at home. It takes time
to learn what works best for you at
home and adjust to a daily routine.
Why is it important to manage my
Here are only a few of the many
reasons it is important.
• Provide the best care for your
loved one. You cannot expect to
take proper care of your loved
one if you do not take proper
care for yourself.
• Keep your relationship healthy.
Long-Term caregiving for a
loved one can put a strain
on any relationship. Staying
healthy helps you better
Your health is just as important
as your loved one’s health.
Simply put, you are worth it!
How do I manage my personal
Another challenge is taking care
of yourself. Here are 3 key steps to
managing your own health.
1. Adopt a Healthy Lifestyle
A healthy lifestyle includes a
balance of things you can do to feel
better emotionally and physically.
Healthy behaviors reduce stress
and increase our ability to cope
with problem issues. A few simple
acts can be a great foundation for
• Get plenty of sleep.
• Eat regular, healthy meals and
• Exercise and participate in
regular physical activities.
• Seek out social support to
share ideas, resources and
• Take quiet time for yourself to
Participate in UAB Research
Low Carb/ High Protein Diet to Improve Metabolic
Health in Individuals with SCI
This study aims to determine the effects of an 8-week
high-protein low-carbohydrate diet on metabolic health
and gut function.
Criteria to Participate
• Have a SCI (tetraplegia or paraplegia)
• Live in central Alabama and visit UAB 3 times
• Willing to undergo lab tests (blood glucose, insulin
and lipid levels, gut function, and body imaging)
• Complete activity and food intake questionnaires
Participants will earn between $250 and $450 for
completing the study. Call 205-500-8180 or 205-996-
6896 or email SCIresearch@uab.edu for information.
listen to soothing music, soak
in a warm bath or shower, read
an interesting book or magazine
or go to the park or some other
Cut down or cut out caffeine and
products with nicotine.
Do not rely on food, alcohol or
drugs to reduce stress.
Spend quality time with friends
Enjoy hobbies or crafts.
Keep things organized.
2. Do not ignore signs of stress or
Stress is a physical, chemical, or
emotional factor that causes tension
in your body or mind. Most everyone
has some type of stress in their
life. Stress is common because it
is almost impossible to escape the
realities of life.
Stress can quickly become a
problem for people who ignore
warning signs that stress is getting
out of control. Continued stress
puts people at higher risk for serious
health problems including illness,
addiction, and depression.
There are several signs and
symptoms of stress that you can
learn to recognize when stress
might be getting out of control.
• The way you feel – you might
feel more anxious, scared,
irritable, or moody.
• The way you think – you might
forget things, think of yourself
as a failure, or have trouble
The way you act – you might cry
easily or for no reason, act out
of control, lose your appetite
or start overeating, or abusing
drugs and/or alcohol.
Changes in your body – you
might experience higher blood
pressure, shaking, nervousness,
headaches, more pain, change
in weight, or sleep problems.
Depression is a mood disorder
that affects how you think, feel
and act. The National Institute of
Mental Health maintains you may
be suffering from depression if you
experience some of these signs and
symptoms most of the day, nearly
every day, for at least two weeks.
• Persistent sad, anxious, or
• Feelings of hopelessness, or
• Feelings of guilt, worthlessness,
• Loss of interest or pleasure in
hobbies and activities
• Decreased energy or fatigue
• Moving or talking more slowly
• Feeling restless or having
trouble sitting still
• Difficulty concentrating,
remembering, or making
• Difficulty sleeping, early-
morning awakening, or
Appetite and/or weight changes
Thoughts of death or suicide, or
Aches or pains, headaches,
cramps, or digestive problems
without a clear physical cause
and/or that do not ease even
3. Get help when you need it
Asking for help can be a challenge
for some. However, asking for help
is a sign of strength - not weakness.
And asking for help does not mean
you are failing as a person or a
caregiver. It simply means you are
taking care of yourself, too.
• Respite - Caregiving is not a
one-person job. You need time
away for a healthy lifestyle.
The best thing that you can
do is have a list of people that
you can call when you need
someone. You might also have
one or two people on your list
who can be a backup care
provider on short notice in case
of sickness or crisis.
• Counseling - A psychologist,
counselor, or social worker
can provide you resources
and guidance on balancing
caregiving and caring for
Questions and Answers: Preparing for the Cold and Flu Season
Scale Up Project Evaluating Responsiveness to Home
Exercise And Lifestyle Tele-Health (SUPER-HEALTH)
This study evaluates the effects of an exercise program
on improving pain, fatigue, physical activity, and physical
function. The program is delivered through a tablet app in
the convenience of the home using exercise videos.
Criteria to Participate
• Ages 18-64
• Mobility Impairment/Disability
• WiFi Internet access in Home
Participants receive a tablet and Fitbit to use during study
and are eligible to keep all equipment at the completion of
last study visit. Visit superhealthstudy.org, call (205) 403-
5509, or email email@example.com.
How do I know if I have a cold, flu or pneumonia?
In general, a cold starts with a scratchy, tickling, or sore
throat followed by a drippy, watery nose. Over the next
day or so, your throat gets a bit more sore, and the mucus
becomes thicker (congested) and a little darker. Coughing
and sneezing are also common. The sore throat usually
lasts for a couple of days, and the congestion, coughing
and sneezing usually clears up in about a week.
Flu symptoms usually begin much like the symptoms of
a cold, but flu symptoms usually progress much quicker
than cold symptoms. Flu symptoms are also more severe
and usually include fever, headache, and muscle aches
along with the sore throat and coughing. With the flu,
however, that drippy, watery nose often does not become
thicker. Flu can last a week or more and can lead to
pneumonia or other serious health problems.
Pneumonia symtoms can also begin much like the cold
or flu, but there are usually added symptoms like chills,
high fever, sweating, and chest pain/tightness. There may
be shortness of breath. Breathing might be more difficult,
rapid, or sound differently than normal. Coughing usually
produces yellow, green or reddish color mucus.
Do I need to get the flu shot?
Absolutely! Get an annual flu shot (it does not cause
the flu), and make sure you have had your pneumonia
shot. The shots help reduce your chance of getting flu or
pneumonia and reduce their severity if you do get them.
What do I do if I think I have a cold, flu or pneumonia?
Always contact your healthcare professional for advice,
especially if you think you might have flu or pneumonia.
UAB Spinal Cord Injury Model System