Pushin' On: UAB Spinal Cord Injury Model System Digital Newsletter Volume 37 | Number 1 - Page 2

HEALTHY LIVING 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 option. 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 injury? 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 provide care. • 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 personal health? 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 manage stressors. Your health is just as important as your loved one’s health. Simply put, you are worth it! How do I manage my personal health? 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 self-health. • Get plenty of sleep. • Eat regular, healthy meals and snacks. • Exercise and participate in regular physical activities. • Seek out social support to share ideas, resources and coping skills. • 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. 2 uab.edu/sci • • • • • 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 place quiet. 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 and family. Enjoy hobbies or crafts. Keep things organized. 2. Do not ignore signs of stress or depression 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 concentrating. 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 “empty” mood • Feelings of hopelessness, or pessimism • Irritability • Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, or helplessness • 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 decisions • Difficulty sleeping, early- • • • morning awakening, or oversleeping Appetite and/or weight changes Thoughts of death or suicide, or suicide attempts Aches or pains, headaches, cramps, or digestive problems without a clear physical cause and/or that do not ease even with treatment 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 yourself. 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 superhealthstudy@uab.edu. 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 3