Living with a spinal cord injury (SCI) can be challenging, affecting daily life, and physical and mental health. The Spinal Injuries Association’s (SIA) annual survey gains valuable insight into the lives and experiences of those living with SCI, and this year saw its biggest response to date, with nearly 1,000 people sharing their stories. Here, we explore the unique challenges highlighted by the SIA survey and discuss how JMW Solicitors can offer comprehensive solutions to navigate these challenges.
The physical impact of a spinal cord injury (SCI) will vary from person to person, but according to the SIA survey, half of the respondents identified bowel and bladder management as a primary concern. For those affected, getting into a regular routine to manage continence effectively is vital in rebuilding a life after SCI. Not doing so will greatly impact every aspect of life including work, social life, holidays, etc. Respondents to the survey expressed their concern about how their continence, especially their bowel, is managed in hospital, with several reporting problems with bowel management when an inpatient. This is an all too common problem for SCI people, and SIA is currently campaigning for better support for SCI people in hospitals.
Pain management, a concern for 42% of respondents, can be particularly challenging to manage after SCI, with many people suffering from chronic or neuropathic pain. Alongside the debilitating physical impact of persistent pain, it can also be a root cause of poor mental health. Most GP surgeries will have access to pain management specialists who can help reduce the impact of pain on day-to-day activities.
Some 37% of respondents expressed general medical access as a concern, underscoring the need for wider healthcare accessibility and understanding of SCI complications. Ageing with an SCI is a worry for 35% of respondents, as the process can exacerbate SCI-related health issues and present additional challenges.
Wheelchair provision was another concern for 35% of individuals, pointing to the need for better mobility support. Fitness and exercise, critical for maintaining overall health and preventing secondary complications, is a worry for 30%, and skin care, including concerns about pressure ulcers, was highlighted by 22% of respondents, aware of the devastating consequences of developing an ulcer.
It is highly likely that the impact of a spinal cord injury will extend beyond the physical, deeply affecting individuals' mental health. The SIA survey reveals several mental health challenges that those with SCI face, necessitating an integrative, holistic treatment approach.
Feelings of anxiety or depression, were reported by 47% of survey participants, an outcome not highly surprising considering the profound life changes and uncertainties brought about by an SCI. In addition to this, the disruption of interpersonal relationships - a concern for 41% of respondents - can further exacerbate poor mental health, stressing the importance of support not only for the person with the SCI, but for those closest to them too.
Linked with these issues is the reported lack of specialist rehabilitation support, further complicated by the limited availability of counsellors and therapists who understand SCI - a concern for 36% of respondents. This suggests a two-fold problem: not only is there a need for more comprehensive services, but also a pressing requirement for professionals specifically trained to support individuals with SCI.
The psychosocial strain that SCI can impose manifests itself in feelings of isolation or loneliness, self-confidence issues, and concerns about self-image. 36% of respondents felt lonely or isolated, suggesting more opportunities for SCI people to engage in work, volunteering, or social activities are needed. 36% struggled with self-confidence and 27% experienced problems with self-image, which again could be addressed via a combination of specialist counselling support and opportunities to engage with others and contribute to society. In addition, 20% of respondents felt disconnected from other SCI people, indicating that a sense of community can be a powerful strategy for addressing mental health challenges.
The SIA survey also highlights the extent to which spinal cord injury influences daily life. The ability to access the outdoors and countryside, for instance, was a concern for an overwhelming 90% of respondents. With the opportunity to have a positive impact on both physical and mental health, this statistic underscores the need for a more inclusive environment that accommodates the needs of those with SCI.
Societal attitudes towards disabled individuals were reported as a problem by 89% of respondents, indicating that there is still some way to go in raising awareness and fostering empathy. The practical aspects of daily life, like accessible parking and adapting homes, were a concern for 84% and 82% of respondents respectively, demonstrating the importance of more inclusive infrastructural planning.
Most respondents (80%) mentioned the difficulty in finding accessible housing, while 70% reported concerns over access to vocational activities, stressing the need for more options in these areas.
Social care, both in terms of access (64%) and funding (61%), was also a significant concern, along with the ability to receive care in one's own home (57%). The provision of care is vital in enabling those who require it to lead a fulfilled life. The well-publicised issues within the care system have a direct impact on the day-to-day lives of SCI people and it is becoming harder and harder to recruit carers with the skills to support the needs of SCI people, with 50% of respondents highlighted the need for improved standards of care.
At JMW Solicitors, we are dedicated to supporting individuals affected by spinal cord injury, addressing the multifaceted challenges they face, and advocating for their needs.
Our catastrophic injury team, led by the highly experienced Cathy Leech, provides expert guidance and representation for personal injury claims. In securing appropriate compensation, often including interim payments, we can help individuals access additional rehabilitation, appropriate housing or adapting an existing home, and essential mobility equipment.
We also champion individuals' rights in returning to work, accessing vocational activities, organising appropriate social care, and necessary funding for their care needs. Our team ensures that individuals receive the highest standard of care and that their rights to live independently are upheld.
Our role at JMW Solicitors is not only about offering legal services; we are here to support, empower, and work tirelessly for those living with spinal cord injury.
If you have sustained a spinal cord injury in an accident that was not your fault, get in touch with our friendly and experienced solicitors today by calling 0345 872 6666. Alternatively, fill in our online contact form and we will get back to you.