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Spinal cord injury and long-term carers: Perceptions of formal and informal support

The grounded theory study from which this paper is drawn explored the experiences of partners and other long-term family carers living with, and supporting, a person with a spinal cord injury over long periods of time. Eleven (11) female carers with between eight and 33 years of living with, and supporting, a family member with a spinal cord injury were purposively recruited to the study. The study identified a number of key issues for long-term carers in this context. In this paper, the focus is on the extent to which longterm family carers perceived they were supported by health and social services. Findings revealed a significant need for practical and lifestyle assistance, including formal respite from familial and/or caregiving responsibilities when needed. Participants also sought out a range of health and social care services to address the loneliness, isolation, grief and loss, all of which can be involved in this experience. Participants revealed that their caregiver needs are usually not recognised by health service staff, and most expressed a desire for more recognition from health professionals for the important role they play in supporting the independence of the person in their care. The study also identified that participants tended to be more reliant on informal networks of support for practical assistance and other support. Findings on the experience, perceptions and support needs of family carers of people with lifelong disability provide valuable information of great relevance to rehabilitation practice.

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Journal article
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Journal of the Australasian Rehabilitation Nurses' Association (JARNA)
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