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Re-building relationships after a spinal cord injury: experiences of family caregivers and care recipients

Background: Following spinal cord injury (SCI), family members are often called upon to undertake the caregiving role. This change in the nature of the relationship between the individuals with SCI and their families can lead to emotional, psychological, and relationship challenges. There is limited research on how individuals with SCI and their family caregivers adapt to their new lives post-injury, or on which dyadic coping strategies are used to maintain relationships. Thus, the objectives of this study were to obtain an in-depth understanding of 1) the experiences and challenges within a caregiving relationship post-SCI among spouses, as well as parents and adult children; and 2) the coping strategies used by caregivers and care recipients to maintain/rebuild their relationships.; Methods: A qualitative descriptive approach with an exploratory design was used. Semi-structured face-to-face and telephone interviews were conducted. Thematic analysis was used to identify key themes arising from individuals with SCI's (nā€‰=ā€‰19) and their family caregivers' (nā€‰=ā€‰15) experiences.; Results: Individuals with SCI and family caregivers spoke in-depth and openly about their experiences and challenges post-injury, with two emerging themes (including subsequent sub-themes). The first theme of deterioration of relationship, which reflects the challenges experienced/factors that contributed to disintegration in a relationship post-injury, included: protective behaviours, asymmetrical dependency, loss of sex and intimacy, and difficulty adapting. The second theme of re-building/maintaining the relationship, which reflects the strategies used by dyads to adjust to the changes within the relationship brought upon by the injury, included: interdependence, shifting commonalities, adding creativity into routine, and creating a new normal.; Conclusions: These findings should alert healthcare professionals and peer support groups as to the need for possible education and training (e.g., coping strategies, communication skills training) as well as counseling prior to discharge to assist individuals with SCI and family caregivers with adaptation to a new life post-injury.

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Type of Reference
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Journal article
BioMed Central
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BMC Neurology
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