Are you sitting in an intensive care unit (ICU) with a loved one who has sustained a traumatic injury. I sat in that seat 7 years ago when my daughter Emily had a ski ing accident that rendered her quadriplegic.
Listed below are coping strategies.
As a registered nurse and carer I realised the wealth of knowledge I’d gained through experience so I wrote the book I wanted to read when I was searching for answers in a tragedy.
I have learnt that we are more similar than different. We share similar worries and concerns so each chapter of my book addresses an issue that is probably debated in hospital waiting rooms around the world.
You are the most important person to your loved one and you need to advocate and action many complex issues moving forward – don’t burn out at the start. Coping with trauma injuries within a family or with a friend takes energy and focus so think of it as a marathon endeavour not a sprint.
Surround yourself with positive supporters and talk to professionals if you have concerns. Seek assistance early before a crisis arises. And realise you don’t have to cope alone – there’s help – investigate resources available to you. See reading and resources below.
Coping Strategies – Key thoughts for reflection :
- It’s important not to let an injury define a person’s capabilities.
- There are ways you can work around any injury to make it possible for differently-able people to do anything, to continue to do the things that they want to do.
- Traumatic injury is heartbreaking but with time, care and resources individuals and families move forward.
- Ultimately my role was guided by Emily’s goals. My own carer goal was to empower her to be exactly who she is and enjoy her life in the way she chooses because she’s still completely Emily.
- Although science engenders great hope for the future we must take care to live now, in the present. Seven years on Emily is living life to the full. Emily’s back at work, she’s on the bus, she’s back up at the bar ordering cocktails, she’s travelled in Australia, America, Europe and Asia. She’s independent, capable….and in love!
“Let your hopes, not your hurts, shape your future.” – Robert H. Schuller
COPING STRATEGIES for Carers Addressing Acute Traumatic Injury.
- Slowly take a deep breath to calm yourself through fluttering panics or chin wobbles.
- Solo 24-hour vigils are unsustainable; take turns if possible.
- Take a break, walk away from the bedside to gather perspective and revitalise.
- Get real sleep in a bed if possible as rest helps you think more rationally.
- Eat small meals even if you don’t feel hungry as you need to fuel yourself.
- Restrict intake of caffeine and alcohol as they can heighten anxiety.
- ICUs are reactive, dealing with unstable, complex situations that are unsettling for everyone. Talking can be calming but make sure you talk to an experienced counsellor or consultant.
- Catastrophic trauma needs endurance, so pace yourself.
- Getting into rehabilitation is not a race; healing time in the ICU is important.
- Delegate. A friend arranged for Qantas ground crew to walk me through LAX when I travelled through to Chicago. Anxiety, fear and sleep deprivation inhibit coping ability so accepting help is essential (see Chapter Three in Suddenly an Everyday Carer).
- ICUs don’t usually allow flowers or pot plants for sanitary reasons. Helium balloons can be rejected as flammable so disseminate that information through your pyramid of communication (see Chapter Three in Suddenly an Everyday Carer ). Flowers and balloons are wonderful later in rehab.
- The future hasn’t happened so don’t dwell on it. Focus on what’s in front of you today.
- You don’t have to understand everything today.
- Cling on to hope and don’t let it go.
Further reading and resources
- Glossary of Terms You May Hear.
- Carer – Self Care
- Avoid Carer – Burnout
- Progress this year shows Emily blossom into post-trauma independence and I celebrate.
- Coping with change and acceptance post-SCI.
- I sold my skis today, two years, four months and seven days after Emily’s ski accident. Moving on.
- How to cope with worry as a carer … I ‘slam dunk’ worry.
- Carer – Building a support nework
- Considering house modifications? Read Chapter Seven – Suddenly an Everyday carer. Update with Alexa or Google-Home units as you can use voice activation technology to action tasks around the home reasonably cheaply.
Toll-free hotlines are available in most countries for anyone in emotional distress:
- Lifeline crisis support (Australia) 13 11 14
- Telefonseelsorge (Germany) 0800 111 0 111
- Lifeline 24-hour telephone counselling (New Zealand) 09 5222 999
- The Samaritans crisis support (UK) 116 123
- The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (USA) 1 800 273 TALK