Although information about your disability may be overwhelming at first, you need to learn as much as possible about your body’s new demands and functions. Ask your doctor or nurse for information about your injury and about aspects of your function that trouble you the most – whether sexuality, bowel and bladder control, or use of a wheelchair. Concentrate on developing new skills. Take an active role in setting daily, weekly, or long-term goals. By discussing your goals with the therapists, you can more fully participate in your rehabilitation and more quickly master the skills necessary to alleviate your anxieties.
Working closely with your nurses and therapists in developing a predictable routine is important. It may be helpful to involve a spouse or family member in this process. Ask the staff to give you realistic expectations about the availability of care. Waiting for things to happen is easier when you know you’ll have to wait and don’t experience constant anticipation and frustration.
Through communication about your needs, you and your caregivers (or family members) may be able to reach workable compromises: using the telephone at a prearranged time, changing your therapy schedule to accommodate care needs or family visits, and so forth. Expressing your wishes about seemingly small, personal preferences can also be important in reestablishing a sense of control. Don’t hesitate to ask for your favorite soap, cosmetics, clothes, plants, or pictures to be brought to the hospital or rehabilitation facility. Make sure you have a reliable method for controlling the television, lights, and call-bell in your room, or arranging for regular assistance to do so.
Finally, try to pace your day so that you get some respite from the demands of your disability. Some people do this by becoming a couch potato at the end of the day – watching television, reading, or doing crosswords. Some build in a short period each day when someone else attends to their needs so that they can rest from the effort of doing everything for themselves. Another idea is to arrange for a psychological break from the hospital atmosphere, such as getting a special meal brought in, having a party in your room, or getting some quiet time with a spouse. These activities can break the single-minded focus on recovery, provide relaxation and rest, and remind you of the rewards of life beyond the hospital – thus giving meaning and purpose to your daily struggles with rehabilitation.
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