Effects of Rehabilitation on the Family
The patient's family plays a vital part in the rehabilitation process. One of the
most important factors in the patient's recovery is family involvement and support.
What are the possible effects of disability on the family?
Family members are affected by the patient's disability, and, many times, become co-managers
of the patient's care. They may experience many changes as a result of the patient's
disability. Family members often join the patient in a period of grief caused by a
loss of function. Severe injury, chronic disease, or disability may mean a change
in family roles. For example, a housewife may need to return to work and become the
breadwinner after her husband's disability; a son may need to adjust his work schedule
to help care for an elderly parent. These changes can cause stress and conflict within
the family. Financial problems due to medical bills or unemployment can occur, adding
more stress on the family. Changes in living arrangements, childcare issues, and community
re-entry can all pose new problems for the patient and family.
By working together with the rehabilitation team, the patient and family can help
reduce some of the adverse effects of disability. This can be accomplished by:
Identifying the adverse effects of disability within the family
Working together on realistic solutions
Participating in family education and counseling
Planning for discharge and community re-entry
Why is family support important?
Family acceptance and support can help a patient deal with issues related to self-esteem
and self-image following disability. Positive attitudes and reinforcement from loved
ones often help the individual work towards recovery. Family participation, flexibility,
and open communication can overcome many barriers associated with disability. Families
who inspire hope can help the individual to adjust and become more confident in his
or her own abilities.
What is the impact of caregiving on the caregiver?
While motivation for taking care of one's loved ones is often high, the emotional
and physical toll of caregiving can be overwhelming at times. First of all, consider
the amount of caregiving that is expected of families outside the rehabilitation facility. Most
caregivers are unpaid family members or friends that provide care on a full- or part-time
basis, even when care was also being managed by a healthcare professional.
As a result, caregivers experience unique stress. Most research supports that caregivers
feel unprepared for their caregiving role. Often they feel isolated, anxious, and
depressed. An additional concern is maintaining good communication with the healthcare
team and other available resources. This role is time-consuming and can be confusing.
The multiple roles a caregiver must constantly employ include:
Investigating and suggesting resources to ensure independence in the home for a disabled
Facilitating and providing physical care for the impaired family member
Contributing financially to the home
Caring for other family members
Responding to the inevitable ups and downs in rehabilitation care
Ensuring that contractors and builders are licensed and ensured
What can be done to assist caregivers?
Caregivers, like patients, must be educated to meet the demands of the rehabilitation
plan that is set up for their family member. In fact, they should be included in the
development of this plan. Specifically, educational topics should include:
The cause and effect of the injury or illness
Any potential complications of the injury or illness, and information on how to recognize
and prevent these complications
Medicines, their schedule, side effects, and functions
Required exercises and task-learning techniques
The social and emotional tasks of a person in rehabilitation
How to reintegrate the person into the community after rehabilitation
If this preparation is not provided, caregivers may be overprotective of their family
member and unwittingly impede the recovery process.
Not only should caregivers be educated for their role, they must also be supported.
Whether this is a counseling program or a problem-solving supportive team interaction,
support helps diminish the isolation and anxiety associated with caregiving.
Caregivers must also find time for themselves, away from their caregiving roles. This
perhaps is the most important, yet least available, coping strategy that may be accessible
It would be helpful, as suggested by recent research, to actually study the needs
of caregivers before releasing an injured family member into the home. For example,
necessary home modifications or a lack of care providers is critical information in
making a successful rehabilitation plan for persons recovering from illnesses such
as stroke or traumatic brain injury.
The importance of caregivers cannot be underestimated in the role of the successful
rehabilitation of injury survivors. As caregivers gain confidence they and their loved
ones, should find caregiving less stressful and more rewarding.