Information about catastrophic injuries is most likely of interest to family members in the time period just after a serious accident. A spouse, a parent, a son or daughter, or a brother or sister is often affected as much as the injured person after an accident that caused:

  • A traumatic brain injury (TBI)
  • A spinal cord injury (SCI) resulting in paralysis
  • An amputation

As the injured person’s condition improves, they will be able to take a more active role in managing their own challenges. In the early days, however, close family members are likely to be looking for help and advice. If you are the family care giver of someone with a very serious injury, you and your injured family member will no doubt exercise courage as you face long-term difficulties such as:

  • (For someone with a TBI): Memory loss, personality changes, an inability to concentrate, emotional instability, inability to work for a long time if ever, a loss of some bodily functions, chronic headaches and other physical discomforts, and/or a more severe outcome like a coma or a vegetative state
  • (For someone with paraplegia or quadriplegia): Depending on the location of the impact on the spine, possibly an inability to walk, an inability to work at their previous occupation or at all; difficulty or an inability to carry out activities of daily living (ADL) without the help of a personal care attendant; a need for heavy and costly durable medical equipment like a wheel chair and a lift; a need for specially outfitted vehicles for transportation beyond home; a need for home remodeling or replacement to allow for moving around the house; a need for rehabilitation and special computer software to facilitate communications, in some cases, and frequent medical complications like urinary track infections and chronic neuropathic pain
  • (For someone with an amputation): Rehabilitation, a need for a prosthesis that may need to be replaced periodically, a need for occupational therapy to learn new ways of self-care and working, possible medical or psychological help to deal with phantom pains and/or depression

It is important during the aftermath of a catastrophic injury to work closely with a life care planner. Joining support groups is also a great help to many injured people and their loved ones. A realistic understanding of the challenges ahead and the development of coping strategies will be essential as a framework for arriving at solutions.