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Help - Recognising You Need It, Identifying Who Can Provide It; And Letting Yourself Be Helped

In our experience of helping people who have suffered spinal cord or other life changing injuries, the process of coming to terms with the fact you or someone you care for might need help through to actually being helped has several identifiable and nuanced stages. It often begins with coming to terms with the fact that many of us will not be familiar with – or   ‘like’ – needing help.

Spinal cord injuries obviously happen when people least expect it. Suddenly people have to come to terms with needing help. Typically, in the earliest post injury period they will have near total dependence on clinicians, but as the hours and days pass, the urge to take control back and to preserve and indeed regain as much independence as possible is an obvious and powerful one.

From our vantage point as specialist solicitors, that period is often one that seems anything but comfortable for injured people and those closest to them. So much is uncertain, so much is new; so much of what had been normal seems out of reach. There is an understandable desire – and a need – to manage as best as we can, to take things one day at a time. At some point, the realisation that help is probably going to be needed more widely and beyond what the clinicians and therapists engaged in the rehabilitation environment can provide in the longer term becomes inescapable.

Financial pressures and realities; adaptations needed at home; care packages; equipment that will be needed; and therapies outside of the hospital environment – all that is likely to need to be tackled after spinal cord injury can seem overwhelming and particularly where most people will have known nothing other than to be self-reliant and many will have dependants who have always relied on them but may no longer be able to in quite the same way.

Recognising you need help then is the first milestone in the journey to being helped – and being helped well. Having recognised you will need help (and possibly on many different levels) the next stage is to identify who might be able to help you.

Aside family and friends, and clinicians and therapists involved in your care, there may well be a range of different people who you may need to seek help and support from. In our experience – again at some distance and merely as solicitors specialising in helping people after spinal cord injuries – it can be comforting for patients to learn that there is help available; that others have been through what they are going through; and that there are people who spend their professional lives engaged in providing the help spinal cord injured patients may need.

Peer support workers, charities, case managers, GPs, personal assistant carers, counsellors, psychologists, physiotherapists, occupational therapists, assistive technology providers, financial advisors, accommodation specialists and indeed solicitors and barristers form a cast of many more who are out there and able to help.

It is important to identify what your needs are before you can engage the right person to help you. Some help will be very practical and immediate and perhaps even short term, whereas other help you may need will potentially have a much longer lasting impact.

Finding the courage to ask for recommendations, introductions and signposting to people who can help is another important milestone. Expert and experienced specialists will always want to help as best as they are able to – even where they are unable to provide the help themselves. Asking someone who may have encountered what you are enduring and who might be able to help is rarely if ever a waste of time or energy.

We are staunch supporters and advocates of effective and meaningful peer support. We have seen how important being able to engage with and ask a good, experienced peer support worker can be both in the immediate post-injury period and subsequently; and irrespective of whether the person needing support needs legal advice and assistance. Effective peer support advisors draw on their own significant experience and expertise in addressing concerns or quickly direct you to those who might be better able to help.

Where the help you need is longer term and or more than momentary, it is important that the person who may be able to help you earns your trust and confidence. You need to feel comfortable that the person helping you is someone you feel sure has your situation uppermost in their mind when helping you; that you can leave whatever it is they are to help you with, with them so that you can pass the concern or worry, the need or stressor on to them for them to deal with. They need to be able to convince you that you are in safe hands; that they understand and have expertise and experience of helping people in similar situations, and that things can and will be better than they are.

That last stage is the prelude to you exercising the control and independence – and the self-confidence - that is so important to retain and maintain by making an informed decision on allowing the helper to help, so you can prioritise the other things that demand your time and attention.

Where you have recognised and come to terms with the fact that you need help; identified and engaged with the people who might be able to help you; and reached a point where you are comfortable in allowing a helper to help you, the last stage in getting the help is complete – and by allowing the help in things should get easier.

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