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Injured? Put your supports in place

A psychologist recently suggested to me that people need to put their “scaffolding” in place as quickly as possible, both physically and emotionally, when they find themselves injured.

I like the word scaffolding. It brings to mind the visual image of a building that is surrounded by scaffolding during a renovation. This visual image is quite helpful to me when I think about the support system that people need to put in place so that they are better able to focus on recovering after an injury.

What sort of injury? It can be lots of things. The recovery period that can last for months after someone hurts a disc in their back. Maybe the period for a couple after the birth of a child, especially if the baby was delivered by Caesarean section. Maybe after a car accident when someone has shattered a leg. Maybe after open heart surgery.

Whatever the injury, when people are incapacitated and unable to look after themselves, the sooner they can erect the physical and emotional scaffolding they will required over the longer-term, the better.

Individuals who live alone will need to erect more scaffolding than those that live with a spouse or older children because they won’t have someone available 24-7 to help them out.

Here is a partial check list of physical scaffolding that someone might want to erect following an injury.

  1. You will want to arrange to have someone come in immediately to:
  • Re-arrange the furniture appropriately
  • Get things out of storage like extra pillows
  • Buy specialty items like a bolster for the bed or slip-on shoes
  • Help locate a family doctor or physiotherapist if you don’t already have one
  • Initiate a disability insurance claim, as appropriate
  1. You will want to hire regular helpers that will look after repetitive routine chores over the longer-term such as to:
  • Clean the house
  • Buy groceries
  • Cut the grass and water the garden (or shovel the snow)
  • Change the cat litter
  • Do the laundry
  • Start the car once a week
  1. You may need someone to drop by every day to do things like:
  • Walk the dog
  • Pick up items that have been dropped on the floor
  • Drive you to doctor and physiotherapy appointments
  • Pick-up prescription re-fills
  • Get items down off of high shelves

In addition, here are some ideas for emotional scaffolding during an injury that are equally important:

  1. You will want to schedule regular helpers to:
  • Call once a day to hear how you’re mending
  • Visit you so your mood remains good
  • Bring news of the outside world so you don’t feel isolated
  • Care about how you’re doing emotionally
  • Help you process feelings of fear and vulnerability
  1. In many cases, it can be quite helpful to arrange to meet with a psychologist to help you process the bigger issues. They can:
  • Help you with personal concerns you can’t share with your friends
  • Teach you to better manage your physical pain
  • Deal with frightening changes your injury may bring over the longer-term
  • Process the incident that lead to the injury
  • Cope with triggers that arise while you feel vulnerable

I hope the ideas listed in this blog are helpful. Everyone’s list will be unique. The sooner you can erect your personal scaffolding and get supports in place, the sooner you can realize you can cope with your situation, begin to relax and focus on healing.

Dr. Patricia Turner, PhD, Registered Psychologist, Calgary, Alberta

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