Date of Award


Document Type

Scholarly Project

Degree Name

Master of Occupational Therapy (MOT)


Occupational Therapy

First Advisor

LaVonne Fox


Caregivers; Spinal Cord Injuries


In 2006, it was estimated that there were 253,000 Americans living with spinal cord injuries (SCI) (Spinal Cord Injury Information Network, 2003, p. 1). Current literature suggests that individuals are transitioning into the community earlier with the majority of care being provided by informal caregivers (Boschen, Tonack, & Gargaro, 2005). These caregivers are often unprepared for the major role they will be assuming in the care of their loved one and often their health and well-being is compromised due to the overwhelming nature of caregiving.

A comprehensive literature review was conducted to explore and identify the needs of caregivers. Topics researched included spinal cord injury (SCI), treatments, caregiving, caregiver needs and interventions, and caregiver resources. In addition, the literature was reviewed regarding best practice strategies to deal with the changing needs and lifestyles the family may experience. The literature review revealed that there were few resources examining caregivers of individuals with SCI, many of the needs of the caregiver were identified and shown to be underserved.

Based upon the literature review, the Occupational Therapy Caregiver's Guide to Spinal Cord Injll1Y has been developed to assist caregivers in performing their new role of primary caregiver. It provides them with information on basic patient care guidelines as well as information on the caregiver's physical and psychosocial wellbeing. The guide also provides the caregiver with information on the importance of continuing their prior occupations along with their new occupations. Lastly, the guide will provide the caregiver with a list of resources that may be useful in trying times such as the benefits of respite care.

The authors hope that the guide will begin to bridge the gap faced by caregivers of individuals with spinal cord injury. It is hoped that unifying the resources and strategies in the guide will decrease the caregivers stress so he or she can be in a more healthy and supportive role during the recovery process.