Spinal Cord Injuries (SCIs) are severe central nervous system afflictions that can be extremely difficult and cumbersome to manage. Depending on the severity of the SCI, there may be relatively few ways to ameliorate the health complications that result from SCIs (pulmonary embolus, pneumonias, bacteremia, sepsis, etc.,) and the costs to patients and their families can be enormous. The financial, emotional, and psychological effects of living with an SCI are likely to have lifelong reverberations. Being able to adequately plan for care needs and costs is important to mitigate the impact in the lives of those living with SCI.
The average person impacted by Spinal Cord Injury is in their 20s, but these traumatic injuries can happen at any age. Motor vehicle accidents are the leading cause of SCIs for people under 65, while falls account for the majority of SCIs in people over 65. Other causes include sports, recreational activities, and violence. Research suggests that alcohol intoxication plays a major role in approximately 25% of cases.
The mortality rate for people who sustain SCIs is significant. Many of those who have endured SCIs die before they reach the hospital or during the initial stay at the hospital. The most important factors that contribute to the rate of survival among those with SCIs is age, severity of injury, and the location on the spinal cord in which the injury was sustained. For patients that do survive an SCI, the lasting health complications and the resulting financial burden that they will face can be tremendous.
To further complicate matters, it is possible for people who sustain Spinal Cord Injuries to develop other health conditions as a result of their initial injury. Respiratory complications, renal failure, heart disease, and mental illness are all conditions that can stem from a Spinal Cord Injury. Respiratory complications are currently thought to be the leading cause of death among SCI survivors.
It is not uncommon for Spinal Cord Injury patients to spend up to half a year in the hospital in the first two years after the injury, with subsequent hospitalizations required due to health complications stemming from the initial injury. Lengthy and repeated hospital admissions combined with necessary home modifications, personal assistance, and lifelong medical expenses mean the financial costs faced by those with SCIs can be overwhelming. Loss of income and productivity further contribute to financial destabilization meaning the burden of paying for care is in many ways as debilitating as the psychological and physical impact of the injuries themselves.
For these reasons and more, it is important to have a comprehensive Life Care Plan that fully assesses the needs required to reduce the risks of complications, as well as plan for the costs associated with caring for someone living with a catastrophic injury over a lifetime.