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What have we found so far?

Professor Kim Foster, researcher, Paediatric Critical Injury Research Program

“Parents felt a lot of distress watching their children experience pain and hurt. They were very concerned about their child’s emotional well-being post-injury. Parents recognised there would be a large impact on the family’s way of life after the injury and this disruption to their everyday routine would affect all family members. There was a large emotional toll on the parent, family and other individuals as a result of the injury event and their child’s hospitalisation and treatment. But the positive side for many parents was that their child was alive and the care provided by the hospital had been very good.

What do parents need?

Sleep was a big issue for parents following their child’s injury. They needed quality sleep to improve their own functioning and ability to cope. Some parents had limited support from friends and family and found the experience very isolating. They recognised that having emotional and practical support was really important for them. For many parents the main need was having someone to talk to.

Most parents’ emotional wellbeing was related to their child. If their child was doing well, parents often felt better about their own situation.

Parents suggested that hospital staff could provide some more emotional support to them, eg. by giving parents’ permission to take a break and allowing both parents to stay overnight. Parents also needed help sorting out the insurance details from motor car collisions, and would have benefited from more help with this. Some parents also weren’t clear about what needed to happen in relation to their child’s progress before the child could go home.

Parents wanted to understand what is going on with their child and to be kept up to date with any changes by staff. Most parents felt anxious about taking their child home from hospital and were concerned about whether they would be able to physically care for and support their child as well as whether their child would get enough emotional support when back at home.

The hospital treatment period had significant financial impact for many families, especially those parents who were self-employed or on lower incomes. Parents would have appreciated help being organised to transition their child from hospital to home, and that it would be helpful to get a list of the names, contact details and roles of people working with the child. This was to counteract the fact that there were a confusing number of staff working with their children.

We also asked parents what messages they had for other parents about having an injured child. Here’s some of them:

  • Take each day as it comes
  • Stay optimistic
  • Persevere with staff if you think you are right. Parents should feel confident that they know their child and know when their child is in pain and requires pain relief.
  • Be strong, give attention to your sick child, other children and partner. You don’t want people to be resentful down the track.
  • Look after yourself and don’t be afraid to ask questions.
  • Some parents gave no advice as they believed everyone is different and will react differently and in their own way to the crisis of having a severely injured child.

The lives of the families we have spoken with have been changed forever. They are inspiring stories of parents’ optimism in the face of tragedy, and of their fierce protection and relentless determination to take care their children. They are amazing stories of resilience, but also real stories of terrible loss and ongoing need across every area of the family’s life.

They have started out on what will be a long and challenging journey through recovery from injury. We need to help them.”

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