burn supportThe University of Utah Health Burn Center offers a range of programs that aid burn survivors and their families in overcoming the challenges unique to those who live with the physical and emotional scars of their injuries. Through education, support groups, SOAR (Survivors Offering Assistance in Recovery), camps, and other services, we aim to help you cope without being overcome, exhausted, or changed in character.

To aid in the process of recovery, here is some advice for burn patients and their caregivers:

For Patients

A burn accident creates many changes and losses for you and your loved ones. Hospitalization can be frightening, and patients often experience frustration and depression during recovery. The burn team considers every aspect of healing, treating the whole person.

If you are a family member or friend of the patient, we encourage you to familiarize yourself with the patient-related policy and procedures. Openly communicate with your loved one and staff to help provide appropriate support.

Case Managers

Following a traumatic injury, families often express concern about their insurance coverage. The case manger can help. The case manager does the following:

  • Coordinates financial resources available to you.
  • Arranges needed medical equipment.
  • Works with the care team on discharge plans.
  • Obtains and verifies insurance coverage.
  • Contacts payers for authorization.
  • Provides ongoing reviews as you move closer to discharge.

Emotional & Behavioral Health

Your care team reviews your care daily, and every aspect is considered, including your behavioral health. Our behavioral health professionals help you and your loved ones adjust to the injury and help you understand trauma reactions and how to cope with hospitalization phases of recovery.

Our pediatric patients receive age-appropriate information about procedures, help with coping, and therapeutic play, an important part of development and coping. A playroom is available for inpatient pediatric patients. Toys and activities for all ages are available. For safety reasons, there must be three people in the room when in use, including a staff member.

Children visiting their loved ones for the first time can benefit from emotional preparation. Arrangements can be made 24 hours in advance by contacting a health care team member.

Returning to Life

Community re-entry can be a concern for you and your loved ones. Our behavioral health team can address these issues that often include body image, school re-entry assistance for children, managing stares and/or teasing, and other appropriate community referrals.

A support and education group is offered Wednesdays from 10:30 am to noon in the burn center support room. This group is open to inpatients, outpatients, and their support networks. Please visit the Burn Support Group page for more info.

For Caregivers

Practical Hints for Caregivers

  • The best time to ask for help is before you really need it. Don’t wait until you are exhausted.
  • Develop a support system early.
  • Involve others and make them comfortable with the situation, even for seemingly minor help.
  • Be aware of the effect of compliments and don’t let them disable you. For example, it can be hard to live up to  expectations when people call you a hero.
  • Build consensus in decisions where possible.
  • Feel free to let others be responsible for finding answers.
  • Know how to ask politely, but directly, for what you need.

Supporting Personal Health & Resilience

In order to provide care for your loved one, you need to keep yourself healthy. Consider the following:

  • Get plenty of restful sleep.
  • Find a sense of meaning and purpose in the situation.
  • Seek loving and supportive relationships.
  • Look for positive interactions and social support.
  • Exercise.
  • Eat healthy food.
  • Find a connection to others experiencing a similar situation.

How Emotions Affect the Body

  • Headaches
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea or frequent stomachaches
  • Severe abdominal pain
  • Loss of energy, drive, or motivation
  • Restlessness or periods of irritability
  • Severe depression
  • Sleep disturbances, including insomnia, nightmares, abrupt awakening, and inability to return to sleep
  • Loss of appetite
  • Loss of sexual desire
  • Memory loss and forgetfulness
  • Reduced ability to concentrate
  • Sudden, unexplainable outbursts of anger and/or hostile behavior
  • Periods of uncontrollable crying
  • Chronic pain, often in the joints, back, or head
  • Pains in the chest area, often mistakenly interpreted as symptoms of a heart attack
  • Muscle weakness in various parts of the body
  • Muscle soreness
  • Hot or cold spells
  • Numbing or tingling, especially in the hands, feet, and face
  • Lump in the throat and occasional difficulty in swallowing
  • Hyperventilation or shortness of breath

[Woolley, F. Ross and Woolley, Susan (2000) “Sudden Trauma! When Life Will Never Be The Same Again,” GoldMind Publications, Salt Lake City, UT (ISBN0-9678150-0-2)]

What If Something Bad Happens?

Major burns are profound injuries with the potential for complications, and even death. We are prepared to deal with every possibility in caring for our patients. As part of routine care, we ask you to define advanced directives, which are detailed instructions on how to care for you or your loved one in the event of a cardiac arrest or other life-threatening event. This is routine practice for all patients and does not mean that something bad has happened or is expected.

The doctors will communicate openly and honestly about you or your loved one’s condition, and if complications occur, you may be asked to make decisions regarding care. It is important to keep in mind the patient’s wishes and how they would want to be cared for. If you don’t know the patient’s wishes or are unwilling to commit to decisions regarding their care, we will provide care we see fit.

You and your loved ones require emotional support even when things go well. In the event of a complication or bad outcome, our entire team will support you and your loved ones as much as possible. We encourage you to ask about the possibilities that many people are reluctant to bring up. We will answer all questions open and honestly and explain if a complication has occurred. We provide support throughout the course of treatment regardless of what happens.