Emotional Readjustment for Adults After a Burn

Burn injury is a frightening and potentially life-changing event for patients and families. Burned patients and families often experience loss or change in their lives. It is understandable that patients and families may face many difficult emotions including depression, anger, frustration, fear, and anxiety.

Each person will cope with the stress of the injury and hospitalization in his or her own way. Dealing with the emotional stress involved in a burn injury is an important part of accepting and recovering from burn injury.

Burn patients must often cope with changes in their body appearance and body function. Family members or friends can assist patients by encouraging the patients to discuss their feelings and worries.

It is essential for family members or friends to "care" for themselves during the hospital stay. This includes taking time to eat, rest, and take breaks from the hospital. Family members or friends will find that their roles may change.

For instance, if the spouse who handles financial affairs is injured, the healthy spouse may need to assume the role of financial manager. These role changes can cause anxiety and frustration. It is an important time to ask for help from other family members and friends. This help may include transportation, child care, errands, and often, someone to listen.

Preparing for discharge from the hospital can be an exciting and stressful time. The patient and family need to plan for a new routine that includes bandage changes, exercise programs, and adjustment to daily tasks. burn patients also tire easily and seem to have less energy. Careful planning by the patient and family to ensure adequate time for a home routine can avoid the sense of feeling rushed or feeling inadequate during the necessary tasks.

The social worker and other staff members assist patients and families in exploring their concerns and stresses during the hospital stay and as they prepare for discharge. Staff members work with the patient and family to develop strategies for coping with difficulties during the hospital stay and at home.

Many patients and families benefit from counseling once they return to their home communities to work through adjustment to the burn injury and the changes in their lives. If a patient and family desire referrals for counseling, the social worker can arrange for services.

Going home is usually a happy time for you and your family. You may find the adjustment from hospital to home quite easy and anxiety-free. However, you may also find yourself having emotional up and down periods-especially times when nothing seems to go right. These changes of mood are not uncommon. Your accident has created changes or losses for you and your family and you may have many adjustments to make. Often these changes can be unsettling and you can find the transition from hospital to home more frustrating than you had anticipated.

University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics
Department of Nursing
Critical Care Nursing Division