This is a part of the Hot Topic podcast series from the Model Systems Knowledge Translation Center on Sexuality and Intimacy After Burn Injury. Cindy Rutter, burn survivor, discusses caregiving and its impact on the spousal relationships after burn injury.

Cindy Rutter

Sustained a Burn Injury in 1959

Something that we need to consider in regards to burn injuries — when you have a husband and a wife, a wife and a wife, partners, significant other, that person could potentially become the caregiver and no longer the lover, and how does that change your role and what happens in regards to that. When you become a caregiver, your changing dressings, you're helping somebody go to the bathroom, things that you've never done before.

So it definitely changes who you are in the relationship, not only for the caregiver, but for the patient or your loved one. And how do we get back to the role of lovers? And I think that also is something that takes a lot of time and a lot of work and may require help. Again, it may require you reaching out to a peer supporter. How did they do it? Or reaching out to a therapist to transition back into a role of partners, husband to husband, wife, husband to wife, however, you know, it is, to get back to that and make sure that you work on that so that you return to those roles.

I think it's important to recognize that the touch of a caregiver is very different than the touch of a lover. But as a caregiver, you also can demonstrate touches of a lover by when you're not doing a dressing change, or when you're not helping them with bodily functions, to reach over and to give a little kiss, or to give a stroke of affection in an area that's comfortable for the burn survivor.

And in doing that, you are building back up your role as a lover rather than just as a caregiver. The impact of love and affection on a burn survivor are instrumental in healing. It's been studied, as far as research, that supporting relationships help with the healing process and the recovery process. So knowing that you're loved is definitely going to help with the recovery process.

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