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Living With A Brain Injury In A Rural Setting During The Pandemic

April 24, 2020

This is a guest post.

 

 

We are all facing challenges right now.

 

People who have suffered a brain injury are often already in a position where they don’t have access to specialist rehabilitation at the time they need it, particularly when they live in a rural area.

 

In the countryside, it can take far longer to reach a hospital, whether this in an emergency or for a planned appointment, and community based clinics are few and far between. Those who are unable to drive are often entirely reliant upon the goodwill of others to help them attend appointments, or face having to pay for taxis for long trips. Public transport is irregular at best and often not an option for someone recovering from a brain injury.

 

The restrictions put in place because of the COVID-19 virus are making an already difficult situation worse. I’m hearing of setbacks being faced by our clients and those in charity groups that I support, often because they are no longer able to receive the therapies they need. This is also because people are no longer able to participate in activities, or see their family or friends. We are all working hard to find ways around problems where possible. Specialist brain injury charities such as The Silverlining and Headway are offering helpful resources, support and activities, by telephone and by video.

 

In rural areas, where people live some distance apart from others, they are already isolated. Specialist community brain injury support services are more stretched than in city or suburban areas, even in usual times. Each nurse or therapist is able to see fewer patients each day because of the time it takes to travel between their homes. For this reason, any further barrier to a service being provided will affect those in the countryside more acutely, unless those services are ring-fenced and prioritised.

 

Professionals are of course often attending to a number of different patients, and are vulnerable to becoming unwell with the virus themselves. Support workers being off sick mean that there are fewer brain injury specialist support workers available to provide care required. An agency support worker may be able to provide cover, however this means that an unfamiliar person is introduced to provide care, which can in itself be disruptive and stressful. They may also not be a specialist.

 

Where someone with a brain injury has family members available, it will inevitably fall to them to provide more help than usual. This can put a strain on relationships, where – whilst they are more than happy to help – they have to inevitably change their role to be that of a carer. This will have an impact, and where this involves intimate care, such as helping people wash or go to the toilet, may cause embarrassment or upset.

 

Potentially the most vulnerable are those with a brain injury who are isolated in a rural area, unable to travel and on their own, without family to help. They are entirely reliant upon professional carers coming in to help them at home, often to help them with mobility and to get up and around, and to make sure they have enough food and provisions. Those visits are literally a lifeline. If anything disrupts that service, it can have devastating consequences. Carers may be the only other faces they see, so the service also provides invaluable social support. In between visits, people on their own are reliant upon any systems they have in place, and a daily structure, to maintain their physical and mental wellbeing.

 

The current situation shines an even brighter light on the vital work that carers, both paid and unpaid, do to support the most vulnerable.

 

Suzanne is a partner and head of the adult brain injury team at Bolt Burdon Kemp. She is also a proud trustee of The Silverlining national brain injury charity.

 

For more information about the services offered by The Silverlinings, please see the website http://www.thesilverlining.org.uk/

Headway is able to offer a helpline, support and information, please see their website https://www.headway.org.uk/

 

Suzanne Trask is a Partner and head of the Adult Brain Injury team at Bolt Burdon Kemp

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