Sustaining a Brain Injury can change life forever.
It could be you, it could be me… Any time, any place, anywhere, A road trafﬁc accident, an assault, a work or sports injury, a stroke or haemorrhage, or as the result of brain surgery, infection or disease; that’s how brain injuries occur, and someone is admitted to hospital in the UK every 90 seconds as the result (according to Headway UK statistics). For those with lasting physical and cognitive impairments life is never quite the same; not only for those who have sustained the Brain Injury but for their families too.
Living with the after effects of a brain injury can be extremely challenging. Often it appears that the world has become a different place with even the simplest of tasks seeming to be impossible due to physical difﬁculties. Add the inevitable cognitive, behavioural, psychological and emotional impairments, and it is easy to appreciate that expert help and support will be required. Mobility, speech, hearing, taste, touch and smell can all be affected, as well as insight into appropriate social behaviour, emotional understanding and control of both. Short term memory loss, confusion and fatigue are very often experienced too.
Having a brain injury has been described as living with a ‘hidden disability’ as often it is impossible to realise just by looking at a survivor, how hard they are struggling to appear normal and to be accepted as part of the community.
Similarly, having a mental health problem, is something that can be just as life changing, and is often kept hidden due to the perceived stigma it can carry resulting in a reluctance to seek help and a struggle to maintain normality. Given that 1 in 4 people in the UK experience a mental health problem every year (Mind statistics) it is imperative that expert help and support is readily available.
Whilst conditions such as Bipolar, Schizophrenia and Psychotic Disorder would generally be treated under the mental health banner, there are other difﬁculties such as Anxiety and Depression that are often experienced as a result of a brain injury as well being mental health problems.
Having worked with Acquired Brain Injury survivors and those with cognitive impairment for over 12 years, I have become increasingly aware of the fact that there is a need for ongoing one to one support for people recovering in a community setting, in their homes and with their families. This type of support should be specialised and unique, designed to suit the needs of each individual and their family, and is not a quick ﬁx or a miracle cure. It is a common sense approach to a very complex situation and requires sensitivity and an appropriate knowledge base as well as a wealth of experience in the ﬁeld to be able to be effective in delivery and to achieve results.
Every aspect of a brain injured client’s life should be considered, and support offered where appropriate with the accent being on going forward and making the absolute very best of life, rather than trying to revert to life before brain injury or mental health problem. Support for the family/carer is just as important and should be provided alongside that for the client.
To be able to adequately and appropriately support both Acquired Brain Injury survivors and those with Mental Health Difﬁculties it is important that they can access this support on a 24/7 basis. Whilst there are many organisations already operating in these ﬁelds of support, I am not sure that this holistic approach is nationally available, and I know that this one to one approach actually achieves sustainable ongoing rehabilitation.