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Action for Brain Injury Week focuses on social isolation after a year of Covid-19

View profile for Dan Thompson
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We have all had to adjust to a life in some level of isolation over the last 12 months, however for some that isolation has been harder to endure, particularly those who have sustained or are recovering from a brain injury.  Action for Brain Injury Week, which falls this year from 17th to 23rd May, will aim to raise awareness of how Covid-19 and the subsequent lockdowns has impacted those individuals recovering from a brain injury.  Dan Thompson, Partner in our Personal Injury team, here explains more about the week, highlighting why those with brain injuries have particularly struggled and also reviews the additional impact that the pandemic has had on rehabilitation services.

How has Covid-19 and lockdown impacted those with a brain injury?

A brain injury, whether traumatic or acquired, will have life changing consequences for the individual and their family and friends around them.  Some of the most common side effects of a brain injury are memory loss, speech impediments and an inability to adjust to new surroundings or environments, all of which will understandably have a negative impact on the person’s confidence. 

“With this in mind, it is clear to see why people in this situation will have found lockdown unsettling,” explains Dan.  “They may have found it difficult to communicate with their friends and family via video conferencing, or they may struggle with communication when in public perhaps not remembering the regulations regarding social distancing or wearing their mask.  In addition to these social skills, restrictions have also led to care facilities, support grounds and rehabilitation services being reduced, having a detrimental impact on their short and long term recovery.”   

In June 2020, Headway conducted a report, The impact of lockdown on brain injury survivors and their families, with the key findings showing that:

  • 57% of people who have suffered a brain injury in the last two years say that their access to specialist rehabilitation treatment has been negatively impacted due to Covid-19.
  • Two thirds of respondents reported a negative impact on their physiological wellbeing.
  • 64% of those living with the long term effects of a brain injury reported deterioration in their mental health due to the restrictions implemented to control the coronavirus.
  • 50% have lost access to vital support that helps them cope. 
  • 65% feeling isolated.

Isolation is often a common result of a brain injury due to a change in behaviour, personality and emotions that follows.  Many people experience issues with irritability, lack of empathy and a loss of control, all of which can break up social networks.   In fact, a 2018 Headway survey showed that 69% of people experienced a loss in friendships and 44% a breakdown in family relationships following a brain injury.  Covid-19 however has only highlighted the importance of maintaining as many relationships as possible in order to offer support at a time when other networks aren’t available. 

How has rehabilitation been impacted by Covid-19?

The strain placed onto the NHS during the early months of Covid-19 and the following peaks in case numbers led to a redistribution of medical resources and therefore caused a delay and reduction in rehabilitation services. 

Early intervention with rehabilitation is vital following a brain injury and has a crucial role to play in the long term recovery, helping the individual to regain lost skills such as walking and talking, aiding them towards an independent life in the future.  Access to rehabilitation and support groups is not only important for the individual concerned but also for their wider network such as their family and friends who may be required to care for them.

How you can support a friend or loved one who has sustained a brain injury

While some brain injuries may lead to a physical disability, this is not always the case and so it can be hard to understand the impact a brain injury has on a person, particularly as you may not be able to see the disability.  It may be difficult at times with their behavioural changes, but it is important to continue to provide support for the person so they can feel positive about their new life and feel there is some degree of consistency and continuity. 

There are a number of different approaches you can adopt to help the person in your life adjust, including:

  • Be flexible and accommodating to any daily mood changes.
  • Encourage them to seek support from local groups or their GP.
  • Offer support when they need it.  It’s important not to assume that they can’t be independent and offer to help with too much, but letting them know you’re there will help them adapt over time.  They may need assistance with food shopping, childcare, administration etc.
  • Consider how outings with them could be done to accommodate them, for example going to quieter locations, fitting in to their schedule of when they feel at their best during the day and taking into consideration any medication they’re on could impact their diet.

“While the findings from the report highlight the challenges the pandemic has raised, there are also positive findings showing that local communities have rallied around those in need with 27% reporting a positive change in their relationship with their neighbours,” concludes Dan.  “Being able to have this support is encouraging; however it cannot replace the professional support provided by rehabilitation services.  All brain injuries are different and will impact different aspects of people’s lives, from cognitive functions to social skills, which is why we are supporting Action for Brain Injury Week once again this year to help raise awareness as to the importance of ensuring those affected have the appropriate physical, psychological and social support.”

If you or a loved one has sustained a traumatic brain injury, you can contact Dan Thompson or a member of the Personal Injury team on 0800 91 92 30 or email injuryteamenquiry@warnergoodman.co.uk.

ENDS

This is for information purposes only and is no substitute for, and should not be interpreted as, legal advice.  All content was correct at the time of publishing and we cannot be held responsible for any changes that may invalidate this article.