For those whose lives have been impacted by brain injury, the clinical, neuropsychological and emotional benefits of rehabilitation are well documented. But, the rehabilitation journey can be a long and involved process – and for affected individuals who are keen to embark on the path to recovery as soon as possible, any delay to treatment can be the cause of great anxiety. This anxiety can permeate to family members and loved ones too, who will share in the sense of frustration and often feel helpless to do anything about it.
Being able to access expert guidance and support is invaluable, as is the feeling that progress is being made. Therefore, a newly published set of guidelines from Headway, the brain injury association, is to be welcomed, as it sets out practical advice around what families and carers can do while their relative waits for rehabilitation following brain injury.
The list of top tips includes advice such as encouraging the brain injured person to gradually increase their activities in the first few weeks rather than going straight back into the routine they had before their injury, or exploring the idea of a home activity programme, where a regular schedule is created for the brain injured person, consisting of activities around the home that they can enjoy and undertake safely. Headway also points to the existence of befriending services, social services and charities like itself as potential sources of additional support for brain injured people and their families.
As reports of lengthening waiting lists for rehabilitation services become more common, growing numbers of people will be seeking advice. Certainly, at Shoosmiths we have seen for ourselves the anxiety that can be caused to clients and their family who have to wait for rehabilitation they are in desperate need of.
As legal advisers who specialise in brain injury we will always seek to ensure that clients have access to quality rehabilitation services as quickly as possible. The sooner rehabilitation starts the faster a brain injured person can improve their quality of life. Medical evidence points to cognitive rehabilitation being particularly effective when provided in a timely manner – as the brain learns to ‘rewire’ itself so that other parts take over from the damaged areas to restore function.
Rehabilitation for people affected by brain injury can consist of a host of different therapies, all designed to restore quality of life and enable a level of independence. Physiotherapy will help with mobility and motor skills, whilst occupational therapy will support a person in re-learning how to do everyday tasks, for instance. There may also be a need for speech and language therapy. Every individual case is different and will require a specific recovery plan but the sooner that recovery can begin, the better.
Effective rehabilitation, whatever form it takes, should be aimed at reducing the long term impact of a brain injury and accelerating recovery for the individual. Of course this can also help to mitigate some of the cost associated with claims, a fact that many insurers are keenly aware of. As the row over recent changes to the discount rate; the formula used to work out how much compensation should be awarded for serious personal injury, rumbles on it is worth remembering the important role that timely, expert rehabilitation can play in mitigating future losses and, hence, compensation costs, whilst ensuring the person who has suffered the injury receives essential support.
Brain injury is life-changing, for the people who suffer the injury, along with their families, loved ones and carers. It can be a confusing and unnerving time for all involved, as they learn to adjust and live with the impairments caused by the injury. Delays in rehabilitation will only serve to exacerbate this sense of disorientation and so the advice and support provided by organisations such as Headway is essential. Brain injury sufferers and their families should also be able to rely on their legal advisers to help them secure a route to rehabilitation.
By Rose Donoghue
National Head of Personal Injury
Personal injury partner, Rose Donoghue
Shoosmiths is registered in the Headway Injury Solicitors Directory. For further information on Headway visit https://www.headway.org.uk/about-headway/
This information is for educational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. It is recommended that specific professional advice is sought before acting on any of the information given. © Shoosmiths LLP 2023