Many people in regional Australia struggled to cope and to do the things they want to do following their brain injury, according to a major research study from Charles Sturt University (CSU) and the South West Brain Injury Rehabilitation Service (SWBIRS), part of the NSW Greater Southern Area Health Service (GSAHS).
The research also highlighted the need for flexible services as a key part of extended services for people living with brain injuries, especially when they returned to live in the community.
A research team member from CSU, Dr Michael Curtin, said the reasons for the struggles included:
- being vulnerable to physical, emotional and financial abuse;
- having unsupportive legal and insurance processes;
- difficulty in coping with a change of gender roles, particularly for men;
- dealing with the physical and emotional impact of doing things, such as going shopping one day may mean a day of rest following day;
- being cautious about taking risks; and,
- a lack of services and support for the family members of the person who has had a brain injury.
“On the positive side people thought living in regional and rural Australia was good as it gave them more space and they felt more accepted by their local community,” Dr Curtin said.
Ms Virginia Mitsch, an occupational therapist at SWBIRS, said that, “We found that current rehabilitation services are doing a good job of assisting people to return to their community following a traumatic brain injury, such as a road accident.
“However, rehabilitation services need to also consider factors that contribute to a person’s satisfactory participation in the community.”
Brain injury can result in long term physical, cognitive and emotional changes that can have an impact on the all areas of a person’s life. The research found that if life changes, such as relationships breaking down or being unable to return to work, or the medical and legal process taking a long time, then support services may be required to help people accommodate the changes.
“This has major implications for funding brain injury rehabilitation services and the services provided,” said SWBIRS manager, Mr Denis Ginnivan.
“Importantly, this support needs to be flexible enough to be available as needed and responsive to life changes. This would better assist people living with brain injury to live more fulfilling lives.”
The three year collaborative research project was funded by the Federal government’s Australian Research Council and NSW Health and supported by CSU and the GSAHS.
The study included surveys and in-depth interviews with163 people with brain injuries from all over regional and rural NSW.