Investment in community rehabilitation would free up hospital beds.
Community based rehabilitation services are urgently needed for people with brain injury and their carers – and to reduce hospital waiting lists – a health conference has been told today.
Speaking at a national conference for carers, Acquired Brain Injury Ireland CEO Barbara O’Connell said Irish neuro-rehabilitation services are under-developed and under-funded – which contributes to the unacceptable waiting times for hospital beds.
“A part of the ongoing hospital waiting list problem is that some people with an acquired brain injury, who need neuro-rehabilitation, remain in hospital beds for long periods as there are no appropriate step-down services for them.
“We need dedicated regional neuro-rehabilitation services, together with specialist community supports, so that people can transition in a timely manner to proper care in the community. Only a very small minority of people with a brain injury receive rehabilitation. Most either enter a nursing home which is not equipped to meet their needs, or are cared for at home by families who have no expertise, information or support.”
“Ireland has the lowest number of Consultants in rehabilitation medicine anywhere in Europe with an estimated 13,000 people acquiring a brain injury each year. Not only would developing rehabilitation services speed up access to hospital beds for all patients generally, it would also support thousands of family carers who provide unpaid 24-hour care for the vast majority of those with a brain injury,” she said.
Ms O’Connell was speaking at the ABI Ireland organised conference Building Resilience: Valuing myself as a carer at Croke Park today, which was attended and addressed by the Minister for Health, Simon Harris.
Research carried out by ABI Ireland identified a high level of anxiety and depression among family members who, due to the life changing circumstances of a loved one, become unexpectedly cast into the role of full-time carers.
One carer, based in the Midlands, told how he gave up his full-time job to look after his partner as there was no other option:
“It was soul destroying that we had to wait seven months for a bed in the National Rehabilitation Hospital (NRH), while during all that time she occupied an acute bed in the General Hospital. However, once my partner was discharged from the NRH, apart from four hours of occupational therapy from ABI Ireland every week, there is nothing. I was left to cope on my own and this gap in services needs to be recognised and to change.”
The conference included a keynote address from Clinical Psychologist and Mental Health Advocate Dr. Eddie Murphy who said:
“Families and carers are part of the unseen trauma of an acquired brain injury. They get burnt out and need the support of a health system. They are saving the nation a fortune through their heroic work. This cannot continue we need to plan and resource rehabilitation services for the future.”
The event was facilitated by broadcaster Miriam O’Callaghan. It included workshops for carers on practical items such as legal issues, minding yourself and managing stress and attention and memory challenges.
Commentary from the conference can be followed on Twitter at #valueme.