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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.


Conference offers brain injury carers opportunity to learn and to be pampered

Family carers who care for a loved one with acquired brain injury are being encouraged to attend a national ‘carers conference’ next week in Croke Park.
The conference Building Resilience: Valuing myself as a carer takes place next Wednesday (February 15th) and aims to provide family carers with greater levels of practical knowledge and understanding of brain injury.

Organised by Acquired Brain Injury Ireland, there will be expert speakers and workshops on legal issues, minding yourself, managing stress and memory challenges.

The conference will be addressed by the Minister for Health Simon Harris and facilitated by broadcaster Miriam O’Callaghan. A Keynote Address will be delivered by Dr. Eddie Murphy, psychologist with RTE’s Operation Transformation.

Important issues for carers, the challenges they face and what actions government needs to take will be set out by the CEO of Acquired Brain Injury Ireland, Barbara O’Connell.

During the day practical and helpful workshops for carers will be run including:

• What you need to know about legal issues, Solicitor Ann McGarry
• What you need to know about minding yourself and managing stress, Dr, Caroline McGrath and Teresa O’Boyle, ABI Ireland
• What you need to know about attention and memory challenges, Dr. Brian Waldron.

There will also be pampering and relaxation facilities for carers and a performance by the High Hopes choir which is made up of homeless people. There will also be prizes in recognition of the contribution that carers and families make in communities. There is a registration fee of €10.

ABI Ireland CEO Barbara O’Connell said the conference will also be an informative, social and fun event and she encouraged anybody across the country, who cares for someone with an acquired brain injury, to attend: “As well as dealing with the serious issues, the day will also include plenty of opportunities for carers and families to meet with other family members and also to experience a little on-site pampering! “

To find out more go to, or call 01 280 4164. Commentary from the conference can be followed on Twitter via the hashtag #valueme.