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Festive tips for surviving and enjoying Christmas with a brain injuryThings are really hotting up for the festive season as we fast approach Christmas. The shops are busier with people, lights and noise which can be overwhelming to say the least. And sometimes even more so, if you have a brain injury.

Our tips for the festive season

This December, we’re sharing some tips to help you survive the madness! These tips are also useful to share with your family and friends to help them understand how you feel.

Time and Rest

After a brain injury, you need more rest than you used to. Your brain works differently after the injury and you can feel ‘brain tired’. It’s more tiring for your brain to think, process and organise. So remember to take a nap if you need a break. With all the Christmas food on the go, you won’t be the only one to shut your eyes!

Avoiding crowds

Too many noises can make it difficult to filter sounds in a crowded atmosphere for anyone, but especially after a brain injury. Noise cancelling earphones can be handy for some peace and calm amidst the hustle and bustle. Choose small social gatherings or shop online to avoid the crowded shops and bars.

Make a list – and check it twice!

With so much going on in the run up to Christmas, it’s easy to forget things. Stick to your routine as much as you can and remember to make a list if you are going to the shops. It’s a good idea to go shopping early in the morning or late in the evening, to avoid major crowds.

Ask for help

It sounds obvious but many of us forget to do it – ask for help if you need it and accept help if it is offered to you. A lot of tasks that arise at Christmas time, only happen once a year which makes it easy to forget how to do them. Two heads are always better than one!


We often see a lot more people at Christmas time and many of us enjoy time off at home. It can help to write a list of what’s happening each day. Don’t be afraid to ask your hosts about what’s planned as well so that you don’t have to worry about surprises. If there’s going to be a lot of people coming, you might decide to pack your noise-cancelling headphones or earplugs so you can slip away from some peace and quiet. And don’t be afraid to go to bed early to get your rest. Socialising can be very tiring.

Flashing lights

If flashing lights are bothering you while visiting, ask your friends and family to turn off the flashing features on Christmas trees and other decorations. Choose a seat facing away from the lights or use sunglasses or a peaked hat to shade you from the dazzle.


Barbara O'Connell, CEO, Acquired Brain Injury Ireland is pictured with other members of The Disability Action Coalition (TDAC) campaigning outside the Dáil for funding for disability organisations.

Pictured (l-r) Mark Mitchell, MS Ireland service user (centre), Kathleen O Meara, Rehab Group, Ava Battles, MS Ireland, John O’Sullivan, Enable Ireland, Meabh Smith, Irish Wheelchair Association, Barbara O’Connell, Acquired Brain Injury Ireland, Theresa Anderson, Cheshire Ireland, Brendan Lennon, Chime, Kevin Kelly, NCBI of The Disability Action Coalition today (3rd December 2019) called on the Government to resolve the funding crisis which they say is threatening the future of their services. The coalition, made up of nine organisations funded under Section 39 of the Health Act, provide services for around 65,000 adults and children with physical, intellectual, sensory and mental health disabilities, revealed a €20 million shortfall across the nine frontline disability organisations providing these critical services. To find out more visit Picture Conor McCabe Photography.


As many of you will know, Acquired Brain Injury Ireland is largely funded through Service Level Agreements with the Health Services Executive (HSE). We hugely value our relationship with the HSE and value our partnerships there. But we also face serious under-funding that is a constant threat to our ability to deliver services.

Core costs

You see, when funding only supports the service delivery costs, our organisation is denied essential funding for core business functions and governance. Why do we need this funding? The reality is that any organisation, including Acquired Brain Injury Ireland, cannot exist without also covering costs for vital business functions including finance, human resources and administration.

Why this funding is vital

Like any business:

  • we work to the highest standards to account for all monies we receive and spend
  • We work to ensure we observe all employee legislation and protect the rights of our staff
  • We work to ensure our staff are trained to the highest standards to deliver brain injury rehabilitation
  • We work to ensure all data adheres to GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation)
  • We work to ensure all our services are compliant with HIQA and relevant legislation

Need to grow our services

As you can imagine, we would not deliver our brain injury rehabilitation services any other way. These functions are vital. But without funding for functions like finance and HR, this creates a gap in funding that we cannot fill and which threatens our ongoing survival. It also hampers our ability to grow our services, which is a big problem when we know so many more people need our help to rebuild their lives after brain injury.

Strength in numbers

So that’s why we have joined forces with 8 other disability organisations facing the same funding gap and crisis. Together we are called The Disability Action Coalition (TDAC for short). Our colleagues in the group include organisations you know such as Cheshire Ireland, Chime, Enable Ireland, Headway, Irish Wheelchair Association, MS Ireland, National Council for the Blind Ireland and Rehab Group.

Campaigning at the Dáil

Barbara O'Connell, Chief Executive and founder of Acquired Brain Injury Ireland

Barbara O’Connell, CEO, Acquired Brain Injury Ireland

Yesterday we joined the TDAC group and campaigned outside the Dáil, calling on the Government to resolve the funding crisis. At a media briefing in Dublin, our CEO Barbara O’Connell said: “Our reserves have gone down. We are here to highlight that things could collapse very quickly if we don’t get the funding we need.”

Section 39 and how it affects our organisation

All of these organisations including Acquired Brain Injury Ireland, are funded under Section 39 of the Health Act. Under this section, this means we are not funded to meet the full costs of pay restoration, insurance, regulation or training.

Squeezed by the State

John O’Sullivan, CEO of Enable Ireland said: “We have been left behind while the rest of the country is catching up after the cuts of the recession years. This lack of funding is crippling our ability to respond to the needs of people with disabilities. We are being squeezed between State-funded services and private providers. We have all the obligations of State services but none of their advantages and supports, especially funding.”

Staff relationships with clients are vital

Retaining staff is vital to delivery of our services which is challenging in a competitive environment. Equally important, are the relationships that our staff build with our clients. We work really hard to ensure we hire and retain the best people with the best fit for the organisation and a person-centred approach.

Our joint plea to Government

Together with Enable Ireland and other members of the coalition, we are calling  on the government for:

  • €20m to eliminate the deficits of the Disabilities Action Coalition
  • Implementation of recommendations of the Independent Review Group on the status of Section 39 organisations
  • Pay restoration for Section 39 staff
  • Recognition of the unique role played by Section 39 organisations which are responsive and good value for money

You can read more about our campaigning on this issue for core funding support in the latest Irish Times article.

If you would like to know more about our organisation, see our Annual Report 2018.