9 December 2022

Don’t Save Me, Then Leave Me

Throughout Ireland, thousands of brain injury survivors are not getting the services they need. Many survivors are left in nursing homes, where they feel forgotten about and lose their independence. Our ‘Don’t Save Me, Then Leave Me’ campaign aims to change the narrative and improve lives for brain injury survivors. The campaign is further driven by the Ombudsman’s ‘Wasted Lives’ report, which investigates the inappropriate placement of young brain injury survivors in nursing homes for older people.

We have long championed the message: Don’t Save Me, Then Leave Me. Despite more people surviving the major trauma of brain injury, many young brain injury survivors are forced to live indefinitely in nursing homes or community hospitals without access to the specialised rehabilitation supports they need to rebuild their lives.

A report by the Ombudsman was published in May 2021 to coincide with European Independent Living Day. ‘Wasted Lives: Time for a better future for young people in nursing homes’ provides evidence for and strengthens our case for urgent State investment in specialised neuro-rehabilitation, so that survivors of brain injury can regain their independence and reach their full potential.


Wasted Lives’ is hugely welcome and pivotal report that evidences the systemic and inappropriate confinement of too many young brain injury survivors to nursing homes, where they are denied the right to life-changing rehabilitation. This is exactly the reason our organisation came into being 21 years ago: to take individuals with brain injury out of the nursing home system, to provide them with specialised neuro-rehabilitation within the community, and to give them back their lives.

— Barbara O’Connell, Chief Executive and Co-Founder, Acquired Brain Injury Ireland

The report found that there were some 1,300 individuals under the age of 65 living in nursing homes for older people in Ireland. Those living with an acquired brain injury, including stroke, represented the largest cohort of that group. Many are there inappropriately, due to a lack of alternative suitable accommodation or the necessary services to support them to live a more independent life.

One such former nursing home resident is Brian Hogan, a brain injury survivor who now lives in our Assisted Living service in Clarecastle, near Ennis County Clare. In support of our campaign Brian described his own lived experience:


From a nursing home to a rehabilitation house, there’s no comparison. They are two completely different things. At Acquired Brain Injury Ireland, they teach you how to get your independence back. You’re not just withering away, somewhere you don’t belong. When you lose your independence through injury, that’s heartbreaking, but to win it back again is liberating. Thanks to Acquired Brain Injury Ireland I can see a future for myself again, and that’s what rehabilitation has done for me: It’s opened the door to my future.

— Brian Hogan, Brain Injury Survivor

Currently, more than 60% of the brain injury survivors living in our Assisted Living services have come from nursing home settings. Moreover, some 50% of all residents in those services ultimately return to live within the community with lesser support.

Clearly we are already providing a vital service to prevent the premature placement of young people in long-term nursing home care. We have the range of solutions available to respond both in the short- and long-term to the recommendations in the ‘Wasted Lives’ report, and to support more individuals whose potential for recovery and rehabilitation is unnecessarily cut short through the absence of services.


For the past two decades, we have been working passionately to prevent unnecessary nursing home admissions, to advocate for the right to rehabilitation and the opportunity for all survivors of brain injury in Ireland to rebuild their lives’, continued Barbara. ‘We are hopeful that this excellent report by the Ombudsman will urge our Government and our policy-makers to step up, address its recommendations, and invest in rehabilitation services that meet the needs of the individual, their families and our society.

— Barbara O’Connell, Chief Executive and Co-Founder, Acquired Brain Injury Ireland

Would you like to support our work to end the Wasted Lives of young brain injury survivors? Even the smallest donations will go a long way towards giving those impacted by brain injury back the life they fought for. Please give whatever you can.

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For instance, with a minor additional annual allocation of €510,000, we could extend our existing Case Management service nationwide. This would answer the Ombudsman’s call for a new Case Management Model to be drawn up and rolled out through each HSE CHO Area within the next 12 months, so that the individuals’ needs may be more appropriately assessed.

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