Don’t Save Me, Then Leave Me:

Acquired Brain Injury Ireland welcomes Ombudsman report on the ‘Wasted Lives’ of young people living in nursing homes in Ireland.

Acquired Brain Injury Ireland welcomes the findings of an investigation by the Ombudsman into the appropriateness of the placement of people under 65 in nursing homes for older people. The report on the investigation, ‘Wasted Lives: Time for a better future for young people in nursing homes’, was published today to coincide with European Independent Living Day.

Acquired Brain Injury Ireland (ABII) has 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. Today’s ‘Wasted Lives’ report provides evidence for and strengthens ABII’s case for urgent State investment in specialised neuro-rehabilitation, so that survivors of brain injury can regain their independence and reach their full potential.

Commenting on the publication, Chief Executive and Founder of Acquired Brain Injury Ireland Barbara O’Connell said: ‘’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.’

Research published in 2018 by the Disability Federation of Ireland and DCU found that there were close to 1,500 individuals aged between 18 and 65 residing in nursing homes in Ireland. Those living with an acquired brain injury, including stroke, represented the largest cohort of that group.

‘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.’ 

Currently, more than 60% of the brain injury survivors living in Acquired Brain Injury Ireland’s residential rehabilitation services have come from nursing home settings. Moreover, some 50% of all residents engaging in ABII’s residential services ultimately return to live autonomously within the community. Clearly, Acquired Brain Injury Ireland is already providing a vital service to prevent the premature placement of young people in long-term nursing home care. The organisation has 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 instance, with a minor additional annual allocation of €510,000, ABII could extend its existing Case Management service nationwide. This speaks directly to 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.

Supported by ongoing funding from the HSE, Acquired Brain Injury Ireland is Ireland’s leading provider of community rehabilitation for those aged 18-65. The organisation delivers person-centred rehabilitation to an estimated 1,100 people annually, as well as support to their families and carers. Every year in Ireland an estimated 19,000 people acquire a brain injury, resulting in life-altering, dramatic change. These injuries happen suddenly and are often traumatic, caused by road traffic accidents, stroke, assaults, concussion, falls, and viral infections like meningitis. Each brain injury is entirely unique and requires a tailor-made, individual rehabilitation plan.

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