What have we learnt about how COVID-19 has influenced services offered by Acquired Brain Injury Ireland?

Kate O’Donnell, MSc student at the School of Psychology, Dublin City University set out to find out. 

A sincere thank you to Kate for her work; the supervision support from Assistant Professor Louise Hopper; the ABI Ireland staff who supported her in the project; and most especially the staff and service users who participated in the research.   

Kate worked closely with Acquired Brain Injury Ireland staff to develop the project proposal, methodology and recruit participants. Kate carried out 1:1 interviews with 10 active service users of our day resource and home/community rehabilitation services, as well as a focus group with five staff participants.

Kate’s literature review highlighted that responding to Covid-19 adds to existing practical, psychological and socioeconomic challenges faced by brain injury survivors, accentuating their existing vulnerability.

Since March 2020, Acquired Brain Injury Ireland recognised it’s responsibility as a leading neuro-rehabilitation organisation for brain injury survivors in Ireland.  A 1,200 strong community of brain injury survivors use the ABI Ireland day and home support services. This meant a solution to enable its rehabilitation services to continue was crucial. The priorities were preventing Covid-19 from entering the community, as well as preventing service users’ progress from slowing or regressing.

Telerehabilitation services (via phone or zoom) were identified as a practical alternative to in-person services where feasible. In-person services were continued where deemed necessary, with time limits and personal protective equipment (PPE) applied.

Kate’s research illustrates how well the staff and the service users, as well as those close to them, adapted despite the challenges faced. A notable credit to both groups. It is also heart-warming to note the gratitude for the continuation of services, sense of not being forgotten and care shown by the staff echoing from the service user interviews.

“I was actually getting rehabilitation here at home during the lockdown so I was, and I was very grateful for that you know”

“And like, with the psychologist, I wasn’t just left ‘oh, we’re not doing that anymore’, you know. They came up with an alternative”

Kate’s research usefully shone a light on:

  • How despite the obvious success of the transition to telerehabilitation, many participants wish to return to more in-person services where possible;
  • How telerehabilitation may be experienced differently by new and continuing service users and the rehabilitation staff providing services to them;
  • Research involving the perspectives of service users and rehabilitation staff can inform the balance of telerehabilitation with existing rehabilitation services in future; and
  • How the rehabilitation gains and losses identified by both staff and service users suggest a ‘blended’ approach of telerehabilitation and existing rehabilitation services may be appropriate particularly at the later stages of rehabilitation, where the ‘blend’ is developed in a person-centred manner.

Kate is currently preparing a paper for publication submission.


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