Caring for people with a brain injury

An acquired brain injury (‘ABI’) is a condition that affects someone after birth. About 135,000 people in the UK have long term ABI as a result of a trauma such as a road traffic or works accident. There are also about 300,000 people affected by strokes and other causes can be infections, metabolic diseases or anoxia (where the brain has been deprived of oxygen). 

Whilst friends and family will visit and provide elements of care whilst the brain injured person is in hospital care or at a rehabilitation centre, it is often the level of care that is provided after their discharge from hospital when the crucial role of a carer begins.

Under the Carers Acts 1995 and 2004, a carer is described as “…an individual who provides or intends to provide a substantial amount of care on a regular basis…” Often the care provided is unpaid, but this does not detract from the fundamental importance of the role they provide. The carer’s role often provides the physical and emotional support required to help that person with their daily needs, enabling the brain injured person to have the independence of living at home.

There are about 6.8 million carers in the UK. About one third of those provide care to people under 65 years of age and around 10% spend 50+ hours per week giving that care. There are about 850,000 carers of individuals with a neurological condition.

The average age of people with ABI is 46 and most are male. About half have suffered their ABI through a traumatic brain injury such as a road traffic accident. Carers are usually female and their average age is around 54. The majority are spouses/partners or parents of the injured person. Whilst the demands of the physical care itself cannot be underestimated, it is often the emotional needs of the injured person and any behavioural diversities that they may present that represent the biggest challenges for the carer.

Experiences of carers can differ according to their own family/ domestic circumstances, the geographical environment where they live and particularly what services and support they have around them. Importantly, can they get access to support groups or one to one, home based guidance for both themselves, together with availability of respite care and support groups for the brain injured person?

Much will also depend upon the complexity of impairments (i.e. personality and behavioural change, physical and cognitive needs) and the length, peaks, troughs and plateaus in recovery that the brain injured individual may have. It may be that an impartial advocacy service can help carers to discuss their concerns with health professional and provide emotional support and understanding to distressed families.

In recognition of the service that is provided by carers both to the brain injured individual themselves, but also by default to the community and the health care system at large, government moves have started an initiative to ‘care for the carers’, helping them look to after themselves and their own lives outside of their responsibilities as a carer.

In addition to the services provided by the NHS, private care and support can also help to ease the burdens often placed upon a carer and the brain injured person, together with their family unit. If a claim for compensation is being brought using a specialist solicitor, then as part of the claim, a case manager can be appointed and funded by the third party insurers. They will help to liaise between the brain injured individual, carers and health professionals. The case manager will also assist with accessing social services and benefits and also facilitate the speed and availability of treatment and medical needs.

As part of a compensation claim, before the case is settled there will often be a expert appointed to assess the care needs of the brain injured person and the impact that this has on their family. Such an expert can also highlight needs and make recommendations for additional services or support. A claim can be brought for reasonable past, present and future losses, both for unpaid, gratuitous care provided by friends and family and also for professional care needs.

If you need advice about how to bring a claim for compensation, then please contact our specialist solicitors at HeadinjuryUK.com who will be pleased to answer any questions that you may have.

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