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Coronavirus and the impact on brain injury survivors

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In Action on Brain Injury Week, Sue Bowler, a Court of Protection specialist and Chair of Trustees for the Headway charity in Portsmouth and South East Hampshire, reflects on what affect the last year or more of the Coronavirus pandemic has had on brain injury survivors…

For all of us the coronavirus pandemic has caused multiple changes in our way of life, with successive lockdowns and restrictions on daily living. The opinion of the scientists appears to be that the vaccines are now working well by suppressing infections and transmissions, and significantly reducing death rates. There is however still regular mention of variants that may interfere with this and that there could be further waves of infections.

Imagine coping with these uncertainties and the isolation of the lockdowns and social distancing when you already have a brain injury that limits your understanding and ability to cope with life.

Support networks disappeared – relatives and friends were no longer able to visit, support groups closed down, meeting up for a coffee was no longer possible, and accessing hospital and medical appointments became a near impossibility unless there was a real emergency.

In the first lockdown, basic things such as accessing food shopping or medication became very difficult. Technology came to the fore in terms of all communications, but it can be very difficult for people with brain injuries to understand technology sufficiently for it to enable them to use online services to meet daily needs. Some people lived alone and experienced heart-breaking loneliness, others had families and found it overwhelming to be with them 24/7 with no break. Unpaid family carers lost respite support.

Now that restrictions are easing, the world is still not a comfortable place for many who have brain injuries. Understanding the rules as each phase of easing comes in is challenging, there is still the uncertainty and anxiety about whether the outside world is really a “safe place” and things are still not “normal”.

The Court of Protection team at Shoosmiths has at times literally been a lifeline for clients, not only making financial decisions but also dealing with care difficulties, arranging practical matters such as online deliveries, and providing valuable human contact.

In my role as Chair of Trustees for the Headway charity in Portsmouth and South East Hampshire, which supports adults with acquired brain injuries and their families, everything has been very different since March 2020. Over one weekend at the end of March the service changed from running group sessions to providing one-to-one telephone and face-to-face support (socially distanced) for all service users and collecting medications or undertaking shopping when necessary. Now the service is starting to open up again but it is different – numbers at sessions are restricted, social distancing is in place so there are no hugs or other physical contact, and some of the “fun” things such as playing board games cannot happen yet because multiple people need to touch the same items. It is still a bewildering world for survivors of brain injury.

Sue Bowler is a Shoosmiths partner and national head of the Court of Protection team. She has over 25 years of experience supporting clients who have suffered serious injuries and disabilities, particularly clients who have serious brain injuries or who lack mental capacity.

Sue Bowler, Shoosmiths Court of Protection partner

Pictured above: Sue Bowler.

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