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Carers stay connected thanks to Headway in Northern Ireland

Wed 29 Apr 2020

Headway's ABI Network in Northern Ireland is determined to keep carers of brain injury survivors connected through new digital support services.

Video calls on self-care at home, dedicated social media groups and welfare calls are just a few of the ways Headway’s Acquired Brain Injury Network is working to support carers throughout the coronavirus pandemic.

The charity had plans to host a carers information evening earlier this month but the outbreak of COVID-19 meant that the event couldn’t go ahead.

This meant that many carers were left without the guidance and support they so desperately needed.

Pamela Bell, Headway’s Service Coordinator for the Northern and Southern Health and Social Care Trust, said: “Before the pandemic began, we found that carers in Northern Ireland didn’t necessarily have access to the same support as those they were caring for.

“Many of these carers felt as though they had nowhere to turn and that no one understood the pressures and challenges they faced – that’s why we decided to set up the monthly information evenings where carers could come together, socialise, share their burdens and take time out from their usual responsibilities.”

Sadly, the global pandemic meant that these information evenings were unable to take place.

But the ABI Network is determined to keep carers connected during these troubling times through online and virtual services.

Monthly Zoom sessions have been taking place, focusing on how carers can look after their own wellbeing during isolation. The online programmes for both the Northern and Southern Health and Social Care Trust consist of activities on mindfulness, caring and identity and interactive quizzes.

Pamela Bell and the ABI Network team launched new services in the Southern Trust last year

Pamela Bell and the ABI Network team launched new services in the Southern Trust last year

A Belfast beauty salon, Beauty Culture, also got on board for one of the sessions and delivered a workshop for the carers on how to look after themselves at home.

Carers were given a demonstration on how to use and apply products, and Beauty Culture kindly sent out free samples of the products to everyone who got involved.

Pamela said:

“The session was instrumental in providing carers with an opportunity to recharge, enabling them to return to their caring responsibilities feeling relaxed and reenergised.

“The beauty therapist Caroline guided the group through a face massage concentrating on their different acupoints. She used the science behind the products to explain the most beneficial time to use them – for example at times of stress, fatigue and when experiencing headaches. This helped our carers to achieve some much-needed rest and relaxation.”

As well as the online sessions, Headway’s ABI Network has set up regular telephone calls to offer support to carers who may not be able to engage with the online activities.

“During these unprecedented times, carers face new and complex challenges like never before. For some, their only chance of respite will come in the form of our online groups and telephone support,” said Pamela.

“Being unable to break away from their normal caring responsibilities and have a moment to themselves could have a detrimental impact on carers’ health and wellbeing.

“It’s of critical importance that we support these people as best we can through online and virtual services.

“The social media pages, welfare check-ins and video calls have proven a great way to connect carers from across the community. These new services have helped to reinforce the message that although brain injury survivors and their carers may be self-isolating, they are not alone - Headway will be there during these challenging times, and in the future, to support those in need.”

But this virtual support has incurred significant costs for the charity.

Pamela said: “We rely on voluntary donations to continue to provide vital services to brain injury survivors and their families across the region. 

“Every pound donated will go towards supporting carers across Northern Ireland and will make a huge difference to the lives of those affected by the devastating consequences of brain injury.”

To donate, visit headway.org.uk/donate/.

Headway's Acquired Brain Injury (ABI) Network is delivered across the Belfast, Northern, South Eastern and Western Health and Social Care Trust (HSCT) areas in Northern Ireland. It provides a number of services to individuals living with brain injury, carers, families and professionals, including outreach services, counselling, social events and carer’s networks.

Find out more about Headway's ABI Network here.

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Headway - the brain injury association is registered with the Charity Commission for England and Wales (Charity no. 1025852) and the Office of the Scottish Regulator (Charity no. SC 039992). Headway is a company limited by guarantee, registered in England no. 2346893.

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