At Askham Rehab, we’ve been using our online support community, Ask the Therapist, to help bridge the gap left by lockdown between relatives and therapists.
The forum has helped to form stronger connections with our residents’ relatives by allowing them to remotely keep up-to-date with their loved ones’ treatment, and provide them with an outlet to discuss their own mental health.
We started our Ask the Therapist sessions last August in response to the ongoing pandemic – and we’ve since been hosting them on a monthly basis, via video call. Throughout its duration, our experienced multidisciplinary team has been offering support and advice to relatives of residents with complex brain injuries.
The support community sessions rotate between therapists specialising in the neurological fields of psychology, physiotherapy, occupational therapy, and speech and language. Our residents’ relatives are kept up-to-date with information on their loved one’s treatment – including details about personal care pathways, what to expect, and general advice on brain injuries.
Our aim is to encourage relatives to spend time with all four of our therapist teams to build rapports and reassurance, and to gain the knowledge needed in preparation for their loved ones’ discharge.
Priscilla Masvipurwa, Chair of the Askham Rehab Quality Improvement Board, has spoken of our new support community: “When the pandemic came, we soon realised we had lost the voice of our relatives. While they were still calling in or contacting us via email, we lost the daily 1-on-1 conversations they had with our therapists.
“We decided we needed a forum where relatives could be part of an informal setting and seek advice on brain injuries with our therapists. By having a group, the relatives had the chance to meet with others who were going through very similar journeys. It created a confidential space where they could learn from and support each other.”
One of the key successes of our Ask the Therapist sessions so far has been the number of relatives to which we’ve been able to offer emotional support. Whilst it’s our rehab recipients that get direct treatment from therapists, it’s important not to forget that their relatives are also impacted – and should, as such, be provided with an outlet to seek help and advice.
Priscilla said: “The initial idea was to actually offer teaching sessions, but we quickly realised that would just close people off from expressing their concerns and struggles. Ask the Therapist has created a place where people experiencing the same circumstances can advise each other on how they are coping. It has turned into a productive space where educational and emotional support is given.”
She continued: “Relatives just want someone to talk to. Sometimes they aren’t even on the radar of therapists, and we didn’t want that happening at Askham. Ask the Therapist allows us to reach out to the relatives – and if any of them need more support, we can assess that in the informal meetings and signpost or initiate some kind of therapy outside of the sessions.”
Given the success of our lockdown-inspired initiative, wider discussions have been underway to potentially ask our former care recipients to take part in future sessions. Here, they can share their experiences with others who are going through the same journey.
As a family business with over 30 years’ experience, we truly understand the value and power of family relationships. As such, we’re keen to ensure that our patients can channel the strength and support of their families into helping them fulfil their rehab potential.
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