Action for Brain Injury Week is a national campaign organised by the charity Headway, to raise awareness of the impact of a brain injury. Our Trainee Solicitor in the Court of Protection team, Carys Lewis, reflects on the many and varied ways our clients have adapted to lockdown;
This year the campaign is taking place from 17 – 23 May and will focus on ‘A Life of Lockdown?’. This comes 14 months since the first lockdown announcement was made by the Prime Minister. That is 14 months of social isolation, 14 months of not seeing friends and family, 14 months of adapting to a different way of life where for many the only daily interaction we have is with the person we live with or via video call. The last 14 months have been challenging for many and in particular those who live with a brain injury.
Brain injuries can have physical, cognitive, emotional and behavioural effects. A brain injury can affect balance, mobility, co-ordination and speech. It can also have a long-term impact on memory, concentration, initiation, processing ability, insight and empathy, reasoning and ability to problem solve. Some people will also experience personality changes; anxiety, frustration and anger, depression, mood swings, impulsiveness and obsessive behaviour. Experiencing the effects of a brain injury is extremely difficult at the best of times and rehabilitation can play an important role in helping to reduce and manage some of these effects. This is the everyday reality and experience of people living with a brain injury. Many of us have experienced the isolating effects of lockdown; increased levels of anxiety and sense of unknown. Coupled with the effects of a brain injury this has been incredibly tough for many.
I am a Trainee Solicitor in the Court of Protection team at Hugh James. The Court of Protection is a specialist court that helps to make decisions for people that are considered to lack mental capacity to make decisions in relation to their health and welfare, and property and affairs. At Hugh James we are appointed by the Court of Protection as professional property and affairs deputy for over 130 individuals. Some of our clients have experienced a traumatic brain injury and we help to manage their property and affairs in their best interests. Over the last 14 months our team has seen first-hand the impact that lockdown has had on some of our clients and the resilience and determination they have shown throughout a difficult period. I want to share some of the amazing ways in which we have seen our clients and support services adapt during this time.
Accessing the virtual world
The CEO of Zoom, Eric Yuan, is recently quoted as saying he has personally experienced Zoom fatigue. This comes as no surprise after 14 months of virtual meetings and I think many of us feel the same!
Before the pandemic many of our clients did not use video calling, Zoom or Microsoft Teams.
Our clients have embraced the new virtual world and learnt new skills in the process. The ability to connect with friends, family, medical services and support groups virtually has been extremely important during lockdown to combat isolation and access much-needed support.
Deputies are assessed against standards set by the Office of the Public Guardian. As professional deputy, we should ‘gain insight into the client to make decisions in their best interests’. This includes maintaining regular contact with our clients, their carers and family and conducting a visit to our clients at least once a year. We have been able to ensure that our clients’ wishes are understood and considered through telephone calls and video meetings, all of which have been made possible by the amazing people with whom we work.
One standard is to ensure that deputies ‘have access to advice and expertise on inheritance planning and trusts, including how to apply for a statutory will’. As professional deputy we will support our clients to make a will. Discussing your will and wishes after death can sometimes be a difficult conversation. The way our clients have adapted to the virtual world has meant we have been able to take instructions for wills over video call, which has been so important during this period.
We look forward to meeting with our clients again in person once it is safe to do so. Lots of the ways we have all adapted to working and engaging virtually will be here to stay. For our clients with brain injuries, it is important that we communicate and engage with them in the most accessible and convenient way. For many, a mixture of video calls with a return to face-to-face visits will be welcomed.
Engaging with charities and new activities
We work with many charities that support people with brain injuries. These charities have continued to support people during the pandemic and have adapted to the virtual world with a variety of different online activities. These have included weekly support group meet ups, creating content and advice on topics such as ‘Coping in Lockdown’ and launching new initiatives to combat social isolation. Many people have also adapted to accessing rehabilitation and support services online and have taken up new hobbies such as gardening, art or cooking.
Volunteers from across Hugh James have been supporting a brain injury charity, The Silverlining Charity, with their weekly ‘Sunshine Calls’. Each week we call a different group of people for a weekly catch up. It has been a wonderful experience for all volunteers at Hugh James and is an activity I personally look forward to each week. Recently I had the pleasure of speaking to a very inspirational young man who took the time to play me a song on the piano!
Life after lockdown
The last 14 months have been difficult for lots of people in a variety of ways. Whilst coming out of lockdown may be welcomed for some, there are also feelings of anxiety and nervousness as we return to socialising. For many, there is now a ‘new normal’ which will see us continuing to adapt.
Headway have created a video on tips for ‘Emerging from Lockdown: tips for brain injury survivors’ which provides practical tips and advice as we move out of lockdown: Emerging from lockdown: Tips for brain injury survivors | Headway.