In 2018 the Brain Injury Association of Tasmania partnered with TABIS (Tasmanian Acquired Brain Injury Service) to facilitate a Brain Injury PeerLink Support program for family members and carers of people with brain injury.
Groups met in Launceston or Hobart once a week for 5 consecutive weeks.
We gratefully acknowledge the Tasmanian Community Fund for providing the grant to finance this pilot project.
The aim of the groups was to provide a safe space for family members to talk together about the issues and challenges of being a carer. Along with sharing strategies they have used to deal with these experiences.
Wide reaching goals focused on the belief that a family member who is provided with tools and services to support themselves and build their own resilience via the PeerLink Program will be better placed to care for their family member with brain injury, other family members, and themselves. While enhancing participants understanding of brain injury and the services available for their loved one has the potential to improve the health and wellbeing of the family through improved family relationships and connection to services.
The group coordinator was both a family member of several people living with brain injury and a professional in the brain injury sector, this provided a solid platform for the group discussions to combine brain injury education and shared experience.
One of the strengths of the PeerLink program was the emphasis on the participant led group agenda and outcomes. The weekly focus topics for each PeerLink session were developed in close consultation with the PeerLink participants.
Participant generated focus topics in 2018 included:
PeerLink Program benefits
At the end of the 5-week program participants were asked to complete an evaluation. Their feedback confirmed the extensive benefits of peer led peer support in the brain injury area.
The importance of the groups being specifically for family members of people with brain injury was emphasised by participants:
Many participants disclosed that this was their first opportunity to share their caring story, and all described a sense of belonging through shared lived experience.
Reduced feelings of isolation by normalising their experiences
Gaining insight into others caring experiences
The group environment also enabled collective trouble shooting, and sharing of coping strategies and resources, which sometimes provided a platform for people to move forward in their rehabilitation journey – however small those steps may be.
Individual capacity building
Asked what they will do differently as a result of participating in the PeerLink program participants mentioned practical coping strategies they planned to try, and plans to access more support services, along with including themselves in the care plan for their loved one.
The groups also provided the opportunity for participants to co-deliver on topics of interest. For example, in the northern group one participant led a short guided self-care activity, and in the south participants shared a number of written resources with the group that they themselves had found helpful.
Connection to services
This project benefited participants by providing information, linkages and connections to a range of services that are available within the local community. The program gave participants a guide on the scope of services, how to access them and, in some instances, a direct connection to services via a referral.
Funding permitting BIAT would love to run this program again, expanding the scope to include regional areas of Tasmania, with groups for family members AND groups for individuals living with brain injury.
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