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The latest news, events and information about brain injury in the Tasmanian and wider community.

PeerLink Program Update

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

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:

  • Self-Care;
  • Legal Matters;
  • Coping Strategies;
  • Connection to Services;
  • Understanding Brain Injury; and
  • Self-Advocacy. 

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.

 

Shared experience

The importance of the groups being specifically for family members of people with brain injury was emphasised by participants:

  • “Caring for people with ABI has different challenges and consequences as a carer. There are specific behaviours and experiences unique to ABI - much like cancer carers or AIDS carers. It makes a difference absolutely to talk to people with shared experiences.”

 

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.

 

Benefits included:

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.

  • “One of the best things was discovering that I was not the only one going through what I’ve been going through. Until this program, although I had been told what I was going through was “normal”, I had not met anyone who had the same experiences. Then being able to talk about many of the experiences, and different aspects of the experiences, was good.”
  • “I can strongly recommend the PeerLink program, even just to remind me that I'm not alone dealing with difficult issues.”

 

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.

  • “Investigate some of the legal aspects and different avenues for care.”
  • “Practice different approaches to dealing with some of my [loved ones] more challenging behaviours. Seek advice from BIAT if I have questions instead of suffering in silence.”
  • “A care plan. Valuing my role and putting myself in the overall picture.”

 

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.

 

The future

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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