Specialism: Adults with a traumatic or non-traumatic ABI and varying degrees of cognitive, physical, behavioural and emotional difficulties.
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Our specialist supported living rehabilitation service near Caterham is taking a novel approach to working with people who are living with brain damage.
Staff at Wren Park, home to up to 17 individuals with acquired brain injury (ABI), are sharing therapeutic sports sessions alongside the people they support.
The programme, designed by assistant psychologist Fran Chaisty, is aimed at helping people to take steps to improve their physical and mental health.
“Lack of initiation and motivation due to ABI are often one of the biggest challenges people experience as a result of ABI,” said Fran, from neurorehabilitation provider NPsych-Rehab.
“It can mean they lose that ‘get up and go’ feeling, experience severe fatigue and the ability to initiative activities and see them through to completion.
“This can have a potentially devastating impact on a person’s life and can result in social isolation, and lead to a decline in physical and mental health.”
To support them, Fran has devised a unique sports programme that includes both staff and people who live at Wren Park, which is run by care provider the Regard Group.
The sessions, run by Justin Hemingway, Personal Trainer Fitness 11, include volley ball, hand ball, football, rounders and darts. All games are adapted to ensure everybody can join in and the group also play ‘Botcha’, a bowls-like game that is particularly accessible.
“This was something new for staff,” added Fran, “but they were willing to give it a go and I’m delighted to say the sessions are now a regular weekly part of life at Wren Park.
“Some admitted they’ve not done anything like this since they were at school and felt very self-conscious at first, but as time has gone on, they really look forward to it.
“It has been observed that these exercise group sessions have been so successful because everybody is on a level playing field.
“Everyone has their own strengths and by having varied games it allows everyone to have their moment of glory. The people we support often beat the staff when pitted against each other in teams.
“Being more physically active and taking part in team sports like rounders, is really helping to bring people out of their shell and support them to become more proactive in their daily lives.”
Wren Park manager Carmen Cartmell says since sessions were introduced 6 months ago, she has seen an increase in energy levels and positive mental attitudes among both groups.
“I have to confess I hadn’t done any team sports for years and I approached the whole thing with some trepidation. But I gave it a go and I’m glad I did. Used muscles I did not even know I had!
“Everybody – all my colleagues and the people we support - found it highly amusing, especially when they had me in goal while playing football! Must admit it was well worth the effort and I try to get involved whenever I can.
“Everyone seems to feel a lot better for it and I’d love to see sessions like this become an established part of the rehabilitation process for all people with ABI.”
Carmen says the programme has also helped people who have moved on from the service to live independently to integrate through sport and to make new friends.
The term ‘acquired brain injury’ describes traumatic and non-traumatic brain injuries, including those caused by car accidents, assault, strokes, tumours, and infectious diseases.
Every individual with ABI presents with different symptoms and needs, depending on the area affected and extent of the damage to the brain.
Wren Park is split into distinct units within the building, enabling staff to deliver focussed support to people at different points on their rehabilitation.
Regard has a dedicated staff of over 2,600 people on 167 sites across the UK, caring for more than 1,300 people with learning disabilities, mental health needs and ABI through specialist residential services, supported living services, outreach support and day resource centres.
NPsych-Rehab, established in 2010, provides evidence-based neuropsychological rehabilitation to individuals and their families following an acquired brain injury.