Care for our BIG Families (continuing)
A story by Brain Injury Grampian (BIG) Group
We aimed to run a full social support programme, improve support for all family unit carers and cared for. Organise truly family friendly events e.g. Summer & Christmas to sustain and build on family relationships, send a group to BRAW weekend and organise theatre trips for all beneficiaries.
What Care for our BIG Families (continuing) did
2 Theatre Visits to HMT, December & March. attended by 42 & 45 members of our BIG group family. This is an increase as previously we had only needed 40 tickets. Post Covid the theatre tickets have risen in price from £40 to between £45/£54. These visits to the Christmas Panto and Charlie and The Chocolate Factory were greatly enjoyed by all who attended as were the Ice Creams and Confectionery.
We held our annual Christmas event at Codona’s at Aberdeen Beach. 40 attended down on our pre-pandemic normal of 50/60. There were some issues with wheelchair accessibility, the food and the general level of service was below what we had historically come to expect. We will need to think about where/how we celebrate Christmas as a group in future years
In November and March we had Fish Supper Nights, one with bingo and the other a Race Night both at the Ashvale fish restaurant. These were very well received and attended. Raffles were held at both events and thanks to excellent prizes donated proved to be a good fund raiser. It was a very inclusive and "normal" evening greatly enjoyed by members who often cannot have a night out because of various issues.
BRAW Weekend from 21-23 April at Tuliallan Police College. Due to illness only 15 attended rather than the 20 expected. This is organised by Headway. The weekend and activities were greatly enjoyed by the attendees. For some this is the only break away that they get in a year. Good food, good activities. Good to meet up with old friends from different Acquired Brain Injury groups.
Carriage Driving – held at Maryculter home farm in July – the centre has a selection of carriages suitable for all disabilities. The weather was kind to us and 16 members enjoyed a picnic lunch and rides around the estate and along the banks of the River Dee.
Falconry Centre – Huntly – We expected our normal 30+ for this annual event, but, on the morning of the trip a Yellow Weather Warning was issued for heavy rain. As a result we had many call off's and only 10 members attended even although the centre at Huntly was dry and sunny for the afternoon. As usual those attending thoroughly enjoyed the flying display.
What Brain Injury Grampian (BIG) Group has learned
This has been another another difficult year for BIG, our volunteers and our members. We have had to keep our programme (including the Creative Breaks Project) under constant review taking account of ongoing health and confidence issues among members and volunteers. We always try to anticipate and respond to the changing needs of our members.
We have had to be more flexible and take account of changes which are out with our control e.g. Long Covid/Mental Health issues/ Significantly increasing costs. We know that we have to try and foresee these issues and react quickly to keep our project/programme on track.
We have to avoid complacency. Just because something has worked in the past we can't assume that we do not need to keep working on it. Complacency leads eventually to a real risk of failure!
We need to investigate more online /virtual options to complement our face to face programme, but always bear in mind that not all members are comfortable with the tech. requirements and want things to continue as is..
We need to annually review our "modus operandi", build on what has worked, re-evaluate and alter or discontinue what hasn't. We can't just assume that it's right because we think it is. We must keep an open mind and investigate any new opportunities/activities which would be beneficial for our members.
Make sure we don't overstretch. This leads to failure which is in nobody's best interest. Ensure that the resources /workers / finance/ accommodation etc are in place before committing.
If we involve our members (carers and cared for) more then they commit better to BIG, attend more events etc. Their involvement ensures that the programme remains relevant and forward looking. Communication is key. We have put in place plans to improve our communication with Committee/Volunteers and members. This dropped during and immediately following the pandemic and restrictions.
How Brain Injury Grampian (BIG) Group has benefitted from the funding
The funds provided are invaluable to our small charity. We have to raise approx. £24/£26k annually to fund our social support programme for members. We have no committed regular funding so the grant goes a good way towards this. Without this assistance we would have to consider cutting back on our programme although this would be a very last resort as our members are very reliant on the support which BIG gives them. In recent years we have seen an increase in offers of involvement from Carers and Acquired Brain Injury members in support groups. This has been very positive but needs to be properly harnessed and built on in future.
All of our family carers will have had more opportunities to enjoy a life outside of their caring role. We will deliver Christmas and Summer events designed to be truly family friendly. We will plan for higher future attendances although we expect numbers to be down initially
Although the major trauma of the pandemic has largely passed our members are still very nervous about large gatherings, colds, infections etc and we have generally seen a drop in confidence and an increase in mental health issues. We would normally expect for a year on year increase in attendance. New faces bring new opportunities and allow for development of new friendships. The attendance at events has increased on 2021 figures but is still some way short of pre pandemic levels. We continue to provide a full social support programme (including the events contained in our Creative Breaks project). We have seen recent signs of increased member engagement and expect numbers to rise again in 2023/24. Given the challenges and frustrations of the past year we feel this outcome has been achieved.
JM has significant disabilities and an Acquired Brain Injury as a result of a vehicle crash 9 years ago. He spent over a year in hospital with extensive rehabilitation and had to learn the basics all over again, how to eat, walk etc and 9 years on he still has significant challenges particularly with walking and communicating. This long and slow process has been extremely challenging for JM and all of the family. He is still nowhere near where he would like to be which is very frustrating for him but with the help and support of those around him he keeps pushing himself every day. Of our social support programme JM says "We discovered Brain Injury Grampian Group a few years after the accident , an amazing charity and, even better, a great support group for not only me but my family and those who help care for me. BIG tries to bring carers of people with brain injuries together so they could socialize and become a support group for each other and share the highs and lows of caring for someone with a brain injury. They are a group where brain injury sufferers and carers/families could get together and for some this is the only social life that they have. BIG Group has given us as a family so much I would like to do something to give back to them” JM is still wheelchair bound and has significant speech problems, but has raised over £2300 for BIG Group funds with a sponsored wall climb. He also now helps organise the weekly Drop-In and is an active Brain Injured Representative to the Committee. JM's father and main carer is also an active BIG Group Committee Member.
Regular and rising attendance at all BIG group events. More carer involvement in BIG initiatives and committee/sub-committee activities. Stronger family bonds through involvement and fun together at BIG events
All events were arranged to include family members, very successful and thoroughly enjoyed by all attendees. We anticipated that numbers would be lower as the world returns to normal post pandemic and this has been the case. There is still a loss of confidence and a reluctance to commit. Our events often had 55/60 but at present we are only getting a maximum of around 45. We do see signs of this improving. It is clear that family involvement for events is hugely positive both for ABI members and there carers. We expect numbers to improve again in the next year. Our Committee comprises mostly of carers with 2 Acquired Brain Injury sufferers representing our Brain Injured Members. All very hands on and involved. Family bonds were severely strained during the restrictions of recent years but we see signs of improvement now that the full BIG Group programme is up and running again.
C & L joined BIG just over 2 years ago. C has an Acquired Brain Injury sustained in a car accident. His partner L was frantically looking for supports for C as she felt that they were not getting help that they needed and needed to connect with people that understood and could empathise with their challenges. L was employed with Momentum but this service closed during lockdown and she has not found further employment and is now full time carer for C. From isolation C & L are now fully integrated into BIG membership, L attends Carers Meals and weekends and both attend most of the BIG group social events including the BRAW weekend this year. They are both very positive and appreciative of the changes to their lives involvement with BIG has brought. L is now an active member of the BIG Committee and organises the monthly Bowling group. Unfortunately C has been diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease, so there are more challenges ahead but BIG will provide as much support and assistance to them as they can.
20 members carers and cared for will have attended BRAW. Carer frustrations and stress will be lifted by having quality time with their loved one in a non threatening environment others who know and understand Acquired Brain Injury. Positive benefits in confidence and emotional wellbeing for all who attend.
Due to illness the number attending was only 15 but this included 2 family units (carer and cared for) who were new to BIG. Neither had had a break away from normal routine since the brain damage event. A lovely relaxed and sociable weekend with everyone tasting the activities on offer. " A lovely break", "Enjoyed every minute", " For the first time in a long while I just felt normal", "I can just be myself - nobody is looking at me" - Some of the comments from attendees. The group mixed really well - with each other, and also with other groups attending
BD is a longstanding member of BIG having suffered his brain injury over 30 years ago. Over the years he has mostly attended our bowling and activity sessions and has historically avoided our "social" events where he might have to mix and converse with others. BD lives alone and for a long while verged on being a recluse. Our committee and members have a real affection for BD and over the last few years a real attempt has been made to encourage BD to attend more events and " mingle" with members to help "bring him out of his shell" The result has been quite amazing. BD has over the past year started attending social events which he would not historically have done and has indeed "come out of his shell". The BRAW weekend was a real step forward for him. He mingled well and seemed to enjoy himself. Since that date he has attended most functions and has been much more communicative than the old BD with a really dry wicked sense of humour