University of Queensland researchers are examining how family members are affected when a loved one is unable to drive following a brain injury.
The world-first study, led by PhD student Phyllis Liang from UQ’s School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences, will explore the experiences and needs of family members and carers who are drafted into this challenging scenario.
The research is expected to help guide future rehabilitation strategies and processes, Ms Liang said.
“It is common for people who suddenly lose their ability to drive to have fears about losing their independence, such as being unable to use their car to run simple errands or feeling trapped at home,” she said.
“We often think about the impact incurred by the injured person, but pay lesser attention to their carers, who are often close family members that have the responsibility of taking care of them.”
“This project aims to identify the effects on family members so that clinicians, such as occupational therapists, will take a family-centred approach and involve loved ones in the rehabilitation process.”
In Queensland alone, an estimated 11,000 people a year sustain an acquired brain injury, of which about 4000 can be expected to develop a serious disability, which often results in family members assuming carer duties.
Ms Liang said it was important for the project to take on a broad and open approach, as the researchers hoped to provide a set of clinical guidelines that would cater for a wide variety of circumstances.
She said these guidelines should be tailored to the individual needs of each family and could include counselling for family members, the development of driving rosters, alternative transport options and a checklist to guide both the family member and the person with the brain injury through the process of returning back to driving.
“I have realised, through discussions with family members as part of my research, that every family has a unique set of experiences,” Ms Liang said.
“Sometimes you hear about their stress, while other times you get the most beautiful stories about how supported they feel.”
“Family experiences are usually influenced by diverse contextual factors, and it is important for clinicians to consider the complexity of these needs to provide care that is individualised and relevant to different families.”
The researchers are seeking family members of persons with traumatic brain injury or stroke who are currently not driving (either temporarily or permanently) and are willing to share their stories.
To participate, please contact Ms Liang on firstname.lastname@example.org or 0422 436 790.
(Source: The University of Queensland)