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09th May 2017

Action on Brain Injury Week: 8 – 14 May

Headway is a great charity, and very close to my heart for the way it works within the empowering framework of the Mental Capacity Act (MCA).

The charity is devoted to improving the lives of people who have had an injury to their brain. This might mean a stroke, or a neurological condition; an accident on the roads, or a brain tumour.

And it’s becoming clear that it also includes the effects in later life of repeated concussion in sports such as rugby or boxing, or even heading a football. Largely thanks to Headway, we’re beginning to recognise how important it is to prevent head injuries: the brain is a delicate and complicated bit of kit, and doesn’t take well to being bashed around.

Headway’s annual ‘Action on Brain Injury Week’ is coming up. This year’s focus is to encourage people whose lives have been changed by a brain injury to describe their ‘new me’.

On its website, Headway is asking people to send their personal accounts: a true story tells more than any amount of theory, and is far more memorable. They explain: ‘Whether it's a painting, photograph, poem, short film, podcast or even a letter to your brain injury…, we would love to showcase as many creations as possible during Action for Brain Injury Week. We know that it's not just brain injury survivors who 'A New Me' may resonate with, so we're inviting family members and carers to get involved too.

Some of you who are reading this may have personal experiences that you’d like to share: others may want to help someone you support to get involved. And I suggest that you might talk about brain injury in a staff meeting during Action on Brain Injury Week.

Essential learning points include:

  • People do recover from brain injuries, so don’t assume that because Jim couldn’t manage his money right after his accident, he’ll never regain his independence;
  • Since her brain surgery, Ginny has become very impulsive, for example, she runs across the road to pet a cute puppy without thinking about traffic. This may improve with time, but until then she needs the protection of the MCA in her care plan, through best interests decisions that keep her safe while giving her as much freedom as possible;
  • When someone is living with a brain injury, it can be hard to assess their capacity for a decision. They may have retained the ability to repeat back to you everything you’ve told them but might lack the ability to ‘use and weigh’ this information, and seem time after time to jump to very risky and impulsive decisions. This is a recognised problem called ‘executive dysfunction’. Your local Headway branch may be able to put you in touch with someone knowledgeable about this person’s condition, who is able to help with assessing their capacity.

You can find out more about Action on Brain Injury Week at https://www.headway.org.uk/get-involved/campaigns/a-new-me/

*All information is correct at the time of publishing

Rachel Griffiths

Mental Capacity and Human Rights Specialist

Rachel has huge experience and knowledge in the area of Mental Capacity, including how to recognise deprivation of liberty, when and how to assess capacity and how to go about making decisions in someone’s best interests. She is nationally recognised as a leading voice with regards to Mental Capacity, and is involved with setting the agenda as well as providing advice and information about Mental Capacity. The information, guidance and support that Rachel provides helps to ensure that the way people work is within the law and recognises that the person using services is always at the centre of any decisions made. Read more

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