A specialist Cambridgeshire rehabilitation community has helped to bridge the gap left by lockdown between relatives and therapists through its ‘Ask the Therapist’ forum.
With today (4 feb 2021) being Time to Talk Day, a nationally recognised awareness day aimed at getting people to talk about their mental health, Askham Rehab is hoping to raise awareness of addressing the mental health of residents’ relatives, many of which have felt discontented since the start of the pandemic.
Situated on the edge of Doddington, the rehab community’s Ask the Therapist sessions started last August and are held monthly via online video calls, where relatives of residents with complex brain injuries can receive support and advice from Askham’s multidisciplinary team.
The sessions rotate between therapists specialising in the neurological fields of psychology, physiotherapy, occupational therapy, and speech and language. Relatives are kept up to date with information on their loved ones’ treatment, being educated on their pathway, what to expect, and provided with general advice on brain injuries. The aim is to allow the relatives to spend time with all four therapist teams to build rapports and reassurance, and gain the knowledge needed in preparation for their loved ones’ discharge.
Priscilla Masvipurwa, Chair of the Askham Rehab Quality Improvement Board, said: “When the pandemic came, we soon realised we had lost the voice of our relatives. While they were still calling in or contacting us via email, we lost the daily 1-on-1 conversations they had with our therapists.
“We decided we needed a forum where relatives could be part of an informal setting and seek advice on brain injuries with our therapists. By having a group, the relatives had the chance to meet with others who were going through very similar journeys. It created a confidential space where they could learn from and support each other.”
One of the key successes to have come out of the Ask the Therapist sessions so far has been the number of relatives Askham has been able to offer emotional support to. While it is the people undergoing rehabilitation that get direct treatment from therapists, it is important not to forget their relatives are also impacted and should be provided with an outlet to seek help and advice.
Priscilla said: “The initial idea was to actually offer teaching sessions, but we quickly realised that would just close people off from expressing their concerns and struggles. Ask the Therapist has created a place where people experiencing the same circumstances can advise each other on how they are coping. It has turned into a productive space where educational and emotional support is given.”
She continued: “Relatives just want someone to talk to. Sometimes they aren’t even on the radar of therapists and we didn’t want that happening at Askham. Ask the Therapist allows us to reach out to the relatives and if any of them need more support we can assess that in the informal meetings and signpost or initiate some kind of therapy outside of the sessions.”
The success of the lockdown inspired initiative has led to wider discussions to potentially have people who have received treatment at Askham to take part in future sessions to impart their experience to others going through the same journey.
Priscilla said: “The positive feedback has been overwhelming, and has led to possible plans to open the session up to the wider community in the near future. We’re grateful to be able to offer this service to our users and I’d like to encourage others to explore wellbeing schemes that allow people to seek out help and support, especially during these mentally challenging times. Time to Talk day is all about being able to offload any struggles and while that should be championed, it should also be encouraged year-round.”
Aliyyah-Begum Nasser, Director at Askham, said: “As a family business with for over 30 years’ experience, we truly understand the value and power of family relationships and are keen to ensure that our patients can channel the strength and support of their families into helping them fulfil their rehab potential.”
For more information on Askham Rehab, please visit https://askhamrehab.com/.