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Making the open road accessible to all

Car parks aren’t the only places where a lack of space is stopping people with disabilities from getting behind the wheel, writes Ray Lartey, MD of TriLift UK.

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It was encouraging to see the blue badge scheme for disabled parkers being extended last week.

For the first time, people with hidden disabilities such as dementia and anxiety disorders, can qualify for the parking permit scheme, the government has confirmed.

This positive news was tempered by a separate report which suggests councils are not prepared for the increase in blue badge holders.

Research by confused.com shows there are an average of 30 blue badge holders per council-owned parking space; and few local authorities have plans to create more spaces.

If there is indeed an impending shortage of disabled parking bays, then councils should certainly address this – especially if it prevents people with disabilities from getting out and about.

Lack of parking availability is not the only barrier to independence on the road for people with disabilities, however.

Another major hindrance faced is the logistical challenge of bringing mobility scooters and powerchairs along on road journeys.

People who require such equipment must transport it in a vehicle if they are going further afield than their local area.

In most cases, this means putting it in back of a car or van – usually taking up boot space plus all or most of the rear passenger seats. There may also be weight issues to consider, and a complicated process involving ramps and harnesses to get it into the vehicle.

As a result, journeys with family and loved ones in one vehicle are virtually impossible.

This means none of the type of day trips many grandparents, parents and kids would have shared during this recent bank holiday, for example.

In most cars, seating will only be available for the driver and front passenger with a mobility scooter or powerchair on board.

Also, where do the day trip essentials like picnics, wellies, blankets, buckets, spades and foldable chairs go?

At TriLift UK we believe the solution to this widespread problem lies outside of the vehicle.

Our product enables the scooter/powerchair to be simply driven to the rear of the vehicle and coupled to a bracket which is permanently fixed to the device. Via a switch, the device is then raised off the ground and locked securely in place on the rear of the vehicle.

Meanwhile, its small size and low weight make it compatible with most vehicles currently available in the UK, without affecting the safe or legal operation of the vehicle.

It can also be transferred should the user change their vehicle; and can be used with any size of scooter or powerchair.

If TriLift will not be used for a prolonged period, it can also be easily removed from the vehicle for storage.

Users no longer have to rely on their partners or children to go wherever they want. But also, they can take their grandchildren or other family members with them, because of the extra room in their vehicle.

As I’ve seen at close-hand in the years since I brought this innovation to the UK from the US, this clever piece of engineering can truly give individuals total independence on the open road.

Ray Lartey is managing director of TriLift UK and has worked in the mobility industry for more than 20 years. TriLift UK is the Sole Distributor of this worldwide patent product in the UK and Europe. It has Mobility outlets and technicians located across the country. Interested parties can also book a free no obligation demonstration at home. For more information visit www.trilift.co.uk or call 0800 246 5901.

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Brain injury in the new normal: How to get a good night’s sleep during the pandemic

Consultant clinical neuropsychologist Dr Keith G Jenkins and Dr Jenny Brooks, consultant clinical psychologist on how to sleep well during the pandemic.

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Getting a good night’s sleep is important all of the time, as we know from our work with people with brain injury, but some people have seen their sleep pattern alter during the pandemic.

This change to the normal time people go to bed and fall asleep and/or wake up in the night, may be due to several factors, including changes to the way the person spends their day in terms of education, work, meeting up with family and friends, seeing support workers and / or attending rehabilitation sessions. Also they are perhaps exercising, playing sport or doing other activities less.

Lower mood, such as feeling sad, having worries or feelings of uncertainty, can also impact on your ability to get to and stay asleep.

Changes to our sleeping habits can lead to a poor sleep-wake cycle, otherwise known as our body clock. Not getting enough sleep, or good quality sleep, can cause fatigue and tiredness throughout the day. You might feel unwell as a result, and this can increase anxiety and worries further, making getting through the day more difficult. It might also mean that relaxing to sleep becomes harder, and a vicious downward spiral can follow.

Fortunately, there are some very simple things we can all do to support a good night’s sleep. These include going to bed and getting up at the same time each day to support your body clock, exercising during the day if you can safely do so and trying not to exercise too close to bedtime. Avoiding caffeine or nicotine close to bedtime – or reducing them if you can’t stop completely – can also help.

Be aware that alcohol might mean that you fall asleep faster, but it can disrupt the second stage of sleep, meaning that the quality of your sleep may be reduced, which can then lead to you feeling tired the next day.

It’s generally best to avoid things that may cause you upset or stress before your usual bedtime, like a difficult phone call or a scary TV programme. It is also important to reduce your exposure to blue light, for example from smartphones and laptops, before bedtime.

Blue light tricks your brain’s body clock into thinking it’s daytime and suppresses the production of melatonin. This is the hormone you need to feel sleepy.

Try to have a bedtime routine that supports you in winding down, whether that means a bath, listening to music or a relaxation CD. It’s also really important to ensure that your bedroom supports your sleep, so consider things such as lighting and temperature. Most people tend to find that a tidy bedroom can help the room feel more relaxing too.

Of course, many people with an acquired brain injury tend to experience fatigue and often find having a nap in the day can help them to manage this. But an afternoon nap should end before half past three in the afternoon at the latest, with your next sleep being in bed for the night. Headway has a very helpful section on its website regarding managing fatigue.

While bedrooms should predominantly be for sleeping, some people have been spending more time in them during the pandemic doing other things – perhaps using them as a quiet space to complete education or work.

For those in hospitals or care homes, increased bedroom time may be due to isolation procedures. If this is the case, perhaps consider having a chair or a beanbag to sit on, rather than lying on your bed during the day. Where possible, try to come out of your room for meals.

If you find it is taking a long time to get to sleep, try getting out of bed and doing something else, like reading a book or a magazine, and then return to bed when you are feeling sleepy.

The advice we have given here is in line with the recommendations on the NHS website.

A good night’s sleep is crucial to thinking at our best, which is especially important if you are working or being educated at home; and there are some other simple things that you can do to boost your productivity in these scenarios.

Firstly, make sure you have a shower and get dressed rather than working in pyjamas or dressing down. Getting dressed helps you to psychologically get into work mode. Have a designated workspace and, if possible, keep the area tidy.

Have a timetable of when you’re going to work and try to stick to it. As we’ve mentioned, writing a timetable down and ticking off jobs completed supports feelings of achievement. Make sure you schedule regular breaks during which you move away from the workspace. You might go into your garden or make a drink, for example.

Try to minimise distractions. That might mean moving your mobile phone out of reach, turning off the TV and considering where the quietest places are. If you live with other people, you might want to consider how to ensure they don’t disturb you. This might just mean letting them know what your work timetable is.

One distraction that can’t be ignored, however, is the need to wash our hands to prevent the spread of the virus.

We hope you have found this guide useful and wish you a safe and happy summer as we all continue to rise to the challenges presented by COVID-19.

This is one of five blogs in a series on living in the new ‘normal’ with a brain injury, based on a webinar produced for ABI London (ABIL). See below for links to other articles in the series. Dr Keith G Jenkins is consultant clinical neuropsychologist at St Andrew’s Healthcare and chair of Headway East Northants. Dr Jenny Brooks is a consultant clinical psychologist working independently and a director of The ABI Team. For any questions about this topic email update@standrew.co.uk. 

Fitting COVID-19 guidelines into your routine

Keeping a check on your wellbeing

How to keep in touch with loved ones during the pandemic

How to keep a routine during the pandemic

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Brain injury in the new normal: How to keep a routine during the pandemic

Consultant clinical neuropsychologist Dr Keith G Jenkins and Dr Jenny Brooks, consultant clinical psychologist on how to keep a routine during the pandemic.

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Daily structure has changed for us all during the COVID-19 pandemic and this can feel very unsettling. A regular structure and routine is important for many reasons.

First, it increases feelings of normality and control, as well as meaning and purpose; all of which can help to push back against low mood. Second, it can reduce feelings of stress and anxiety through distraction.

Finally, a structured timetable can reduce the burden associated with some of the behavioural and cognition issues that can occur after brain injury. These include difficulties in starting an activity, planning, organising and making decisions.

So what can structure and routine look like during the pandemic?

A daily routine could include a mixture of self-care activities, such as having a bath, shower, or pampering yourself, completing some household chores and keeping active through exercise. Doing something fun that you enjoy, such as an online live music event, a quiz or watching a favourite film or TV programme, could also be included.

Try focusing on those activities that you find uplifting, positive or funny. Also some find it helpful to limit their watching of the news about COVID-19 as it can lower mood and increase their worries. There are lots of ideas for activities you can do at home in our resource pack which can be viewed via the ABIL website.

Having a daily timetable written down can help to ensure that structure and routine become the norm. It can also be reassuring to be busy and have things to do.

Checking off activities completed, can support you in feeling that you’ve achieved and accomplished things throughout the day.

Furthermore, a written timetable can help you to manage your time effectively, and support variety in your day. If you have difficulties getting started on something, or beginning an activity, you could share your timetable with someone else and ask them to help you get started, perhaps through a phone call or a text.

If you prefer to do this yourself, you can set up reminders on your phone or use other devices, such as Alexa.

This is one of five blogs in a series on living in the new ‘normal’ with a brain injury, based on a webinar produced for ABI London (ABIL). See below for links to other articles in the series. Dr Keith G Jenkins is consultant clinical neuropsychologist at St Andrew’s Healthcare and chair of Headway East Northants. Dr Jenny Brooks is a consultant clinical psychologist working independently and a director of The ABI Team. For any questions about this topic email update@standrew.co.uk.

Fitting COVID-19 guidelines into your routine

Keeping a check on your wellbeing

How to keep in touch with loved ones during the pandemic

How to get a good night’s sleep during the pandemic

Continue Reading

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Brain injury in the new normal: How to keep in touch with loved ones during the pandemic

Consultant clinical neuropsychologist Dr Keith G Jenkins and Dr Jenny Brooks, consultant clinical psychologist on how to stay social during the pandemic.

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While they’re in everyone’s best interests, COVID-19 restrictions have made life more difficult for some.

One area people are struggling with is the social isolation of not being able to visit loved ones, or socialise with anyone other than the other members of their household, if they have any.

Despite the many ways to stay in touch with family and friends – including letters, telephone and video calls and conferencing –  people may still feel lonely and isolated.

To help manage these feelings, it is worth scheduling regular days and times to have contact with specific family and friends and spreading these throughout the week. You could even ask your family and friends to make you video messages, which you could replay at any time.

Ensure, where possible, that you have time to socialise in your day, every day. Schedule a phone or video call, or ask others to organise a group chat with family, friends or colleagues.

If you have a day where you don’t have a scheduled call with friends or family, it may be helpful to use this day to go out and do your shopping or take a walk in your community if you are able to.

It may be helpful to consider what aspects of normal routine can be kept the same, modified, changed or replaced. In terms of modifying activities, it may be helpful to ask yourself questions such as could a regular meetup with someone now become a phone call? Could the pub quiz night now be a on a video call? Could a trip to a cafe or a restaurant now become a takeaway?

And for those people in residential settings and maybe having to isolate in their bedrooms, could interaction with others or groups take place in the corridor, allowing people to safely socially distance in their doorways?

It may be that some activities you enjoy can not be modified. Therefore, perhaps you could think about what it was about the activity that made it enjoyable and meaningful and consider what other activity could meet these needs.

For example, did you enjoy going for a swim at the leisure centre because it was a physical activity or because it was relaxing? Or perhaps you enjoyed the social element of it?

It’s important to remember that just because you can’t see your usual support circle, this doesn’t mean they’re not there, or that they’re any less contactable, during the pandemic.

This is one of five blogs in a series on living in the new ‘normal’ with a brain injury, based on a webinar produced for ABI London (ABIL). See below for links to all other articles in the series. Dr Keith G Jenkins is consultant clinical neuropsychologist at St Andrew’s Healthcare and chair of Headway East Northants. Dr Jenny Brooks is a consultant clinical psychologist working independently and a director of The ABI Team.

For any questions about this topic email update@standrew.co.uk.

Fitting COVID-19 guidelines into your routine

Keeping a check on your wellbeing

How to keep a routine during the pandemic

How to get a good night’s sleep during the pandemic

Continue Reading

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