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Hillary Wetherell is a specialist in serious brain injuries and the rehabilitation that follows. Here, she highlights what challenges people may face when they return home from a hospital or rehabilitation unit and how legal and clinical professionals could provide assistance, support and guidance through this complex time.

An awareness of statutory rights and obligations is key. Anyone living in the community with continuing healthcare needs must be assessed to establish how their needs will be met. Hospital discharge planners and co-ordinators are typically very good sources of advice and can offer assistance on these issues and should be the first point of call for anyone returning home.

For those patients who do not agree with their assessment, advice from a specialist solicitor or a local advocacy service should be sought as quickly as possible so that any challenge can be submitted promptly.

If family support is not in place when the patient is discharged or where there is a significant dispute over their assessment, early consideration should be given to sourcing an Independent Mental Capacity Advocate (IMCA) or other non-statutory advocacy service.

Education and training is also crucial for the family and, critically, those present to provide care and support to them.

There are many organisations and charities in the community who are dedicated to ensure life after a brain injury is as fulfilling and rewarding as it was before.

Brain injury charities and online resources can provide invaluable information and support to family members working through this adjustment, which may very easily take years and never be truly complete.

The turnover of care and support staff can be high due to the work being physically as well as emotionally draining; families should be warned to expect this to avoid feeling like they have failed.

The physical environment is often a key issue and can be very difficult to change; if finances permit, adjustments to accommodation or moving to adapted accommodation should be considered.

The most important thing is that no one suffers alone and we’re here to help anyone who may need further information.

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Hilary Wetherell