Earlier this month, Paul Jackson, HSF Chief Executive, Mark Davies, HSF Non-Executive Director and I, Roy Smith, HSF Head of Sales, Business Development and Marketing Ireland, visited the Leonard Cheshire charity in Belfast.
As an organisation, Leonard Cheshire’s overall purpose is to work within local communities towards facilitating opportunity, choice and support to disabled people. Areas that they provide support in include the likes of care and accommodation, learning and employment.
The Hospital Saturday Fund has a long affiliation with the charity across the UK and Ireland, being one of our most long-standing relationships. Since 2013, we have provided grants to Leonard Cheshire to assist towards a multitude of their different projects. These have ranged from supporting the purchase of rehabilitation equipment at a London day centre, special communications technology at care homes in Cornwall and Wales, and more recently, virtual reality equipment for a new community café project for disabled people in Swansea.
On the back of visiting the charity’s Belfast team in January to conduct a grant assessment, we returned again this month to present Heather Sempey, PR and Communications Lead, with a cheque. Having recently opened a new Alcohol Related Brain Injury (ARBI) unit that is due to be fully operational by the 31st of March, this grant will assist towards equipping this new area.
Being the first unit of its kind in Northern Ireland, and with approximately 35,000 people currently living in the region with the condition, this makes it a very welcome addition to the community. The facilities do not fall short of any bells and whistles either, equipped with en suite bedrooms, 2 communal areas for socialising, eating and relaxing, and even a purpose-built sensory garden (with a pergola to be added). Accessibility is of course a significant consideration for the garden, where Leonard Cheshire is currently working towards finding a solution to make it appropriate for wheelchair users (as there is currently no external lift, only stairs). This space is intended to be used to grow fruit and vegetables, and to provide an area for relearning independent living skills.
Further to this, the unit will also help towards freeing up beds in NHS hospitals, as well as providing residential support for up to 3 years. This is significant, as currently, when a sufferer is discharged from hospital, they are usually relocated to either a dementia unit or nursing home, neither of which can provide the support and necessary care required to combat their addiction.
The unit will provide 24-hour support from highly trained staff in a therapeutic environment with input from a specialist team, including physiotherapists and speech therapists. There will also be an onsite cook and a cleaner. These resources are required, as some of the residents have such severe ARBI that they are now unable to read, cook or even make a cup of tea for themselves; their memory, balance and mobility are also severely affected. Additionally, people with ARBI are more prone to strokes, falls and mental health issues.
A little more insight into the condition:
ARBI is the term used to describe damage caused to the brain as a result of chronic alcohol consumption. When this act is continued over a long period of time, people experience a variety of difficulties, due to implications posed to the structural and functional aspects of the brain. This can impair a person’s ability to carry out their daily tasks and live independently.
Common signs of ARBI can often include struggle with the following:
- Attention and concentration
- Processing information and situations
- Understanding the physical space around them
- Planning and organising
- Insight or self-awareness
Despite this, in most cases, if someone is able to remain alcohol free, there is notable progress in recovery. Along with maintaining a balanced diet, a person may recover their brain function over a period of several months or years.
To learn more about the excellent work Leonard Cheshire is taking out in Northern Ireland and beyond, visit: https://www.leonardcheshire.org/