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Recent research promotes activities for people with acquired brain injury

Published: 2 May 2017

Individuals with acquired brain injury often experience difficulties with activities outside the home. It is also about preparation, impressions and concerns associated with the activity. This means that the person's entire activity repertoire has to be taken into account over days and weeks - not just individual activities - to get a balanced life. This shows a new study from Luleå University of Technology.

– It's not just about how it worked to go on a hockey match or grossery shopping. That particularly activity might has worked out fine, but then the person slept for three days. As occupational therapists, we need to help out finding the balance of life over a long period, says Alexandra Olofsson, occupational therapist and doctoral student at Luleå University of Technology.

Studying activities in the community

Alexandra Olofsson has studied people between 18-64 years with acquired brain damage, such as stroke or other forms of bleeding in the brain. An acuired brain damage turn life upside down and means a huge change in the person's life. They often become lonely and isolated, which can lead to depression because they neither can nor  have the strength to be as involved in their activities as before. Many daily activities are done out in the community and the study has investigated a small group's experience of being involved in activities outside the home.

Difficulties with preparation, impression and continued concern

The results showed that the people found it very difficult to prepare for activities, such as making a shopping list or packing the children's training clothes. This meant that the planning, preparation and organization took so much time and effort that the activities outside the home were not carried through. Or they still did the activity but everything for the rest of the day had to be canceled because they had no strength left.
– Here, people have found strategies to plan their activities based on the fact that they can not be engaged in as many activities as they were before the brain injury or wish to be.

The study also showed that people had difficulty sorting impressions, such as noisy shops or other similar places, which made them tired. As a result, they have learned strategies for continuing to be engaged, such as prioritizing places they feel familiar and safe with and choosing times when they know that there are not so many people around.
– For example, they choose to go to stores as they continually visit and opt out of places with a lot of impressions, such as sports arenas and restaurant environments, says Alexandra Olofsson.

These people also feel anxious that the damage can happen again and they do not want to expose themselves or other woh are close to them. Therefore, activities such as playing bandy, shoveling snow or other physical activities are opted out or placed on someone else.

Implement the working method of the business

Previous research has not studied this group in this way, and Alexandra Olofsson believes that occupational therapists have to look at the entire activity repertoire of these individuals for a longer time and implement the working methods in the organisation.

– As occupational therapists, we must begin to see the activity in a context of a whole day and a week and see how we can support and assist these patients before, during and after the activity.

The experience of the study has been passed on to another study focusing on the problematic situations, such as food purchases or preschool leave, and what was difficult, how the occupational therapist and the patient work and the results.


Alexandra Olofsson

Alexandra Olofsson, Senior Lecturer

Phone: +46 (0)920 492356
Organisation: Occupational therapy, Health, Medicine and Rehabilitation, Department of Health, Education and Technology