Brain injury survivor Chris O'Brien and staff member Siobhan Whelan
A new dedicated community neuro-rehabilitation residential service for brain injury survivors has been opened in Waterford by the national organisation Acquired Brain Injury Ireland, together with Anvers Housing Association.
This custom-built service is the first of its kind in Waterford City, specially designed for brain injury survivors to access vital rehabilitation within their own ‘home from home’.
The development, named Cloch Cara, was funded by the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage under the Waterford City and County Council Capital Assistance Scheme.
"The opening of this new development is evidence of the value of partnership between the State, local authorities and voluntary housing providers such as Anvers Housing Association," commented Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage Darragh O’Brien.
"As a result of that partnership, five survivors of brain injury now have sustainable access to a secure, custom-built facility that will meet their vital rehabilitation needs. But more importantly it provides a home for them and for Acquired Brain Injury Ireland within the community of Waterford City. I wish the residents the very best in settling into Cloch Cara."
In addition to providing a house and home for survivors of brain injury, the development – designed by architect Michael Regan at E-Project Chartered Architects in Dungarvan – includes three high spec independent residential units for those over the age of 55 who are living with brain injury or other neurological conditions.
Cllr Damien Geoghegan, Mayor of the City and County of Waterford, welcomed the opening. "This new residence is an excellent example of the work we are doing in Waterford to provide homes for those who need them most," Mayor Geoghegan said.
"The development at Cloch Cara has been built to the highest standards of accessibility and sustainability. It is flexible and adaptable to suit the specific requirements of the residents, while also integrating into the existing architecture of the estate.
"Already it is becoming part of the neighbourhood. We hope it will be a model that other housing providers and local authorities will look to into the future."
Planning and building for the new development has been ongoing since the site was secured by Anvers Housing Association and Acquired Brain Injury Ireland in 2015, from NAMA’s National Asset Residential Property Services.
A much-anticipated milestone was reached on March 4, 2021, when the residents crossed the threshold to the new building located at The Paddocks in Williamstown for the first time.
Local Services Manager for Acquired Brain Injury Ireland, Rob Martin, explained: "The house is conveniently located, close to the heart of the city while also being somewhat secluded. Independence is a huge focus for us and the people we work with. From this location – and once Covid-19 restrictions ease – residents will be able to access public transport, make their way into town, visit the shops and amenities in the area. All of that access really complements our work."
The newly opened service will be staffed by a manager and a team of specialist rehabilitation assistants, with support from multi-disciplinary experts. They will work together with residents to assist their individual rehabilitation needs, focusing on the activities of daily living, cognitive and social skills, training and education.
Every year in Ireland an estimated 19,000 people acquire a brain injury, resulting in life-altering, dramatic change. These injuries happen suddenly and are often traumatic, caused by road traffic accidents, stroke, assaults, concussion, falls, and viral infections like meningitis. Each brain injury is entirely unique and requires a tailor-made, individual rehabilitation plan.
Supported by ongoing funding from the HSE, Acquired Brain Injury Ireland is working to rebuild lives after brain injury. As Ireland’s leading provider of community rehabilitation for those aged 18-65, the organisation delivers person-centred rehabilitation to an estimated 1,100 people annually, as well as support to their families and carers.
Barbara O’Connell, Chief Executive of Acquired Brain Injury Ireland, said: "Brain injury is a hidden phenomenon in our society and nobody ever thinks it will happen to them. But it happens to 35 people in this country every day, often leaving them with a chronic and ongoing condition that can affect their lives and those of their family for months and years after the initial injury.
"Too often people who acquire brain injuries are young and left in appropriate settings such as nursing homes, acute hospitals or at home where families are unable to cope. At Acquired Brain Injury Ireland, we know the difference it makes to have access to rehabilitation services in their own environment and in their own communities as they work to rebuild their lives.
"We are thrilled to open this new development in Waterford, not only to help more survivors but also to give their families the necessary clinical support in their role as carers."
The opening of this new development in Waterford is a hugely positive milestone for the service, which has been providing specialised neuro-rehabilitation to individuals with an acquired brain injury in the city and county since 2006.