Date Presented 04/22/2023

This study examined social participation among people with traumatic brain injury (TBI) during the pandemic. Focus group data (n = 10) were analyzed with thematic analysis. People with TBI experienced severe social isolation, which affected their health.

Primary Author and Speaker: Jessica Kersey

Contributing Authors: Joy Hammel

PURPOSE: To describe the experiences of social participation among people with brain injury during the COVID-19 pandemic, including goals, barriers and facilitators to goal achievement, and ongoing needs for intervention.

DESIGN: In this qualitative study, 10 community-dwelling adults with traumatic brain injury (2 groups) completed a series of 4 focus groups.

METHOD: Two coders independently coded transcripts and discussed until consensus was reached. They worked together to identify overarching themes in the data using thematic analysis and sought feedback from participants through a member checking process.

RESULTS: People with brain injury have experienced social isolation throughout the pandemic, which is perceived to have worsened their physical and emotional health. Lack of equitable health care, attitudes of professionals and family members, lack of employment and volunteer opportunities, and lack of access to pre-pandemic social activities, services, and supports, were identified as contributing to social isolation. Social supports, telework and telehealth options, virtual events, and online and social media platforms were identified as critical supports for social participation.

CONCLUSION: People with brain injury remain socially isolated and can benefit from intervention to improve social and community participation. Interventions should focus on accessing available community resources and supports, use of virtual and remote services and opportunities, and strengthening social support networks.

IMPACT STATEMENT: This study provides occupational therapy practitioners with information about the specific experiences, goals, and needs of people with brain injury within the context of the ongoing pandemic, and suggests specific intervention needs.


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