Sensory Garden opens in Acquired Brain Injury Ireland’s Sligo service

Today, our Sligo service today opened a beautiful sensory garden – further developing its model of specialised rehabilitation for brain injury survivors. The Sligo Service is a partnership between Acquired Brain Injury Ireland (ABII) and the HSE and has been providing residential and community based neuro rehabilitation for the past 16 years.

Sligo hosts the only Transitional Living Unit (TLU) for people with acquired brain injury in the country, where survivors rehabilitate and work towards independent living. It provides intensive support in an assisted living setting for up to six months – and will now be further enhanced with the addition of the specialised sensory garden. Survivors who access the service in the TLU, do so on a five day week basis, going home at weekends to their families.

Rehabilitation can vary from two weeks up to six months in duration, depending on the individual needs of the person with the brain injury.

Our CEO Barbara O’Connell said the Sligo TLU service is highly effective – but needs to be replicated nationwide.

As stated in the Ombudsman’s Wasted Lives report in 2021, 1,300 people under the age of 65 are living in nursing homes, with a majority of these people living with an acquired brain injury. TLUs are needed in all regions to respond to acquired brain injuries. In this way people can move towards regaining their independence, and not have their potential wasted in nursing homes.

“The new sensory garden will continue to support people to develop a multitude of skills and strategies that are a central element of their rehabilitation. Gardening as a therapeutic rehabilitative activity encompasses sensory stimulation, physical activity, a sense of community, management of cognitive and physical challenges, a place for reflection and stress relief, a sense of personal accomplishment, fatigue management and an opportunity to develop a new interest and hobby.”

Former resident at the Sligo Transitional Living Unit, Jimmy Morrisroe was 35 years old when he acquired a traumatic brain injury from a fall. Following medical interventions over a period of six months in a medical hospital he was offered a place in a nursing home. He accessed eight weeks of neuro rehabilitation in the NRH, followed by six months intensive residential rehabilitation in the TLU.

“” My first memory of being admitted to the nursing home was unhappiness and a feeling of anger. I felt that at my age I should not be in a nursing home, it’s very hard being stuck in a ward with people 30 or 40 years older than me. However, after six months I moved to the Sligo TLU and I then began to rebuild my life.

If the Sligo transitional living unit had not been available, it is likely Jimmy would have stayed in the nursing home long-term. Too many survivors like Jimmy are living in nursing homes, where they are left to feel forgotten about and lose their independence. More transitional living units in Ireland would enable us to help these survivors to transition out of nursing homes and give them a pathway home. We are seeking work with the Government to address this. We have the expertise in how this can be achieved and we need the support of Government resources to deliver it.

We would like to thank all of our supporters and funders who contributed so generously towards making this dream of a sensory and organic garden a reality for anyone accessing the services.