This study aimed to identify the experiences and outcomes of participation in Families4Families Inc., a peer support network for families following acquired brain injury (ABI) in South Australia. Prior to the programme's launch in January 2013, new members of the network were invited to participate in pre- and post-programme phone interviews to identify benefits and limitations of the programme, and identify outcomes of participation. Fifty-five members (20 people with ABI; 35 caregivers) participated in pre-programme interviews, with 34 repeating the final interview at the end of the 18-month pilot programme in June 2014. Interview transcripts were imported into Nvivo 10, where comments were analysed using inductive data-driven thematic analysis. Responses to rating questions were analysed using SPSS 20. Attendance records indicate that 39 of 55 participants were involved in the programme (12 active, 27 occasional) and 16 participants did not attend. Active attenders reported that they provided and received higher levels of support and information than those who attended only occasionally, including the significantly higher development of new friendships and contacts (P < 0.001). Statistically significant improvements in knowledge of services by both active and occasional attenders were reported (P = 0.014 and 0.026 respectively) with non-significant improvements for non-attenders. Qualitative analysis of interview transcripts revealed three major thematic benefits of involvement. These include the opportunity to access information, receive emotional support and give back to others in the network. Reasons for no longer participating in the network are explored. Peer support programmes can enable families to share experiences, knowledge, positive coping strategies, understanding of systems and develop new social networks that last beyond the programme. The continuing need for extended regional access is highlighted, with follow-up and referral to counselling and other services also critical to ensure members are appropriately supported through difficult personal experiences.
- acquired brain injury
- peer support