The best ways to help isolated brain injury survivors use video calling during the Covid-19 pandemic

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The best ways to help isolated brain injury survivors use video calling during the Covid-19 pandemic

Staying in touch with people we know helps to reduce feelings of loneliness – and video calling via the internet or wifi is a cheap and often free way to do this.

Yet people with a registered disability are four times as likely to be living their lives ‘offline’, unable to benefit from digital communication links.

And one in five people overall (21%) lacks full, basic digital skills, according to latest UK Government figures. (1)

So how can we safely throw a digital support line to brain injured and other vulnerable individuals isolated and ‘offline’ during the coronavirus crisis?


Safety first


Ensure first you and the person you are helping are aware of the latest Covid-19 safety guidelines on self-distancing, shielding and self-isolation here:

Gov - Covid 19 guidance on social distancing and protecting older and vulnerable people

If you can’t get close enough to someone to help them due to Covid-19 self-distancing, self-isolation or shielding, you can still help!


  • Stay in regular contact with them via landline phone calls.
  • Use your internet connectivity to stay in touch with their friends, family or carers on their behalf, if they wish.
  • Use phone calls to help talk them through using devices, the internet and messaging apps.
  • There may be local groups offering Covid-19 support that you can put them in touch with via social media.


Can they access video calling?


Check first if they already have access to a device, such as an iPhone or PC, and the internet.

If not, is it possible for you or someone else who knows them to arrange this?

Extra support is being offered to help with this:


  • Vulnerable people are being offered mobile phones or broadband ‘dongles’ to connect to the internet if their connections are faulty during Covid-19.
  • New ‘generous’ mobile and landline packages are being offered during Covid-19.
  • Extra support is being offered for vulnerable people struggling to payphone/internet bills.
  • All the major UK internet service providers are lifting data usage limits during Covid-19.


Further information here: Government agrees on measures with telecoms companies to support vulnerable consumers through Covid-19


Can they use their device?


Many brain-injured people may be feeling overwhelmed at present by the daily Covid-19 changes we are all having to adjust to.

They may be experiencing increased fatigue and confusion and may lack the motivation or confidence to learn new things.


  • It may take time and a gradual introduction but try to talk them through the steps.
  • Use pictures and diagrams to help if need be.
  • Create a simple step-by-step guide they can refer to when they are alone.


If using devices is a problem due to physical impairment, voice command/virtual assistant smart speakers such as Google Assistant, Alexa or Siri might also help.


Begin with the basics


  • Show them how to turn on the device.
  • Talk about the home screen and what it can do.
  • Highlight how to access help menus.
  • Trial using the home screen with your support.


Access apps


Stick to apps everyone is most likely to use.

Video calling apps – designed for face-to-face connection with others:


  • Facetime
  • Signal
  • Discord
  • Skype
  • Zoom
  • Google Duo
  • Instagram
  • Snapchat
  • WhatsApp
  • Facebook messenger


Messaging apps – designed for staying connected via written or vocal messages:


  • WhatsApp
  • Facebook Messenger
  • iMessage
  • Google Messages
  • Telegram
  • Signal
  • Dust
  • Silence
  • Wire
  • Yeo


Staying safe


Not all information on the internet comes from trusted sources.

People with brain injury and new internet users can be particularly vulnerable to fraudsters and scams.

Check what security measures are in place to safeguard personal information when considering an app.


  • Make sure new users understand the risks before using apps.
  • Use pictures and diagrams if need be to help them understand.
  • Draw up a list of trusted names and email addresses for them to keep to.
  • Alert everyone on the trusted list that they are on it.
  • Encourage all those on the trusted list to initiate contact.




Related articles

It is likely all of us at some point in our lives will experience loneliness; that desolate feeling of solitude that wells up in response to unwanted isolation. This article focuses on how neuro occupational therapy can help combat this. Loneliness post brain injury

Further support for brain injury survivors, their families and the neuro occupational therapists working with them during the Covid-19 pandemic is available here: Krysalis public resources page

The first in an exclusive series following the thoughts and feelings of a brain injury survivor through the global Covid-19 pandemic: Covid-19 Brain injury and me - part one - the shock awakening

It seems humans can’t help unwittingly touching their faces, particularly the areas around the mouth, nose and eyes: Six ways to help someone with a brain injury stop touching their face during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Here’s a list of over 200 ideas that brain injury survivors and their families could consider, with remote support, if need be, from their neuro occupational therapist: 200 home activities for brain injury survivors and their families