19. Accessing the community

What do I need to think about to get around in the community safely?

Getting about in the community safely and successfully requires some thinking. If you need to find something or do something in particular in the community you need to have a plan of action. The detail you put into this plan depends upon what you have to do. Following are some words that can help you think about all the different things you might have to consider.


A. How can I plan for my trip to be successful?

Helpful hints

1. Who? Means whom are you meeting, who are you going with?

2. What? Means what are you doing, what are the reasons you are going into the community? What do you need to take with you?

3. When? Means what day are you going, what time are you leaving and returning, what time are you meeting people, what time is your appointment?

4. Where? Means where are you going- to one or more places.

5. Why? Means why are you going- to do banking, shopping, meet friends for lunch, go to a doctor's appointment?

6. How? Means how are you going to get there? By car, bus, train, taxi or a combination of these. See Section 18 for planning the transport for your tip.

These words can help you organise a successful trip into the community. If you do this properly you will not have forgotten anything you were meant to take and can then concentrate on having a good time!

Gemma's experience

Gemma uses these words to help her organise a trip out with friends. She writes them down on a piece of paper so she doesn't forget each of the steps. She planned to meet her friends at Alexander's Coffee Shop in this way. Here is how she did it.

Who? Sam, Jo, Ally, Melissa and Gemma.

What? Going for coffee (Remember MONEY!)

When? Saturday 23rd January 2010, 12.30pm.

Where? Alexander's Coffee Lounge Parramatta Mall

Why? For Jo's birthday

How? Train from Liverpool to Parramatta. By foot to Alexander's.

This is how Gemma made plans to meet her friends at Alexander's. Gemma was organising the day. She called her friends using the "who, what, when, where, why and how" details as a checklist about the day and the people she had to call.

B. What do I do if I get lost?

Many times people go out to an appointment or run an errand and get side tracked for one reason or another and end up lost. There are a few things you can do to try and help if this happens to you.

Helpful hints

1. Before you go out, in your diary that you take with you, write down where you are going, whom you will see and a contact number for them. Then if you get lost, find the nearest phone and contact the person and let them know you are lost. They may be able to help you with directions.

2. Carry with you a list of people that you can contact if you are lost. They may be a parent, partner or a friend. If you find yourself lost, ring them. They may be able to help.

3. If you are lost and you are going to ring someone, look around first and try to find out where you are by looking at signs or asking someone where you are. This will help the person you ring work out where you are and help give you directions to get where you want to go.

4. Always tell someone where you are going and what time you expect to get there. Although this may seem childish, you are actually demonstrating responsibility and independence in ensuring your own safety.

5. Invest in a mobile phone and pre-paid SIM card (calls are paid for before you make them so you don't end up in debt) so you can make calls from wherever you are.

6. If all else fails, try to locate a policeman and ask him where to go, as you are lost.

Charlie's experience

Charlie went on an outing with some patients and staff from the hospital. Prior to going on the outing clients and staff wrote out a schedule of the day's activities and where all would be at different times. Everyone was given a copy. The outing was to the city for lunch. Trains were used to get there. Charlie chose not to sit with everyone else on the train. He was confident he knew what station to get off at. Unfortunately Charlie fell asleep on the train and missed the stop. Charlie panicked. He called his mother, forgetting he had the schedule in his pocket of the day's events. His mother asked him if he had a note and he remembered he did. From this schedule, Charlie was able to find the restaurant where everyone was going for lunch and met up for the meal.

Who can I contact about getting lost?

If you find that this is a problem that occurs regularly, contact your occupational therapist and let them know. They will be able to help you.


How do I use telephones in the community?

You may need to use a public telephone in the community if you are out in the community and need to make a telephone call or you don't have a telephone at home or you have a telephone at home and it receives incoming telephone calls only.

Helpful hints

Using public telephones

You have two options for using public telephones. Option 1 is to use a phone card. These can be purchased at newsagents. These generally cost around $5 and give you $5 worth of public phone calls. Option 2 is to use coins at a coin phone.

Strategies for action

Using a phone card at a public phone

Step 1: Find a public phone that accepts phone cards. The majority of them do nowadays.

Step 2: List the hand-set and listen for the dial tone.

Step 3: Insert the phone card into the phone in the specified slot -it will be labeled. Take care to insert the card the right way. The phone will spit it back out at you if it is incorrectly inserted. The display will indicate how much money you have left on your card.

Step 4: Enter the number you are wishing to ring and wait for an answer.

Step 5: At the end of the call, the phone will deduct the right amount of money for the call you have made. Remember, if you ring long distance STD, it will cost you more. The phone will then return your card to you. It will let you know when you have used all the credits on your phone card. If the phone does not work properly, go find another.

Using a coin phone

Not many public phones can be used with coins these days. But if you need to use one, follow the following steps.

Step 1: Get out enought money to make your call. Most phones do not give change so try to have the right money;

Step 2: Lift hand set and wait for the dial tone.

Step 3: Put your money in the slot of the phone and dial the number you want to ring.

Step 4: At the end of the call, replace the handset and the call will have been paid for. If you are calling STD or mobile phones and run out of money, the call will be cut off.

Using an ordinary telephone

Sometimes when you are out in the community you may have to ask a shopkeeper or a person in their home to borrow their telephone. You would do this if there was no public telephone available or the one that is available is not working. When using a telephone in a person's home you lift the receiver and dial the number.

Depending upon your brain injury you may have physical, seeing or hearing difficulty. Any or a combination of these difficulties may stop you from being able to use a public telephone or an ordinary telephone. If this is the case, when you are in the community you may need to ask another person to make the call for you.

When you are at home you can trial different telephones that have different features.

These may include memory for numbers. Your telephone can then be programmed with emergency numbers and telephone numbers of friends and relatives.

Accessories can be added to your telephone to increase the loudness of the volume or allow you to see who is calling. There are numerous accessories and different telephones that can be suited to individual needs. Talk to your occupational therapist about finding the most appropriate telephone for you.

Helpful hints

Some public telephone boxes don't have white or yellow pages, so you can't be guaranteed of looking up your number.

The best way is to have your numbers written down and stored in your wallet or diary If you are at home, have emergency telephone numbers and the telephone numbers of friends and family above your telephone or beside the telephone.

If you have a telephone with a memory have the numbers you use most frequently programmed into them. You can also do this with emergency telephone numbers. If you don't have the telephone number written down, call the Directory Assistance telephone number. They will provide you with the telephone number after you provide them with the person's name and address. It is useful to write the number down on a piece of paper with the name of the person above or below it. If you try and the person does not answer you will have this number for the next time. Write this number into your diary or telephone index as soon as possible.

For recording telephone messages make sure you always have a pad and pen near the telephone or that you carry a small pad with you when out in the community. This means you will always be able to record messages.

Helpful hints prior to talking on the telephone

It is important to know what you are going to say before you make a telephone call. Otherwise it can be confusing for you and difficult for the person on the other telephone. Again you can use the "who, what, when, where and why" words to help you know what you are calling the person for. Prior to making your telephone call write these words down. Beside them write down the information you need to find out.

1. Who? Who are you calling? Know the person's title so you can ask for them directly.

2. What? Know what you are calling that person for. Is it to ask for a medical appointment, to book a taxi or find out information? If you are organising a medical appointment you may need to ask what you need to take. For example, you may need to ask if you need to take your Medicare card, previous X-rays etc.

3. When? Confirm with the person who is providing you with the information when the appointment is for. Write it down as you are provided with the information. Check it.

4. Where? Find out where the appointment is if this is necessary:

5. Why? Find out if there is any other information you need to bring or know about. For example, knowing not to eat prior to having surgery.

Gemma's experience

Gemma used these words to help her book a doctors appointment. First she wrote down the questions. She worked out what she would need to ask before she called the surgery.

1. Who? Are there female doctors? What is her name? What days does she work? Does the practice bulk bill?

2. What? What does the doctor specialise in?

3. When? When are any appointments available today or tomorrow?

4. Where? Where is your surgery? Is there any parking?

5. Why? I have pains where I fractured my arm.

Using these questions Gemma was able to find out the necessary information. She wrote down what the secretary said and then rewrote the information into her diary. Gemma had to ask the secretary to wait while she wrote the information down.

Who can I contact about using public telephones?

If you have any trouble using public phones, ask your occupational therapist from the Brain Injury Rehabilitation Unit for some helpful tips.



Why do I become fearful in crowds?

This is a common fear following brain injury Some people tend to feel that they lose control and when in a crowd, something may happen that is beyond their control. Sometimes people feel overwhelmed or pressured by the unfamiliar people around them.

Helpful hints

Here are some tips if you feel you have this fear.

Do not panic. Find your way to the edge of the crowd and find somewhere to sit and gather yourself.

Do not go shopping or to a public place at times you know it will be busy. For example, late night shopping or shopping at Christmas time. You may like to go early in the morning when the shops are just opening as there are often less people shopping at this time of the day.

Use relaxation techniques, deep slow breathing, visualisation and you can even try to block out the sounds of the crowd using an Ipod with relaxing music on it.

Peter's experience

Peter did not like being amongst a lot of people he didn't know nor in confined spaces. Peter lived in the country so he was rarely exposed to crowds. One day he was offered an opportunity to attend a conference for work in the city. This meant he had to catch public transport in peak hour and deal with the city rush and crowds. Peter was keen to attend the course and didn't want to miss this opportunity.

Peter decided he would leave on the earlier side of peak hour. This meant he was able to sit for the whole train journey to the city with a window seat. He chose to sit on the entering level and was able to see the doors, which he said, helped. When he got into the city he waited on the platform for everyone to alight the train and climb the stairs. He then did so at his own pace. When he arrived at the conference, he completed his registration and stood to the edge of the room with a warm drink. Peter focused on his breathing and looked for a familiar face. A friend arrived and Peter felt quite comfortable and pleased with his achievements. Peter used the same principles in reverse on the way home from the conference.

Who can I contact if I have a fear of crowds?

If you have an ongoing and overwhelming fear of crowds, ask your case manager or one of the therapists working with you what help you may be able to get to overcome this fear.