A substantial number of people with ‘mild’ acquired brain injury (ABI) suffer from cognitive impairments that are not immediately acknowledged as such. Some are eventually referred to multidisciplinary rehabilitation care after months or years of suffering, which is why we have labelled them ‘late referrals’. The aim of this paper is to add to the discussion on hopeful adaptation by focussing on the diverse adaptive strategies of late referrals. Hope is typically discussed as a positive emotion that can contribute to transformative processes, but that is also mirrored by despair. We conducted in-depth interviews with ten late referrals in the Netherlands. Our findings demonstrate that the trajectories of late referrals are characterised by wandering and navigating. Wandering is predominantly associated with feeling lost, and not knowing where one is going. While navigating is more purposeful, we found that our participants sometimes navigated in directions that turned out to be dead-end streets. We conclude that hopeful adaptation encompasses a circuitous way of trying and adapting and trying again. As a key recommendation for practice, we suggest that people with cognitive problems due to mild ABI should be supported in reducing the complexities of their everyday lives by taking up challenges one place at a time.
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