By Debbie le Quesne

Archive for October 2012

Children’s books with a grown-up message

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I have been in the States on holiday and was surprised to discover that issues relating to the care of the elderly are now being targeted at children as young as four.

In downtown Manhattan you can find a range of books that describe the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease in language suitable for four to 12-year-olds.

Titles like “What’s Wrong with Grandma?” “The Memory Box” and “What’s Happening to Grandpa?” offer the young readers an explanation of this all-too-common disease.

I later discovered that more than 30 titles are available and they had been published since 1988.

Just like the UK, America has an ever-growing, ageing population and the challenges of Alzheimer’s rise along with the number of its older residents.


I wonder, given that most of those people are in their 70s and 80s, whether storybook readers are likely to be not grandchildren but great-grandchildren.

It’s hardly bedtime reading, but I applaud the attempt to explain in more detail what happens to those who are Alzhiemer’s sufferers.

The books appear to offer a gentle way of explaining a difficult subject, giving children insight while also providing a parental path for discussion.

The books portray well the cognitive aspects – memory problems and poor judgment, but critics say only about a third of publications depicted anger or irritability.

Whatever the critics may say, I am convinced this is a hugely useful tool for a family dealing with this problem.

Perhaps there is a market for children’s books that handle the issues of the normal ageing process. I’m no writer. But I would suspect achieving this without stereotyping would be hard.

Like all educational books, there is a danger of them being well-intentioned but dull. Those with children will know favourite stories can be requested frequently. “Read me the one about  . . . “ can be a bedtime mantra. But “What’s Happening to Grandpa?” somehow doesn’t do it for me.

The key must be conveying information about a terrible disease while simultaneously telling an absorbing story – not an easy fix.

As authors try to improve on the model I wish them every success. My struggle is one of how they would arrive at a happy ending. Perhaps a less direct approach would work with the focus on a single character among many in a narrative being used to convey the critical information.

What I do know is that the books need to have the ‘kid appeal’ of the Harry Potter character but finding the magic wand to make that happen is a mystery only JK Rowling could resolve.

Written by debbielq

October 23, 2012 at 10:31 am

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The Big Society findings its own response to elderly care

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David Cameron calls it the Big Society – I think it’s a society in survival mode as more and more socially aware groups find new

With widespread cuts, the responsibility is falling on inspired organisations to fill the gaps in elderly care.

If this is the Government intention, I’m left speechless.

Adversity has a long track record of being a cursor for change and sometimes for the better.

Communities, neighbourhoods and families have been establishing projects that aim to enable pensioners to feel confident they will be cared for as they age – regardless of their financial situation, according to the BBC in a report posted on its website last week.

“In York, the Joseph Rowntree Foundation charity has established Hartrigg Oaks, a home for pensioners and elderly people. The idea is that residents move in when they are still fit and healthy, for instance in their 60s.

“They pay money into a communal pot – approximately £170 per month for a 60-year-old.

“This guarantees them nursing care free of charge if and when they need it – thus avoiding the potentially crippling care fees many older people pay,” the article says.

Residents John and Jennifer Mitchell, moved into her bungalow there at the age of 61. Her parents had died

Mr Mitchell is quoted as saying: “You’re paying effectively care insurance. You pay the same sum, effectively year on year, with small increases which covers your care, however much you need.

“When you’re fit, okay you pay over the odds, when you need major care you don’t pay a penny more for it.”

Another idea – already popular on the continent – is the homeshare.

An NHS carer moves in permanently and rent free with an old person who needs help. In return they perform 10 hours of help a week.

Iona Anderson, who lives in Wickford, Essex, has been cared for by 45-year-old live-in NHS worker Graham Allen for the past two years.

He helps her with the shopping and does odd jobs around the house.

She said: “He has been absolutely amazing – he’s given me my life.

“My quality of life has risen like that – we laugh, he makes me roar with laughter.”

Mrs Anderson, whose husband died in 2002 and who has rheumatoid arthritis, continues: “I desperately wanted to stay here [at home].

“I love my house – I intend to be carried out in my coffin from here.”

Meanwhile on the Isle of Wight, a social experiment is hoping to help the younger generations become part of the solution to the problems of elderly care.

The scheme, called Care4Care invites volunteers to look after old people.

For every hour’s care they put in, the volunteers build up an hour’s worth of care credit that they can keep in a time bank. They can then use it for their own care later in life.

What a wonderful initiative!

The project was created by Professor Heinz Woolf. He says: “I hope that over the next three years or so we will build it into quite a large national scheme. I hope there might be a million members.”

Nearly a quarter of the UK’s population is expected to be over 65 within 20 years.

Our government has so far not delivered an long-term solution as the austerity measures rack up more and more social care problems.

Elderly should feel confident of knowing they could be cared for should they require it. These initiatives demonstrate a good deal of creative thinking – shame our Cabinet doesn’t seem to have the same ability.

Written by debbielq

October 22, 2012 at 8:53 am

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Insights on care reform from the fringe

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I have watched with eager anticipation all the big three political party conferences, hoping for an insight of what lies ahead for the care sector.

All discussed the rising cost of care. And all failed to commit to a course of action. Great!

Health secretary Jeremy Hunt’s pledge to implement the Dilnot cap on social care costs “as soon as we are able” will have encouraged many, but not me.

Very often, it’s not the main stage where the whole truth emerges, but fringe meetings and it was at such a get-together that it was revealed his pledge “to face up to some hard truths about how we are going to pay for social care” could be some time coming. In fact, it could be years away.

To his credit, the health secretary did recognise the need to transform services to meet the challenge of an ageing population.

He spoke about changing the culture of the health system “to make it the best in the world at looking after older people”. Very Good ­– he’ll need to do something as failure to act in the interest of social care will inevitably see many more older people entering the health system in the months to come.

According to AgeUK, in a Guardian Professional online article, one in four people now considers care for older people among the most important issues that will sway their vote.

The leaders’ party conference speeches indicate Messrs Cameron, Clegg and Miliband may not all be convinced.

I quote The Guardian report; “Older people’s issues didn’t merit a single mention in Cameron’s speech, unless you count a reference to the huge pension bills of ‘countries on the slide’. Miliband spoke briefly of having to ‘tackle the care crisis’ and the fact that people will have to retire later to fund our ageing society. Clegg’s focus, meanwhile, was on balancing the books so the government doesn’t ‘go bust’ and hit ‘the poor, the old, the infirm; those with the least to fall back on’.

As for the Dilnot capping proposal . . . you’re right: Nothing.

Many hope Norman Lamb, social care minister, will get get social care funding plans moving again despite the Treasury objections. I truly would love to believe he will, but here have been too many false dawns.

David Rogers, chairman of the Local Government Association’s community wellbeing board, described the care crisis as the most important issue this country is facing and one that is growing in magnitude.

“The challenge of reforming adult social care is set to fall off a cliff edge, and politicians need to act now or risk severely impacting on the services councils can provide for generations to come,” he was quoted as saying in The Guardian.

The challenges of which he speaks are huge, but please, will someone do something to help us soon?

Having now totally depressed myself, I must cheer myself up. Did someone say the weekend’s almost here?

Written by debbielq

October 18, 2012 at 10:12 pm

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Shocking concerns on care laid bare

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One in four adults has listed care in old among the top three most important concerns which could determine how to vote, behind only the NHS and the economy.

This week The Telegraph exposed the scale of anxiety about the care crisis, with almost half the population describing themselves as “very” or “extremely” worried about how they, their family and friends will be looked after in old age.

It suggests that social care is a major personal concern for around 19 million people in England.

Just a piffling two per cent said they were not concerned about the provision of care in later life.

The survey, carried out by ICM for the charity Age UK, concentrated on the views of adults in England. Scotland misses out because free care is available there.

It found that one in four voters rank old-age care among their top priorities.

That figure rises to 40 per cent among the over-55s.

Only a quarter of those polled thought that England looks after its elderly correctly.

And despite the need to cut public spending, almost eight out of 10 said the Government should invest more public money into paying for care.

Meanwhile three quarters also agreed that the Government should do more to help older people with their basic needs such as getting washed, meals, getting out to see people.

I am convinced the Coalition will not want to hear this news. For too long the government has ignored a growing crisis in the care sector, so I have no confidence this latest data will be addressed.

Last month the former care minister Paul Burstow disclosed that the Treasury had been hesitant about putting the Dilnot capping plan into action.

Michelle Mitchell, director general of Age UK was reported as saying: “Social care has for years been the Cinderella of political priorities, hidden away and ignored.

“Sorting out the care system to ensure that today’s older people and those in future receive the help they need when they need it requires needs long term thinking, not just muddling through to the next election.”

Perhaps when election time nears the finding of these kind of studies may just focus the attention of the government on what I believe is the single biggest need in our society.

Written by debbielq

October 18, 2012 at 7:31 am

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Investment into social care could save money

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Good social care tends to keep the terminally ill out of hospital until they really need it, the Nuffield Trust think tank has reported.

Reported in The Telegraph online, the body looked at the usage that 73,000 people made of council social services and hospitals in the last months of their lives.

Not remarkably, the study suggests that social care might be effectively substituting for hospital care for this group of people.

But Dr Martin Bardsley, head of research at the Nuffield trust, raises a worry that

if funding for social care is cut back, people may have no option but to use hospital care.

“This may not be the best care for people who wish to be at home in their last months of life, as well as cost far more for the NHS,” he says.

“Given the short- to medium-term financial climate, this type of analysis is critical now more than ever if more value for patients is to be extracted from public funds,” he adds.

The report took in seven local authority areas in England and also found social care costs rose predictably in the last year or so of life, while hospital costs jump in the last three months.

The authors argue that the Government would not be taking on too much financial risk by agreeing to fund social care above a certain threshold.

Andrew Dilnot, the economist, proposed that cap be set at £35,000.

Simon Chapman, from the National Council for Palliative Care, was quoted as saying that the report provided “timely evidence that introducing free social care at the end of life would not carry significant economic risks”.

So, tell me please, when there is a growing groundswell of opinion that more funding should be make available for domiciliary care initiatives, why is the government hell bent on cutting resources to the bone? Its deaf arrogance both worries and puzzles me.

Written by debbielq

October 18, 2012 at 7:19 am

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Tight lines in tough times

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I’m sure we have all heard the stories of “the one that got away.” Fishing is the UK’s biggest participating sport, so why shouldn’t our adults with learning disabilities be encouraged to see if they can bag a trophy or two in this much-loved pastime.

Wetlands Animal Park in Retford, Nottinghamshire, recently hosted what’s believed to be the UK’s first fishing tournament for this group of people along with those who have acquired brain injuries.

Organised by Voyage Care, a leading social care provider, the event attracted competitors from as far afield as Taunton, Burnley and Peterborough. Wow!

The trophy went to Ben Mill from Chard Manor, a Somerset care home run by Voyage Care, whose overall catch weighed an impressive 26lb.

And congratulations were also in order for Craig Butcher, who lives at Voyage Care’s Hall Farm property in Doncaster, after he succeeded in hooking the biggest fish of the tournament – a 9lb 5oz carp.

Isn’t this a lovely tale? No fishy business (excuse the pun), a whole lot of fun and, most importantly, the fact that a bit of creative thinking enabled these competitors to be included in a society where funding cuts threaten to marginalise them.

The tournament was the idea of Roger Stocks, a keen angler and the manager of Hall Farm residential home.

In an article on the Care Industry News website, Roger is quoted as saying: “To the best of my knowledge this is the only fishing competition of its type in the UK and we wanted to create an event that was not only fun, but that also encouraged participation and promoted a sense of achievement.

“Without doubt, it was a really rewarding experience for everyone that took part and the feedback we’ve received has definitely inspired us to organise a bigger and even better tournament next year.”

I applaud you Roger for your efforts in making this happen in such tough economic times. With the closure of many day centres – a real lifeline for many of these people – it’s wonderful to know that someone is making time to engage them in such a way.

Written by debbielq

October 16, 2012 at 7:42 am

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Life chances for disabled another victim of ‘the cuts’

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I’ve mentioned this before – the government is planning to close the independent living fund (ILF).

The matter was raised once again last week by The Guardian and one critical paragraph caught my attention:

“Media discussion of the crisis in social care focuses on the effects on older people and their families, who bear the brunt of caring when public services let them down. Yes, more older people than disabled people are affected by the social care funding difficulties, but many people don’t realise that the life chances of younger disabled people also depend in large part on those same stretched local authority social care budgets.”

Some 19,000 of the most severely disabled people are supplemented by the ILF. The government plan is to transfer the money to local authorities, where the needs of older people are already putting services under increasing strain.

Here we are, robbing Peter to pay Paul.

“This combination of challenges to social care services is set to have a catastrophic effect on the ability of severely disabled people to fulfil their potential and use their talents to contribute personally and economically to society,” The Guardian says and I wholeheartedly agree.

There are many examples of severely disabled people whose care packages enable them to employ personal assistants of their choosing to maximise their independence, and their ability to participate and make a contribution.

Is the government saying that this group of people is not worth funding?

The newspaper highlights some successes achieved because of the funding. Lady (Jane) Campbell of Surbiton has a seat in the House of Lords; Alice Maynard runs her own consultancy and undertake her duties as chair of Scope; Katherine Araniello produces work as an artist and film-maker, and Dr Ian Basnett is a director of public health for east London and the City.

These people have achieved their workplace potential but the severely disabled young of today are unlikely to.

Local authorities now require financial contributions from service users for the provision of basic packages that can achieve little more than feeding, dressing and toileting.

Where is all of this leading to?

Disabled people can’t be economically productive if the support that enables them to live independently is missing or unaffordable.

In a drive to get everyone working, the Coalition appears to be very selective. “We’re all in this together,” we have heard.

No we’re not!

Written by debbielq

October 15, 2012 at 7:56 am

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