By Debbie le Quesne

Archive for March 2013

Inspiring report: Ideals to make a care home great

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Care homes must not allow themselves to fall victim of “negative stereotypes” says a report that came onto my desk a few days ago.

Despite homes playing an ever-increasing role in supporting older people in the future, there still appears to be a recognised culture of negativity that surrounds them.

And it’s hardly surprising. Our industry has been easy pickings for the media for years and bad care and heartless carers have not helped our cause.

At the moment too many care homes lack engagement with their local community and lack support from health services and local authorities, says the report.

The report “My Home Life: promoting quality of life in care homes” is released by Joseph Rowntree Foundation.

It follows a three year study carried out by the My Home Life programme, funded by Age UK, Joseph Rowntree Foundation, City University and Dementia UK, to explore what makes good practice in care homes and offers key recommendations about how to improve the lives of older people living and dying in care homes.

The recommendations are in many ways predictable, but it does underpin what so many West Midlands Care Association members have been saying for decades.

Sure, there is good practice aplenty within the sector, but seeing the recommendations in print and with plenty of research to back them, is heartening.

Critically, in conclusion, the report says: “With greater levels of staffing and investment, care homes will be better placed to understand and act upon the wishes and aspiration of older people.”

So much of this report is based on the need for extra money and more staff and at the sharp end of care we need both like never before.

My Home Life aims to identify what works well in creating a compassionate and caring environment within care homes so “needs, aspirations and quality of life” of residents, residents and staff are met.

The report highlights such issues as the need for homes to help preserve residents’ identity, involving residents in decision-making, connecting with community, better working with health practitioners, end of life care, the burden of paperwork and so it goes on and on.

It’s not a hard read, but there’s plenty of it. Leadership is an interesting section with the critical role of managers being the pivot on which the home’s performance rests.

Partnership working gets a mention too – locking in to community-based organisations such as schools, arts workshops and other interest groups – to keep homes earthed in a out-of-care reality.

Want to get the full works? Here’s the link: www.jrf.org.uk/sites/files/jrf/care-home-quality-of-life-summary.pdf

Spreading magic to challenge stereotypes of homes

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I know I’m not as young as I once was, but I do like a good party, so indulge me please and picture the scene . . .

There’s an enticing list of cocktails, London’s top bartenders are adding there secret ingredients to their latest creations, sequinned headbands fit in perfectly with the evening’s Roaring Twenties theme and the music is playing.

A trendy capital party club scene? No. A posh, slick bar with wealthy ‘cruisers’ looking for a date? No.

In fact, it’s a care home where the charity Magic Me is putting on one of its regular cocktail evenings for residents.

“The parties are lovely – it gives you something to look forward to, and then something nice to look back on,” says 84-year-old Jean Fuller, who is featured in the Guardian online article.

“It’s a brilliant idea,” he adds her son Kilf. “I come and see mum twice a week, but unfortunately some of the residents don’t have family who come and see them. They might not have any visitors at all, so this gets everyone together. You get young and old sitting down together having a drink and a chat.”

The issues of loneliness  for the elderly is much debated, but this is one attempt at building community within care settings.

Even for older people living as part of a community loneliness – and the depression it often creates – can be a real problem. According to the Campaign to End Loneliness, which works to combat the isolation which affects many older people, 40 per cent of care home residents are likely to be depressed.

Wow! That’s far too many.

Magic Me specialises in inter-generational arts projects and staged its first cocktail party 18 months ago after hearing from some care home residents that although there were plenty of activities put on for them in the daytime, they were bored in the evenings.

Since then the project has snowballed, with some 150 volunteers now on call to help the charity put on monthly events at four care homes around east London.

The idea, according to Clea House, Magic Me’s community and communications manager, is to stage fantastic events that challenge the stereotypes of older people. The group is made up of young professionals who care about people group interaction in community.

We need so much more of this creativity in care settings. Families and friends get invited and there is an active policy of inclusion for residents who are well enough to take part.

I once heard a quote that most care home residents are just like us, but with older faces. This story reminds me that older people like a party too.

To find out more how Magic Me is connecting generations, go to http://www.magicme.co.ukImage

Written by debbielq

March 29, 2013 at 6:52 pm

Great inspiration to involve community, art and caring

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Residents at a newly-built Oxford care home have joined with children from a local school to transform a local poet’s work into a mosaic wall.

I love stories like this, where community, young and old are brought together in a creative way.

The artwork has been commissioned by Seddon Construction Ltd who built the home and poet Mike Garry, along with artist Amanda McCrann, are responsible for making the wall happen.

Mr Garry said: “It has been an honour to work with the residents of the home because we are providing this piece of artwork for them and the residents of Iffley.

“We are community artists and we like to work with people – this is what touches us.”

Love it! Love it! This kind of project ticks all the boxes for me and hopefully some more local community artists might just be inspired to buy into the idea.

Iffley Residential and Nursing Home has 76 en-suite bedrooms and provides facilities for its residents, including a cinema room, music room, library, communal lounges and dining areas as well as a landscaped garden for residents to make full use of. And, yes, it is posh.

But the idea of community-based artwork transforing our homes is surely accessible at all levels.

The poem used to inspire the artwork is titled, ‘Warm Rays of Sun Amidst Cool Falling Rain’ .

A two-metre circular tiled piece of art, surrounded by six smaller circles contains the stanzas of the poem. The visual boarders and patterns are inspired by the area of Iffley and were designed from the creative designs provided by local school children.

Care home resident, Charles Clapton, was reported on the Carehome.co.uk website as saying: “I really enjoyed it – it was like doing a jigsaw puzzle and I think it’s a really good idea.”

Let’s hope we can get a few more ‘pieces’ for a much bigger jigsaw idea . . . Have a great weekend (so far, no snow forecast).

Written by debbielq

March 29, 2013 at 6:23 pm

Spark of hope in vascular dementia research

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People with vascular dementia may benefit from a new treatment called Cerebrolysin, according to the results of a systematic review published in The Cochrane Library.

The ‘Library’ is an offshoot of an international collaboration of professionals seeking to share knowledge in medical research.

More than 100 countries are involved, pooling resources and research data.

Cerebrolysin, a promising new treatment made from pig brain proteins, has been found to enhance cognitive function in patients with vascular dementia — a type of dementia caused by damage to the network of blood vessels supplying the brain.

Suddenly, growing older seems a little less daunting and hopefully offers some hope in treating the disease more successfully.

Those with vascular dementia often experience difficulty thinking quickly, concentrating and communicating and may suffer from seizures and severe confusion. There is currently no definitive treatment for vascular dementia.

Researchers reviewed data from six randomised controlled trials involving 597 people. All were given Cerebrolysin intravenously in different daily concentrations and for different treatment periods of time depending on the trial.

This is all a little too medical, I know,  but compared to standard care alone or placebos, Cerebrolysin significantly improved cognitive function.

This was assessed with scales testing recall, arithmetic or other cognitive abilities. It had a small positive effect on patients’ overall clinical state. There is also some suggestion that long-term treatment was associated with greater benefits, although only two trials looked at long-term effects.

While I find the news heartening, the article I have seen significantly is lacking in one critical area: the long-term effects of the drug.

Jessica Smith, research officer with the  
Alzheimer’s Society, was quoted in the press as saying: “Vascular dementia is the second most common form of the condition affecting around a quarter of all people with dementia.

“While other forms of dementia have seen progress in research, there is currently no treatment for vascular dementia. We desperately need more research and more funding for research if we are to develop effective interventions for all forms of dementia.”

Guess we all have to thing of this as a glass half full, rather than half empty.

Written by debbielq

March 29, 2013 at 6:00 pm

Modernising the IDS another way of saying the cuts will hurt

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MASSIVE cuts to services for disabled children could have a devastating effect on thousands of young lives, so claims a newsletter for people who use an Integrated Disability service.

The warning comes after planned savings from Warwickshire County Council’s Integrated Disability Service rose from just £225,000 to over £1.7 million.

Last week the Leamington Observer carried the news, explaining that IDS helps disabled children and young people, as well as parents, by providing care assistance, specialist teachers, psychologists, physiotherapy, respite services and short breaks.

The budget cut has sparked fears whether the level of service can continue.

It’s another cruel cuts story and they seem to breaking every day. Where, oh where, I am bound to ask, will it all end?

Southam woman Lorna Pepler edits a newsletter for IDS users and criticised the council for refusing to distribute an edition containing an entry she had prepared condemning the move. I guess this issue alone says everything we need hear . . .

Reported in the Observer, she said: “Thousands of children throughout the county rely on IDS for their support.

“There is a huge concern that potentially, the quality of thousands of children’s lives will be at risk in the near future and families will be thrown into crisis.”

Around 2,000 children and young people in Warwickshire are registered with IDS, which is jointly funded by the council and the NHS.

The total budget of £5.5 million is set to drop to £3.8 million with the council cut. Services set to be hit include those offering respite for carers and short breaks for youngsters.

Respite is such an important ingredient in long-term caring. Carers desperately need a break from the often-24/7 commitment they undertake. Compassion and sustainability no longer seems to feature in this government’s decision-making process.

Warwickshire County Council said the cuts were down to reduced government grants ­– and that’s true. But it’s the way the marginalised are being targeted that presents the biggest moral dilemma for the West Midland Care Association’s members and myself.

Exactly what and how the changes will emerge is unclear and remains subject to a 12-week consultation starting in May. That’s bound to generate a stormy debate, but it’s the uncertainty of this critical lifeline service that deeply trouble me.

The repot cites the case of woman who cares for her 17-year-old son, physically disabled by a number of conditions including cerebral palsy, and a 15-year-old daughter with autism. Her 14 year-old daughter is classed as a young carer.

She said IDS allowed them to live ‘as normally as possible’ by providing help with care, along with short breaks for her disabled children and respite for herself and her younger daughter.

“I’m not sure I’d still be sitting here without the help I’ve received. I don’t know how I would have coped,” she told the Observer.

County children’s spokeswoman Councillor Heather Timms said to make the savings IDS would have to modernise and give families more control over the support they received.

Sadly, we all now know what this generally means ­– doing more for a lot less.

Written by debbielq

March 29, 2013 at 5:34 pm

Lords-Commons report on fee levels welcome

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The UK Homecare Association, one of the professional groups representing care providers, has this week welcomed a report by the Joint Committee of the House of Lords and House of Commons on the Draft Care and Support Bill.

The Bill will become the main plank of social care legislation – effectively replacing many statutes from the last 60 years and the three Private Member’s Bills which form the cornerstone of carers’ rights.

It was published in July last year alongside the Caring For our Future White Paper and a progress report on social care funding. And if there is fair wind in Parliament, it may just become law by 2015.

The Association particularly welcomed the joint committee’s recommendation that local authorities should take account of “the actual costs of care” when setting providers’ fees. This seems a little radical in the light of current fee negotiations.

It also welcomed the committee’s call for Government to have the necessary powers to deal with “unacceptable” commissioning practices such as 10-15 minute homecare visits.

Published in Care Industry News, Bridget Warr, Chief Executive of UKHCA, said: “Homecare providers in the independent and voluntary sector are under pressure as never before. 

“Their desire to provide sensitive, safe and dignified care is, in many cases, threatened by the lack of resources available for those people for whom care is commissioned by Local Authorities. 

“Fees to providers have been relentlessly driven down to a point which fails to recognise the real costs of delivering high quality care through well trained, consistent staff that are adequately paid.

 “If we wish to develop the full potential of the homecare sector and deliver safe, dignified care, local authorities must pay fees that reflect the true cost of service provision, including recovery of recruitment costs, workforce development and a sustainable pay-rate that retains and develops a skilled and qualified workforce. 

“This will be essential to meet the needs of an ever-increasing elderly population.”

The joint committee also found support from Coin Angel, UKHCA’s Policy and Campaigns Director who has given evidence to the Bill’s Committee.

 “We agree with the Joint Committee that short visits are not suitable for personal care, except in very limited circumstances.  It is not realistic for councils to expect person-centred care delivered in a dignified manner in a 10-15 minute homecare visit.  Last Year, the Association published a highly critical report, ‘Care is not a Commodity’, highlighting the way councils are putting vulnerable and older people at risk by cutting the times allowed for homecare visits.”

I am heartened to face a snowy weekend in the knowledge that such sense is prevailing within the Lords and Commons. The big question, however, is: Will it prevail in the Cabinet?

Have a good weekend.

Written by debbielq

March 22, 2013 at 3:11 pm

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Disabled charity takes a swipe at the Budget

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Disability charity Scope has issued a stinging attack on this week’s Budget, saying there is “no place for disabled people” in the “aspiration nation.”

Wow – no punches pulled here.

In a website statement and reports in the national media, Richard Hawkes, Chief Executive of the charity says: “Disabled people want to live independently. But the support they need to get up, get dressed and get out and about is being squeezed due to chronic under-funding of social care.

“Neither the £72,000 cap on costs nor £118,000 means test will resolve the care crisis for disabled people, who make up a third of the people who use social care.

In the Budget speech Chancellor George Osborne reiterated plans to speed up the introduction on the cap of social care.

He also said that ministers plan to extend the means test for residential care costs from April 2016.

The cap on care costs, originally planned to be set at £75,000 and introduced in 2017, will now also be introduced in 2016 at a level of £72,000.

Mr Hawkes adds: “Disabled people want to be able to pay for essentials without turning to credit. But in 2013 they are struggling to make ends meet.

“Life costs more if you’re disabled and this is being compounded as living costs spiral and incomes flat-line. What’s the Government’s response? A squeeze on financial support, which means many disabled people, face not one, but two, three or four different cuts to vital support.  

“In this context it’s a frightening prospect that welfare could be capped in the June spending review – having already been slashed by billions.  Some people need benefits, get over it. It doesn’t make them a scrounger, it doesn’t make them work-shy and it doesn’t make them a lay-about.

“Surely an aspiration nation should be a place where disabled people can pay the bills and live independently?”

The Budget document says that the reforms should help an extra 100,000 people who would not receive any support under the current system.

Speaking in the Independent newspaper, Michelle Mitchell, charity director general at Age UK, added: “Whilst we welcome the earlier implementation of the care costs cap to April 2016, this will do nothing to help the 800,000 older people who need help with everyday tasks but receive no formal support.

“Since this Government came to power, in real terms £700 million has been cut from social care spending, mostly as a consequence of the slashing of local authorities budgets at a time when need is rising due to our ageing population.

“The Government must urgently address the spiralling crisis in social care by ensuring that every older person gets the help that they need when they need it.”

Will they get it? Will the disabled be helped? I have no confidence that funding will be made available to local authorities. We have a hard-line government with only one agenda: To cut.

Morally, those cuts trouble me. The care sector sees first-hand the daily toll those financial restraints are taking and yes, they are depriving our most vulnerable of quality of life.

I can’t recall too clearly, but wasn’t there something in the coalition manifesto about protecting the elderly and vulnerable? 

Written by debbielq

March 21, 2013 at 8:47 am

Posted in Uncategorized