Category Archives: Health

Understanding frailty

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This week we have a guest blog from Gill Turner is Vice-President (Clinical Quality) of the British Geriatrics Society and project lead on the Fit for Frailty campaign 

It is hard to open a book, newspaper or listen to the news currently without hearing words like ‘the elderly’ , ‘dementia’ and ‘frail’. But what is meant by these words?

Frailty, for example. Many journalists use ‘frail’ to depict older people as victims of a failing NHS and underfunded social services. Doctors, nurses and relatives sometimes use ‘frail’ to describe people at the very end of their life, reinforcing its negative connotations.

And yet, work done by Age UK shows that older people see being ‘frail’ as akin to being weak, dependent and hopeless: they reject the idea of using it.

So, what if the word ‘frailty’ actually denoted a health condition which could be recognised, managed and even improved? What if the recognition of frailty opened the door to a range of health and social care services organised to address an older person’s wellbeing, independence and control over their own life?  Continue reading

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What works in tackling loneliness in later life?

 

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This week we have a guest blog from Marianne Siddorn at the Campaign to End Loneliness.  Age UK and the Campaign to End Loneliness have launched a new report on how to tackle this important issue.

The devastating impact loneliness can have on our mental and physical health makes it an issue we simply cannot ignore. For a growing number of older people, loneliness defines and shatters their lives.

But loneliness is also a deeply personal experience – a problem with different causes and consequences for every one of us. This is what makes addressing loneliness so complex. And despite a wide and growing recognition of the substantial public health implications of loneliness and the urgent need to take action, there is a significant knowledge gap among funders and commissioners about what really works in addressing it.

Promising approaches to reducing loneliness and isolation in later life, a report produced jointly by Age UK and the Campaign to End Loneliness, seeks to fill that knowledge gap and to offer some practical answers to that big question, what works in tackling loneliness? Continue reading

Taking on malnutrition across the UK

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This week we have a blog from the Malnutrition Task Force 

When you mention the word ‘malnutrition,’ many assume it is something that only happens in other countries and has been consigned to the history books in the UK.

Yet this is far from the truth.

Figures from BAPEN show 3 million people in the UK are malnourished or at risk of  malnutrition and that a high number of these, around 1.3 million, are over the age of 65.

To combat this issue, the Malnutrition Task Force has bought together professionals from across health, social care and local government to work alongside charities, older people and carers to pilot a new approach.

The Malnutrition Prevention Programme sees whole communities – including local NHS trusts, hospitals, GP practices, care homes and community groups – coming together to tackle the condition. Our aim is to significantly reduce the number of people aged 65 and over in different areas across the country who are malnourished. Continue reading

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Is the NHS on the brink of a winter crisis?

The mild days of late autumn are barely gone, yet concerns about a looming winter crisis in the NHS are already hitting the headlines. With financial pressure growing, performance targets slipping and hospitals already overstretched, a political storm has hit Westminster and Whitehall. Could another cold snap tip the NHS over the edge?

A SLIPPERY SLOPE?

Winter pressures in the NHS happen every year, as a result of higher emergency admissions and increased numbers of people requiring hospital care (e.g. people with respiratory conditions or winter viruses). Most of those affected are older people, many of whom have higher care needs and can be more vulnerable to the cold.

Yet, despite anticipatory planning and the usual precautions, there are growing concerns that accident and emergency (A&E) services are heading inevitably towards a midwinter meltdown. NHS statistics have revealed that A&E performance in late autumn this year has been worse than in the depths of last winter.

On average over the past four weeks, just 93.5% of patients attending A&E in England were seen within four hours, with 23 trusts failing to reach 90% last week. By contrast, above 95% of patients were seen within the required timeframe last winter.

WHAT ABOUT PATIENT SAFETY?

The unprecedented demand on A&Es has serious implications for older people’s health and experience of care. The high levels of bed occupancy have led to people being held in ambulances outside the hospital or waiting on trolleys for many hours. This has also had a knock-on effect on other hospital services, with patients having their appointments and operations cancelled.

For the many older people who are lonely and isolated, or living with frailty or dementia, the inability of A&Es to respond to their needs can be disastrous. Due to a lack of appropriate support in the community, they are often forced to wait until they reach a crisis for a response and rely on emergency admissions for help. Arriving in a worse state of health, they are then faced with a fraught and overstretched urgent care centre or A&E. Continue reading