How can we support people with dementia to live well?


Around 850,000 people are estimated to have dementia in the UK, and that figure is expected to rise to 1 million by 2025.

Rising prevalence has led to a number of new initiatives focussing on the condition. In 2015, the Prime Minister’s Challenge on dementia 2020 set out more than 50 commitments with the hope of making England a world leader in dementia care, research and awareness by 2020.

Efforts like this are starting to reap rewards, and there have been recent improvements in the rates of diagnosis and new funds being developed to research the condition.

However, despite these positive steps, we know people with dementia and their carers still find it hard to get good quality care and support or to lead as active a life in the community as they could.

With this in mind, Age UK started looking at what ‘living well’ meant to people with dementia and their carers, and from there we branched out to find an array of services and approaches that could help them achieve this. Our findings are published in a new report, ‘Promising Approaches to Living Well with Dementia.’

Continue reading “How can we support people with dementia to live well?”

Living well with long-term conditions

Last week Age UK hosted a conference that looked at the significant role that the voluntary and community sector plays in managing long-term conditions and what role it can play in the future in partnership with the NHS and social care. This was a great opportunity to bring together clinical commissioning groups, local authority commissioners and voluntary sector ogranisations to consider the reality of the daily life for people that are living with long term conditions, discuss policy aspirations and share examples of positive practice in helping people live well and manage their own health.

For Age UK the issue of long-term conditions is tremendously important.

  • At any one time 65 per cent of people in hospital will be over the age of 65.
  • In the UK an estimated 4 million older people in the UK have a limiting longstanding illness and if nothing is done to address age-related disease there will be 6 million people with a long-term illness or disability by 2030.

If the Government is committed to making the NHS more effective and efficient it has to adapt for an ageing society. Without addressing this issue we believe that is it unlikely that reform of the NHS will be truly successful. We were therefore delighted that the Secretary of State for Health, Jeremy Hunt, spoke at the conference showing the commitment of the Department of Health. Continue reading “Living well with long-term conditions”

Protecting the future: We all have to pay, but negative framing of the challenge in the context of ageing is unhelpful

In mid-July the Office for Budgetary Responsibility (OBR), the independent forecaster of the economy and public finances, published its annual Fiscal Sustainability report. The purpose is to identify whether and when changes in government policy may be necessary to move the public finances from an unsustainable to a sustainable path. The report paints a bleak picture for the UK’s economic recovery without further Government intervention and highlights spending related to population ageing as the key driver of this bleak economic future.

According to the OBR, in order to compensate for the demographic pressures and keep the national debt in 2060-61 at its pre-crisis level of 40% of GDP, another £17bn of savings will have to be found in 2017/18. This assumes that it is imperative to return to pre-crisis levels of debt to GDP. While this long-term aspiration is desirable there is much dispute within economic circles about whether this needs to happen quite so quickly.

It also suggests that maintaining benefits to which people are currently entitled will create a £65bn hole in the budget deficit between 2016/17 and 2061/62 and that health spending will need to increase from 6.8 per cent of GDP in 2016-17 to 9.1 per cent of GDP in 2061-62.

At first glance the figures look worrying and clearly difficult decisions lie ahead. Highlighting the need for these decisions is important – focusing the blame on ageing is unhelpful.

When you look at the detail in the report the impact of ageing is not as doomsday as the OBR make out.

Continue reading “Protecting the future: We all have to pay, but negative framing of the challenge in the context of ageing is unhelpful”

Technology in the care of older people

I recently gave the opening address to a conference jointly hosted by the Royal Academy of Engineering and Age UK. The title of the conference was ‘Designing cost-effective care for older people: how technology can make a difference’ and I was asked to give ‘An on-the-ground perspective on the role of technology in the care of older people’.

Keeping people out of hospitals and supporting them so that they can live safely and comfortably at home are challenges that the government are trying to address, and technology and engineering can provide some of the solutions.

There are two main forms of assistive-living technology: telecare and telehealth. Teleheath services are aimed at helping people manage their long term health conditions in their own home. (Conditions include – diabetes, heart failure and/ or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease). Teleceare services are aimed at vulnerable people who need the support of Social Care or Health Services to keep living on their own. For example those with physical disabilities, the frail and elderly or those suffering from dementia or epilepsy.

Unfortunately, to date take up has been rather slow; there are only around 5,000 telehealth users and only 1.5m pieces of telecare in use today.

My talk focused on how we can increase the use of technology in a way that enhances people’s lives. This drew in part from a project we are involved in funded by the Technology and Strategy Board titled: COBALT: Challenging Obstacles and Barriers to Assisted Living Technologies. We are about half-way through this project and have spoken to many older people. What we have seen so far is that, contrary to the common assumption that technology has passed older people by and that they fear it or are dubious about the value in terms of improving their lives, older people do embrace technology on their own terms: television ownership, for example, is virtually 100%.

The problem is that assistive-living technology tends to be presented and provided differently to other forms of technology, like a microwave or a TV. Instead they need to be focused on the person and designed to fit into everyday life, rather than symbolise frailty or decline.

If uptake is to change designers, developers, engineers and purchasers (both private and public) need to rethink how the technology is created and presented. The creation of personal budgets in social care and the development of these in health mean purchasing of assisted-living technology will be more consumer driven in the future. Designers of this type of technology will have to place greater emphasis on what the consumer wants.

The conference suggested that those responsible for developing these technologies are responding to these considerations and technology that actually improves and enhances people’s lives, as well as being desirable is likely to dramatically increase in the near future.

Find out more about Age UK’s Engage Business network, which helps businesses better serve the needs of older people

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