After such a wet winter, a bit of sun may sound like no bad thing, but people often underestimate the effect of high temperatures on older people: the 2003 heatwave led to an alarming 22 per cent increase in mortality among people 75+ in England and Wales. So I was very pleased to be invited to a roundtable held by the Parliamentary Environmental Audit Committee, as part of their Inquiry into Heatwaves: Adapting to Climate Change.
A guest blog from Professor Stephen Powis, NHS England Medical Director, on the innovative ways the NHS is adapting to an ageing society and more people living with multiple and long-term conditions.
The creation of the National Health Service seven decades ago was indisputably one of the greatest social advances of the last century.
For the first time in our history, it replaced public fears about the affordability of healthcare with a service based on equity.
The Prime Minister Theresa May was absolutely right to commit last week to increased long-term funding.
The NHS’s biggest task this century must be to adapt to profound shifts in the patterns of ill-health.
We were pleased to read the news at the weekend reporting that the NHS is recommending dance classes for older people to help them to stay fit and healthy and reduce their risk of having a fall.
We certainly need to do something to prevent falls and fractures among the over-65s as they account for over 4 million hospital bed days each year in England alone and are a serious threat to older people’s self-confidence and independence: about 1 in 10 older people who have fallen are afraid to leave their homes in case they fall again.
Only 10% of the older population do as much physical exercise as is recommended by doctors and research with older people has also found that dance classes are much more popular and engaging than traditional falls prevention programmes. For many older people, an approach which is about being active and social can be much more appealing than simply trying to prevent something.
This week is Nutrition and Hydration Week, an excellent campaign which celebrates food and drink as a way of maintaining health and wellbeing. As part of the Week, the Malnutrition Task Force have written a guest blog looking at malnutrition among older people in the community and highlighting wonderful examples of initiatives that can help tackle this.
Food is a marvellous thing. Breathing in the scent of our favourite meal and savouring the taste as we eat and enjoy it are two of life’s great pleasures.
Food gives us the energy to keep active, stay mentally alert, and remain physically well, which means fewer visits to the doctors.
Keeping well-nourished and hydrated is so important to each and everyone one of us at every stage of our lives, particularly as we get older.
However, sadly, not everyone is so favoured. Latest estimates show up to 1.3 million of our older friends, relatives and neighbours are malnourished or at risk.
Meet 77 year old Robert.
Living in Thornton Heath, he was never apart from his wife of 45 years who he was caring for as she had cancer.
However, that was all about to change.
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.’
This blog post was contributed by Lesley Carter, Joint Head of Health Influencing at Age UK.
“How people die remains in the memory of those who live on”, Cicely Saunders (1918-2005), founder of the modern hospice movement.
Positive advances in health care and public health mean that most of us will die later in life. Hooray! Yet most of us have never had a conversation with someone we love about death and dying and actually most of us don’t really want to. I think it’s a generational thing. But this is not the best place to be – this approach will not help us cope with our own death, or that of a loved one, or to manage our own feelings during death and bereavement.