Guest blog – What alternative treatments work for people with dementia?

This guest blog was contributed by Caroline Lee from the Cambridge Institute of Public Health, University of Cambridge.

440x210_man-woman-readingThe most debilitating symptoms of dementia affect a person’s ability to carry out daily activities, yet are also some of the most difficult to treat with medication.

As the health and social care burden of dementia increases, so does interest in alternatives to medication. However, the widespread take up of alternative treatments must be grounded in robust analysis both of health outcomes and of cost-effectiveness.

An off the shelf product claiming to improve memory in early Alzheimer’s disease seems to offer both hope and convenience. However, some of these, including Souvenaid, are governed by the food rather than the drugs industry and, as such, regulated differently.

While these new ‘non-pharmacological products’ are already on the market, potential new drugs remain in clinical trial, and the scientific community continues to strive for new knowledge based on robust evidence of ‘what works’. Continue reading “Guest blog – What alternative treatments work for people with dementia?”

Guest blog: Healthy Ageing – Perspectives of Older Adults

This guest blog was contributed by Dr Grania Fenton, Research Fellow at the University of Leeds.

As more of us are living longer, more of us are living with the effects of cardiovascular events like heart attacks and strokes. This does not mean that cardiovascular events are inevitable though. In fact, they are usually preventable, as 80% of factors contributing to them are lifestyle related, i.e. caused by things such as an unhealthy diet and a lack of physical activity.

Active lifestyle schemes, like the one at the Hamara Community Centre in Leeds, aim to help people change their lifestyles by providing group activity and education sessions to help them become more active and eat more healthily, and so reduce their risk of a cardiovascular event.

We wanted to find out what older adults referred to the scheme thought about the scheme and the things that helped them to lead healthy lifestyles or got in the way, as well as ageing and health in general. We spoke to 8 women and 5 men between the ages of 64 and 82 (average age 69).

All had been referred to the scheme by their GP or practice nurse, all but one were retired, and whilst six were still attending the scheme regularly, five had attended regularly in the past, one had attended infrequently and one had never attended. Continue reading “Guest blog: Healthy Ageing – Perspectives of Older Adults”

Will the sensors look after us?

This guest blog was contributed by Dr Maggie Mort, Reader, and Dr Celia Roberts, Senior Lecturer, of Lancaster University.

There seems to be an assumption everywhere that ‘doing more for less’ is in itself a virtue. Take telecare (the provision of home care at a distance by means of devices linked to a central call centre). It is said that this will enable economies of scale because large numbers of people (who may be chronically ill or frail) can be monitored in their own homes at the same time, making services more efficient.

There will be less need, it is argued, for home visits by paid carers and healthcare workers. Sensors placed around the home will detect problems such as gas leaks, falls or restlessness. It is claimed that these systems will give peace of mind and crucially enable older people to stay in their own homes for longer, rather than have to move into residential care. Continue reading “Will the sensors look after us?”

Guest Blog: The involvement of ‘older people’ in research and other projects

This guest blog was contributed by Bill Bytheway, Visiting Research Fellow at the Open University, and author of Unmasking Age (Policy Press, 2011).

On page 124 of my book, ‘Ageism’ (1995), I attempted to describe how ‘a room for older people’ might admit anyone, regardless of age, on the basis of self-definition. I argued that it would be perfectly feasible and acceptable for anyone to enter it, and request services designed to assist ‘older’, rather than ‘younger’, people. In making the case, I remembered a woman of 55 who lived on her own and was in hospital with a broken leg. At the time (the mid-1980s) I was working for a hospital discharge scheme that focused exclusively on patients aged 65 or more. ‘Is there any help available to people like me?’ she asked. It was this simple question which made me realise how ageist all forms of age bar are, no matter how well-intentioned.

The RoAD (Research on Age Discrimination) projectwas undertaken between

The research team and field workers from the RoAD project

2004 and 2007 by a team based at the Open University, working in collaboration with Help the Aged. When we were planning the project, we decided to involve older people at all stages and in all roles and that, in implementing this aim, we would not impose any age bars. No one would be deemed too old or too young to take part. The only requirement was that participants should understand that they were involved, possibly amongst other things, as ‘older people’.

Continue reading “Guest Blog: The involvement of ‘older people’ in research and other projects”

Ageism in treating the oldest old

This guest blog was contributed by Occupational Therapist, Chrissy Bishop.

As an occupational therapist working in intermediate care, a common predicament occurring in health care environments is the constant battle with prejudices and age discrimination, consequently in meeting the needs of people over age 85: the ‘oldest old’ (or as some refer to this age group, the ‘frail elderly’).

When planning discharge and care for an over-85 client, a fundamental dilemma of the multi-disciplinary team is establishing rehabilitation needs. This means making an informed decision and estimating how they will manage at home, and assessing their ability to regain independence in activities of daily living.

Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for unintentional age discrimination to occur, fundamentally related to the capability of the oldest old of engaging in a rehabilitative treatment plan to maximise their level of independence in their preferred home environment.

In retrospect, why does this age discrimination still occur? We need to challenge our assumptions about people.

Rehabilitation teams need to continually ask questions such as:

  • Exactly what is the reasoning for your 100 year old patient who has recently fallen to go into a care home?
  • Would you consider this change of home environment for a “faller” in their 60s or 70s?
  • Do you consider loneliness when discharging the oldest old back home?
  • Is your patient educated on the effects of the medications they take, and has anyone looked at possible medication interactions?
  • Are they even taking medications correctly? Continue reading “Ageism in treating the oldest old”