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May 19th, 2017

This week is Dementia Awareness Week, run by the Alzheimer’s Society.

Its aim is clear: to raise awareness of the condition which is set to be the 21st century’s biggest killer.  The Alzheimer’s Society is asking everyone to unite in the battle against this condition, which affects not just the person living with it but their friends and families.

At DoCare, we have many clients who live with dementia, and we do all we can to support them and their loved ones, including giving our staff specialist training so they can provide the very best level of service.

And as this is national awareness week, here are a few facts about dementia that you may not have known, which we gleaned from the Alzheimer’s Society:

  1. Dementia is not a natural part of ageing.

We all forget a name or a face sometimes. Especially as we get older. But dementia is something different. Memory problems are one of a number of symptoms that people with dementia may experience. Others include difficulties with planning, thinking things through, struggling to keep up with a conversation, and sometimes changes in mood or behaviour.

Dementia is not a natural part of ageing and it doesn’t just affect older people. More than 40,000 people under 65 in the UK have dementia. This is called early-onset or young-onset dementia.

If you’re worried about your memory, or about someone else, the first thing to do is make an appointment with the GP. We know it can feel daunting, but the quicker you talk to your GP, the sooner you can get the information, advice and support you need.

 

  1. Dementia is caused by diseases of the brain

Diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease cause nerve cells to die, damaging the structure and chemistry of the brain.

There are lots of other causes and no two types of dementia are the same. In different types of dementia there is damage to different parts of the brain.

Alzheimer’s disease tends to start slowly and progress gradually. Vascular dementia after a stroke often progresses in a ‘stepped’ way. This means that symptoms are stable for a while and then suddenly get worse.

 

  1. It’s not just about losing your memory

When most people hear the word dementia, they think of memory loss. And it does often start by affecting the short-term memory. Someone with dementia might repeat themselves and have problems recalling things that happened recently. But dementia can also affect the way people think, speak, perceive things, feel and behave.

Other common symptoms include:

  • difficulties concentrating
  • problems planning and thinking things through
  • struggling with familiar daily tasks, like following a recipe or using a bank card
  • issues with language and communication, for example trouble remembering the right word or keeping up with a conversation
  • problems judging distances (even though eyesight is fine)
  • mood changes and difficulties controlling emotions. For example, someone might get unusually sad, frightened, angry, easily upset, or lose their self-confidence and become withdrawn.

Symptoms of dementia gradually get worse over time. How quickly this happens varies from person to person – and some people stay independent for years.

 

  1. People can still live well with dementia

Although there is no cure for dementia, scientists and researchers are working hard to find one. Until that day comes, support and treatments are available that can help with symptoms and managing daily life. These can allow people with dementia to lead active, purposeful lives and carry on doing the things that matter to them most.

There are drugs available that may help with some types of dementia and stop symptoms progressing for a while. This is one reason why it’s important to go to the GP as soon as you suspect there’s a problem.

Other things that can help with symptoms of dementia include:

  • cognitive stimulation, which might involve doing word puzzles or discussing current affairs
  • life story work, sharing memories and experiences with a carer or nurse to create a ‘life story book’
  • keeping as active as possible – physically, mentally and socially – which can boost memory and self-esteem, and help avoid depression.

Researchers are working with people with dementia and their families to look into the causes of dementia.

They’re looking at how it might be prevented and diagnosed earlier, and how to improve quality of life for people living with the condition. The more we understand, the more we can do to help people stay independent and live the life they want for as long as possible.

Call the Alzheimer’s Society’s National Dementia Helpline on 0300 222 11 22 if you’d like to talk to someone for information, support or advice.

In the meantime, at DoCare we are joining in national Cupcake Day on June 15, when we will be making and selling cupcakes, all to raise money for Alzheimer’s Society. Do pop into our head office in Stroud and support us.

This blog was written by Una Mills, DoCare Director. If you have a relative who you think would benefit from DoCare’s services, or would like assistance yourself, please get in touch. If you are interested in a rewarding career as a support worker, we would love to hear from you – please give us a call or you can apply online.

 

 

 

May 11th, 2017

We always love it when scientists corroborate something that we have always instinctively known, and this happened again recently.

Australian researchers have shown that doing moderate exercise several times a week is the best way to keep the mind sharp if you’re over 50.

A review of 39 studies showed thinking and memory skills were most improved when people exercised the heart and muscles on a regular basis.

What is really good news, is that according to the research published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine this is true of people who already showed signs of cognitive decline.

Even for those less able to take demanding physical exercise, activities like gentle T’ai Chi are highly beneficial.

We already know that exercise is a great way to reduce the risk of physical diseases, like type 2 diabetes and some cancers, but it’s great to find out it also helps ward off the brain’s natural decline as we enter middle age.

The theory is that through exercise the brain receives a greater supply of blood, oxygen and nutrients that boost its health as well as a growth hormone that helps the formation of new neurons and connections.

Joe Northey, study author and researcher from the Research Institute for Sport and Exercise at Canberra, said: “Even if you are doing moderate exercise only once or twice a week there are still improvements in cognitive function, but the improvements were better the more exercise was done.”

We know from our experience at DoCare, that many of our clients find exercise a challenge. But it seems from this research that even sitting in a chair, doing simple leg and arm movements, will be a great help.

This blog was written by Christine Ryder, DoCare Team Leader. If you have a relative who you think would benefit from DoCare’s services, or would like assistance yourself, please get in touch. If you are interested in a rewarding career as a support worker, we would love to hear from you – please give us a call or you can apply online.

 

 

April 13th, 2017

We were amazed to read about new research by scientists at the University of York, which suggests that there is a potential link between eating Marmite and activity in the brain.

Marmite - beneficial link to brain activity

Here’s an excerpt from the Alzheimer’s Society’s new release:

The study found that participants consuming a teaspoon of Marmite every day for a month, compared to a control group who consumed peanut butter, showed a substantial reduction of around 30 per cent in their brain’s response to visual stimuli, measured by recording electrical activity using electroencephalography (EEG).

Commenting on the research Dr James Pickett, Head of Research at Alzheimer’s Society said:

“Evidence shows that our diet plays an important role in the way our brain functions. This research only looked at how people in their 20s responded to visual stimuli rather than testing their thinking or memory, so there’s no way to say from this study whether eating Marmite can affect your dementia risk. But the study does give us a deeper understanding of how certain aspects of diet could affect the function of nerve cells in the brain.

“Along with eating a healthy diet, the best ways to reduce your risk of dementia are to exercise regularly, avoid smoking and keep your blood pressure in check.”

At DoCare, we’re not sure if this is definitely good news for Marmite lovers. What we are pleased with is the extent of the research which is being undertaken into brain activity, and the potential causes of and cures for dementia.

The more work that is done, the closer we are to finding a solution to this condition.

This blog was written by Jinny Searle. DoCare Team Leader. If you have a relative who you think would benefit from DoCare’s services, or would like assistance yourself, please get in touch. If you are interested in a rewarding career as a support worker, we would love to hear from you – please give us a call or you can apply online.

April 12th, 2017

 

This year for the first time we did something different with our office Christmas tree, and turned it into a ‘memory’ tree. Our staff and their families were invited to hang up a little card with a message for a loved one who had passed away.

DoCare's memory tree

DoCare’s memory tree

The idea worked well, and was very popular. We had messages left for parents and grandparents, and some children also wrote messages; it was very touching.

Of course, we eventually had to take the Christmas tree down, but we wanted to keep the cards that had been hung on it. And it gave us the idea to have a permanent place for people to leave a memory or a message.

So now we have a permanent ‘tree’ in the office. We are rehanging all the cards that were left on our Christmas memory tree, and are inviting staff and their families, and also clients and their families to add cards as and when they wish.

Our team have access to cards, so when a client passes away, they can invite the families to add a card to the tree. We believe in a small way this may help with the grieving process.

 

This blog was written by Una Mills, DoCare Director. If you have a relative who you think would benefit from DoCare’s services, or would like assistance yourself, please get in touch. If you are interested in a rewarding career as a support worker, we would love to hear from you – please give us a call or you can apply online.

 

 

March 28th, 2017

Most people love to get out and about, our clients included. But for some elderly people, or those with mobility difficulties, rambling through the countryside may be too much to manage.

Arthur and Daxi

Arthur and Daxi

One of our clients who hasn’t been put off by his lack of mobility is Arthur, who has multiple sclerosis and who is supported by our Cirencester team.

Arthur has an off-road buggy – a Tramper – which enables him to enjoy the countryside even though he is no longer able to walk. Our support workers hoist Arthur from his wheelchair to his Tramper, then off we go, along with Daxi (Arthur’s assistance dog from Canine Partners).

The Tramper can negotiate all sorts of terrain, including mud, snow and sand. Arthur’s was given to him by his late father. But the good news is, they can be hired.

We’ve come across two organisations – The Disabled Ramblers and Countryside Mobility – whose aim is to get people with poor mobility out into the countryside.

Countryside Mobility South West is a not for profit mobility equipment hire scheme working to improve access to the countryside for people with limited mobility living in and visiting the South West region.

The Disabled Ramblers exists to help mobility-challenged people get back out into the countryside.  They ramble in all weathers and over a variety of terrain, and rambles are graded according to difficulty. About 30 rambles are run each year across England and Wales – mostly from March to October.

Getting out and about is great for health and wellbeing and combating feelings of isolation experienced by many people who are elderly or with poor mobility, so any organisations that help in this area have to be applauded.

This blog was written by Bianca Thomas, one of our support workers. If you have a relative who you think would benefit from DoCare’s services, or would like assistance yourself, please get in touch.  If you are interested in a rewarding career as a support worker, we would love to hear from you – please give us a call or you can apply online.

 

March 15th, 2017

Do you remember Bill and Ben the Flowerpot Men? Or the theme tune to the Old Grey Whistle Test? Depending on your age, you probably do.

And if you live with dementia, or have a friend or family member who has the condition, it is likely you (or they) remember them too. Because these old memories often stay with a person when other memories have gone.

So we were delighted to hear that the BBC has launched a permanent archive of pictures, audio and video clips as part of a project to help people with dementia, their family and carers, using their extensive archive to spark conversation.

Since a pilot scheme was launched last year, three-quarters of the 17,000 people who have used the archive reported that it triggered long-term memories they did not realise still existed.

The BBC has now confirmed it will make the resources permanent and easier to navigate, giving viewers a “natural way” to stimulate conversation and reminiscences. It is called the BBC Reminiscence Archive (BBC RemArc) and you can access it here.

The footage includes many ordinary scenes from each decade from the 1950s onwards, including children playing, football matches and familiar journeys by train and tube.

Other clips include popular television and radio programme throughout the ages, from Sir David Attenborough’s famous 1950s encounters in ZooQuest right up to the Generation Game, Blue Peter and Playschool.

BBC RemArc was created by the BBC’s Archive Development team in conjunction with Dundee University, the University of St Andrews and the Alzheimer’s Society.

Containing around 1,500 items from the BBC Archives, it showcases around 250 video clips, 250 audio clips and more than 1,000 images from the 1930s to the 2000s.

Scenes show a young Sir Michael Parkinson, Sir Patrick Moore, and Delia Smith in their element, while Alistair Cooke broadcasts his Postcards from America and Jacob Bronowski describes The Ascent Of Man in 1973.

News footage includes Royal visits by the Queen and Duke of Edinburgh, speeches by Margaret Thatcher when Prime Minister and a film of the moon landings.

Dr Norman Alm, an honorary research fellow at Dundee University, said: “I have again and again seen the difference between interacting with and without this kind of carefully-designed technological help – and the difference is unbelievable.

“RemArc is a boon to people with dementia and just as importantly to their carers, who can sit back, relax, and enjoy the conversation, with RemArc doing all the heavy-lifting of supporting the interaction and keeping it lively, engaging, and importantly, unpredictable.”

Kathryn Smith, director of operations at Alzheimer’s Society says: “Dementia affects 850,000 people in the UK today and this is set to rise to one million by 2021. It’s more important than ever that people with dementia are supported to live well with their condition.”

We have to say that, at DoCare – where we support many clients and their families, who are living with dementia – we think this is a marvellous resource and will be using it as part of our mission to make every day a better day.

 

This blog was written by Kate Townsend, DoCare’s Field Manager.  If you have a relative who you think would benefit from DoCare’s services, or would like assistance yourself, please get in touch.  If you are interested in a rewarding career as a support worker, we would love to hear from you – please give us a call or you can apply online.

 

 

 

March 10th, 2017

This week, Chancellor Philip Hammond unveiled his first, and last, spring Budget and among the many announcements was one that was music to our ears at DoCare – an increase in funding for social care.

Mr Hammond announced that councils will receive an extra £2bn to fund adult social care over the next three years: £1bn of the cash will be released in 2017-18 to allow councils to “act now” and commission more social care packages to “relieve pressures on the NHS”. The remaining funding will be provided in 2018-19 and 2019-20.

We can’t be sure at this stage how much this funding will help – will it make a big difference or will it just be a sticking plaster, patching up a severely underfunded social care system?

There is also a concern that the money may not reach the frontline services, where it is sorely needed.

Colin Angel, policy director of the UK Homecare Association (UKHCA), of which DoCare is a member, said: “At first sight, the Chancellor’s budget appears to be good news for the social care sector in the short term. While councils are expected to spend public money wisely, there are few apparent measures to ensure that this additional funding reaches frontline social care services where it is most needed, rather than plugging gaps in existing budgets.

“It has been encouraging to hear government acknowledge the pressures on the social care system, and that it will publish a green paper later this year to look at longer term solutions to support care services for older and disabled people. We should be aware, however, that green papers do not themselves create a change in government policy, so optimism about the long-term future must be tempered by an awareness that a sustainable solution is still some way off. For any long-term solution to be effective, government must fully involve provider organisations in shaping a new direction for adult social care.”

We’d absolutely endorse this at DoCare: the extra funding is welcome, but it’s just one step on the road.

In the meantime, we’ll carry on providing a quality service to our clients, striving to make every day a better day for them.

This blog was written by DoCare Director Steve Mills.  If you have a relative who you think would benefit from DoCare’s services, or would like assistance yourself, please get in touch.  If you are interested in a rewarding career as a support worker, we would love to hear from you – please give us a call or you can apply online.

March 8th, 2017

Recently the media reported on a new Commission on Loneliness set up in Parliament, in memory of the murdered MP Jo Cox.

For the first time a cross-party group of MPs, policy-makers and more than a dozen leading organisations have come together to expose the growing crisis of loneliness and find ways to overcome it.

The Jo Cox Commission on Loneliness will be working throughout 2017 with the following partners – Action for Children, Age UK, Alzheimer’s Society, The British Red Cross, The Campaign to End Loneliness, Carers UK, The Co-op, Eden Project Communities, Independent Age, Refugee Action, Royal Voluntary Service, Sense and The Silver Line – to shine a light on different aspects of loneliness and the positive steps we can all take to combat it.

Research carried out by the organisations involved with the commission show more than nine million people admit they are “always or often lonely” – with two thirds of those saying they would never admit it in public. It also describes how the British instinct to “put a brave face on it” is masking a social crisis.

As Jo herself put it, “young or old, loneliness doesn’t discriminate…it is something many of us could easily help with. Looking in on a neighbour, visiting an elderly relative or making that call or visit we’ve been promising to a friend we haven’t seen in a long time.”

At DoCare, most of our clients are elderly and many of them live alone. They have supportive and loving families, but we know some feel lonely. We do all we can to make their day a better day, but we’re aware that in some cases our support workers are the only visitors they have.

Loneliness is a problem, and we think this Commission is a fantastic way to highlight it and to see what can be done. Working together has to be the answer.

You can find out more information about the Commission here. There is lots of information about services you can access, or if you want to help and volunteer, at the website for the Campaign to End Loneliness.

 

This blog was written by Una Mills, DoCare Director. If you have a relative who you think would benefit from DoCare’s services, or would like assistance yourself, please get in touch. If you are interested in a rewarding career as a support worker, we would love to hear from you – please give us a call or you can apply online.

March 1st, 2017

We’re now in our 13th year at DoCare, and our company has changed in many ways. Whereas we started with just myself, Una and one client, we now employ dozens of fantastic support workers, have a brilliant head office team and – of course – many, many clients. They all make up the DoCare family.

We’re alawys sad when one of our team leaves, and recently Will – our client services co-ordinator – left to go to Korea to teach English. Will had joined us when he graduated from university, and was a brilliant and versatile member of the team, so we will miss him.

But this has given us an opportunity to review the client services co-ordinator role. We are always looking for ways to innovate and improve, and we saw an opportunity here.

So our new client services role will be broader than the last, to reflect the size of the business but at the same time ensuring we remain true to our ethos, of delivering a better day for our clients.

Our new co-ordinator will be tasked with:

  • Spotting where we have spare capacity
  • Making that capacity available to potential new clients
  • Helping speed up and ease the process of getting clients home from hospital
  • Making the best of our resources to give the best value to our clients
  • Shaping and improving our client services team

An important goal for us it to move towards a full seven day service, so we can take on new clients at any time. We believe this links well with the planned extended services of GP practices and hospital doctors, and will be better for our clients.

We’re excited about the new role and are looking forward to putting somebody in post.

And because Will is moving to Korea, I’m reminded of a Korean saying, “Shi-jaki bani-da”, which means “Starting is half the task”. And that’s how it seems to me – we’re still just starting in our pursuit of making every day a better day for those we support.

 

This blog was written by Steve Mills, DoCare Director. If you have a relative who you think would benefit from DoCare’s services, or would like assistance yourself, please get in touch. If you are interested in a rewarding career as a support worker, we would love to hear from you – please give us a call or you can apply online.

 

 

 

 

January 24th, 2017

 

Many of our clients love their pets. Their pets keep them company, give them love and friendship and help combat feelings of loneliness and isolation.

Sadly, many of our clients are no longer able or are allowed to have pets, either because of where they live or because of their ability to cope. Some make up for this by having toy dogs and cats – or even teddy bears – as companions. But this isn’t quite the same as having a real animal.

So we were delighted to hear about a charity based in Cornwall, which helps support elderly people who want to keep their pets but need some extra help to be able to do so.

The Cinnamon Trust’s main aim is to respect and preserve the treasured relationship between owners and their pets. To this end it works in partnership with owners to overcome any difficulties that might arise. A national network of more than 15,000 community service volunteers provide practical help when any aspect of day to day care poses a problem – for example, walking the dog for a housebound owner.

A national fostering service is provided for pets whose owners face a spell in hospital – volunteers take pets into their own homes and supply love and care in abundance until owner and pet can be reunited.

The Cinnamon Trust also provides long-term care for pets whose owners have died or moved to accommodation which will not accept pets. Arrangements are made between owners and the Trust well in advance, so owners have peace of mind in the knowledge that their beloved companion will have a safe and happy future.

When a pet is in the Trust’s care either short-term or long-term because the owner is in care, the owner is kept in touch with visits, if possible, or regular photos and letters.

The Cinnamon Trust helps 32,142 people a year with 41,342 animals and runs two home from home sanctuaries. As a charity, it needs funds to cover the costs and volunteers to help run the service and care for the animals.

If you are interested in helping the Cinnamon Trust, or using its services for yourself or a family member, here are the contact details: call 01736 757 900 or write to The Cinnamon Trust, 10 Market Square, Hayle, Cornwall, TR27 4HE.

This blog was written by Andrea Baird, DoCare’s Employee Services and Support Administrator.  If you have a relative who you think would benefit from DoCare’s services, or would like assistance yourself, please get in touch.  If you are interested in a rewarding career as a support worker, we would love to hear from you – please give us a call or you can apply online.