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Joan was born in London in 1933, where she lived with her mother and father in a flat in Putney. She remembers the outbreak of World War Two being announced via a town crier who rushed through the streets. Joan’s mother accepted the dangers of living in London, but she couldn’t bear for Joan to be evacuated to an unknown place to live with strangers. So, she took matters into her own hands and made enquiries with a family friend who worked in a vicarage in Hoby, Melton Mowbray. The vicarage agreed to host Joan for the duration of the war and so she went on the train to Melton Mowbray aged only six!
Joan reminisces about her time in Melton Mowbray with fondness noting that the tiny village only had one shop, a small junior school, a church and the vicarage. There was no running water, electricity or toilet facilities there despite these amenities being common in London at this time. Water had to be gathered from the well and a cart came round to collect the sewage. But despite this Joan admits she really enjoyed life there and her 5 years away went by very quickly. She saw animals and fields for the first time and even helped the Land Army girls pick potatoes – they were glad for her help! She got involved with the church, learning lots of hymns and helped pump the organ for 50p.
After the war, Joan’s family moved to Maidenhead in time for her to start secondary school. Joan admits she didn’t always concentrate at school, but she’s always been very artistic. After leaving school aged 15, Joan worked as a sale assistant in Marks and Spencers in Maidenhead High Street and then for British Railways. However, her favourite job was as a wedding photographer, where she often photographed 2-3 weddings every Saturday. She would develop black and white prints in her bathroom for her friends. For Joan, it’s photography that has shown the biggest change during her lifetime, she can’t believe the quality of mobile phone cameras now! Or that mobile phones even exist as she only got her first one about five years ago.
Another one of Joan’s talents is her French language skills. After studying French at school, Joan continuing teaching herself using records. When she met a French lady on the train to work and struck up a conversation with her and they remain friends sixty years later. Joan’s first holiday outside the UK was in 1956 when she went to see her in Paris.
Looking back on her experiences, Joan thinks the most important lesson in life is to always listen. She was taught the importance of listening when she sent to etiquette lessons in London aged 6 and this lesson has stayed with her throughout her life.
Since retiring aged 60, Joan has remained happily living in Maidenhead. Her hobbies now include reading and listening to her favourite singer, Susan Boyle.
So, the Chancellor has heard the clamour that social care for the elderly is in crisis by offering a ‘rescue package’ of £2bn in additional funds over the next 3 years. Obviously, it would be curt to dismiss this effort but will this really make a difference? The questions to consider are
• How much of this money will actually make its way to front-line care activities?
• Will we see an increase in the numbers of elderly people receiving care?
• Or even an increase in the rates Councils expect providers (and our staff) to work for?
• Will Councils still expect providers to charge self funders extra to make up the difference between costs and Council rates?
The size of the problem is that while the headlines in this budget are for Council funded care, they only account for 22% of the elderly population over the age of 65 that are estimated in needing assistance with care. On another point, if you didn’t catch it this rescue package is not solely for the elderly care needs but it’s a pot to be shared across both services for the elderly, and younger adults with disabilities!
I am disappointed that there was nothing in this budget for people who have to pay either fully or partially for their care; Nothing to the 1.5m people that are cared for by family or friends; and nothing for those estimated 1m people that struggle by with little or no help. There was also nothing for providers who face increased costs in pensions, living wages and a huge hike in CQC Registration costs!
Sadly, I fear the elderly care crisis will continue with the most obvious signs being on the viability of providers (and their underfunded care staff) and on the NHS. I’m not even sure that the distance to the potential cliff-edge failure of social care has been increased! I very much welcome the possibility of a Green Paper from the Government later this year but any Paper must consider the whole issue and not just be dominated by Local Authority self interest. We repeat our call for the Government to appoint a Minister for the Elderly for ensure all the elderly in England are considered and that a comprehensive, integrated approach is arrived at.
The recent spell of hot weather brought the familiar debate over whether my shorts and T-shirts had shrunk over the winter months, or it was time to recommence my annual and largely unsuccessful fight against flab. It is a familiar story for many of us, with fears about obesity and the associated health risks dominating.
Unfortunately, while being overweight is clearly a health issue, which receives much prominence in the press, at the other end of the spectrum we have those suffering with malnourishment. This is often forgotten, yet recent researched shows that in 2015 there were around three million people in the UK that were malnourished or at risk of being malnourished. A million of these being over the age of 65. Elderly people living at home on their own may have a tendency not to eat wisely or drink enough
. Our appetites appear to diminish as we get older. Some of our customers have said the lack of sociability of eating alone and the effort of preparing a balanced meal for one person sometimes makes them lose their appetite. One of my lovely lady customers always tells me “Why worry? It’s not like I’m at the size I was when I was a young woman.” For others it can be a reduced sense of taste or smell or the recognition that they’re doing less exercise. There has also been research that suggests malnutrition can be linked to poor mobility, where older people are unable to stand or reach meaning they cannot use their kitchen safely. Furthermore, those living which dementia frequently miss meals due to their lack of memory. Meanwhile, doctors tell me that as we grow older, our kidneys become less effective. Our older bodies are not as good at hydrating and then conserving water making it easier for us to become dehydrated.
Why should we worry about good eating and drinking habits for the elderly? Statistically, malnourished older people visit their GP twice as often, experience more hospital admissions and have longer lengths of stay. People that don’t eat and drink well also have an increased risk of infection and urinary tract infections and have longer recovery times from illness. In short, the easiest way to avoid regular periods of hospital confinement is to eat well and take on sufficient fluids. So, if we can save on the number of visits to hospital we may yet save the NHS!
When considering eating and drinking well Halcyon carers are trained to follow these “rules” and I recommend you adopt when dealing with an elderly loved one.
1. Present a meal which is appetising. Don’t forget the setting of the table or tray and think like you’re serving to a customer in a restaurant.
2. Consider whether by joining someone at the table while they eat may result in more food and nourishment being taken in. It can be lonely eating alone but don’t make yourself an unwanted guest!
3. Let’s provide appropriate sized meals. Many older people came from a generation where leaving something on a plate was socially scorned. So let’s encourage people to have the satisfaction of finishing their meals and agree to abandon the “no clean plate, no dessert rule”.
4. Serve a drink with every meal and leave a drink within easy reach when you go.
5. We strongly believe as in all elderly care that there is a principal of “Use it … or lose it”. So, please do encourage safe participation in preparing the meal.
6. Variety is good for diet and appetite. Let’s abolish the mandatory cheese sandwich for lunch and offer imaginative alternative suggestions.
7. Don’t accept “ I ate earlier” without searching for evidence that some eating took place, for example, dirty dishes and foods still left out.
8. If someone really isn’t hungry make a “deal” to leave something out but agree you’re going to check it’s been eaten when you come back!
9. If you have suspicions about fluid intake levels use a jug that has a measure down the side to fill glasses and celebrate when it gets emptied.
10. If snacks are a normal part of a diet try and avoid products with too much sugar or salt.