Sad to hear this week that Pfizer, the worlds largest research-based pharmaceutical company, so they say, are halting the development of any new drugs designed to tackle Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease, with the loss of 300 jobs from their centres in Cambridge, UK; Andover, Mass., and Groton, Conn. Despite heavily funding research efforts into potential treatments in the past, Pfizer has faced high-profile disappointment in recent years from a number of different drug trials. This is a huge blow in the search for an effective drug to halt or slow both diseases just as some huge leaps are being made in other areas of diagnosis and treatment.
Any successful drug in this area would be seen by many in the pharmaceutical industry and others as having a multi-billion pound (dollar) sales potential and ongoing trials are a crucial beacon of hope for many people living with dementia and their families, so recovering from this may take a long while. Maybe we should not be leaving these decisions to private companies, perhaps its time to look at a different model for funding drug research that would make medicines more accessible to all. The World Economic Forum looked at this back in 2015 and this article, Can Megafunds Boost Drug Research?, certainly makes interesting reading now as we struggle to find new antibiotics, as well as new neurological enhancing drugs to tackle one of the World’s most costly disease processes. I’d be interested to hear what other people think.
Totally different topic and this is via the BGS Blog. This week they have published a collection of 8 articles from the last 10 years that demonstrate the way in which the application of qualitative research methods within the social science disciplines of sociology, anthropology and social psychology can enrich understanding of ageing and illness. Does sound like the greatest set of reading ever, but I am sure that if you look there will be something to love on the list!
Now at a time when the Government and all of the national media looks hell-bent on convincing everyone here in the UK that the NHS is broken, rather than being underfunded and under-resourced in terms of staff and beds; there has been very little space given to the published results of the 2010 NHS Survey of Inpatients and a BMJ paper published this month which shows that Patients’ unfavourable views of hospital care in England are strongly linked to insufficient numbers of nurses on duty, rather than uncaring staff, indicates observational research. The paper was published in the online journal BMJ Open so it’s not exactly hidden from journalists politicians etc.
Perhaps pointing out that the number of vacancies in the NHS has soared by 15.8% over the last year, prompting warnings that the service is facing “desperate” problems of understaffing is not what politicians want you to hear. Particularly concerning were the figures for England released in July 2017 by NHS Digital that showed that the number of full-time equivalent posts available rose from 26,424 in March 2016 to 30,613 in March 2017 – the highest number on record.
What this has done is fuel a public view that the NHS is worse than it used to be and that staff are less caring etc. The reality is really very different as any9one working for it knows. Can we please celebrate the success of the NHS at 70 (which happens on the 5th. of July 2018) and stop trying to undermine it. Yes the NHS does need to be reformed, but it would help to see it properly staffed first.
This week I was involved in publishing a Blog for “Ageing Issues” The blogging space for members of the British Society of Gerontology (BSG) where they discuss contemporary issues raised by ageing societies. The blog was about the BSG small event we held here @uwshealth in Hamilton in August. To read more about it see:
Another great find this week. The Joseph Rowntree Foundation this month launched a new Data Information Source that collects together the latest UK poverty data, statistics and analysis from the JRF’s Analysis Unit. This page is a great tool for to finding information about poverty rates and related issues in the United Kingdom and you can access it from here:
UK Poverty Data
A strange piece of augury last week picking a ‘Care home for 4 year-olds’ as my topic. Today a report by the group United for all Ages warns that there is a widening gap between older and younger generations, largely fuelled by the UK housing crisis, which has forced young people to live in cheaper urban areas, while their parents and grandparents live in the suburbs or the countryside. They say that urgent action is needed to create 500 shared sites across the country by 2022 to try and end ‘age apartheid’ in Britain.
Britain is one of the most age-segregated countries in the world, particularly for the oldest and youngest generations and age segregation has been growing in recent decades
Their report called Mixing Matters was published today (5 January 2018). Worth downloading and reading (even the News Release) to get an idea just how divided a society we are becoming.
Shared sites, such as care-home nurseries (as featured on Channel 4); opening up sheltered housing schemes to students in return for volunteering and support; expanding the Homeshare scheme where older people let spare rooms to young people in return for practical support and companionship; Locating reception and year one classes for primary school children in care homes, as demonstrated by shared sites in the USA; and tackling the stigma around ageism and dementia by encouraging school pupils to visit care homes as part of the national curriculum bring young and old together and are practical methods for tackling some of the big social ills facing our country – from poor health and care and loneliness to ageism and division.
What’s not to like about this!
Earlier this year Channel 4 in the UK ran a documentary series where pre-schoolers shared their classroom with pensioners from a retirement home in Bristol for six weeks. The two programmes can still be viewed on Catch up at All 4
Just before Christmas to highlight the problem of isolation over the holidays as an issue for older people at Christmas a new programme was created in the same format that brought the pensioners and their young friends together again as they prepare for a Christmas concert.
For a bit of life-affirming and interesting television take a look at Old People’s Home for 4-Year-Olds: Christmas
The coldest day of the winter so far with temperatures plunging below minus 13C in Scotland happened this week on the 28th. of December. A good time again to remind everyone to look out for and pop in to see their older neighbours. Make sure they have enough food are staying warm because you could be saving their lives. Remember, the estimates are that 80 frail and vulnerable people per day in the UK are at risk of dying as a result of fuel poverty. Interested in finding out more about fuel poverty there is a charity called Energy Action Scotland (EAS) which campaigns for an end to fuel poverty in Scotland and is the only national charity with this sole remit. If you want to know more about what they do Click Here!
Firstly a Very Merry Christmas to everyone who reads this that celebrates. If you don’t, hope you are enjoying the winter solstice which is a much older festival and was celebrated more widely (Stonehenge for example is aligned to sunrise on the winter solstice).
So after a few weeks of mainly single topics this week I have decided to be a bit more eclectic!
Firtly, its good to see that Age UK have just launched a new resource which offers practical advice on providing the kind of services in which older lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT) people can feel safe to be themselves. Called the Safe to be me resource guide, it has been written for anyone working or volunteering in health, social care or the voluntary sector who supports older people who are LGBT. It will also prove useful for people involved in training because it encourages them integrate discussions and scenarios relating to the needs of people who are LGBT into what they provide.
Secondly another of these great papers which tells you more about the things you take for granted. This time its about the healing power of music! An easy thing to say and something we are all probably aware of BUT what is music actually doing?
Well this paper from a team based at the University of Helsinki in Finland has a go at answering that question for people with neurological conditions. It is a literature review that looks at music’s potential for aiding the rehabilitation of people with various neurological conditions. Evidence of an impact is greatest for stroke and dementia, but music-based interventions can also help cognition, motor function and emotional well-being in people with Parkinson’s disease, epilepsy and multiple sclerosis. More of their findings can be found HERE
Finally and totally unrelated to anything above, I found an open access literature review on appropriate ways to measure lying and standing blood pressure in hospital for frail older adults. So for all of you concerned about older people who fall frequently possibly because of postural hypertension here is a guide to the:
Measurement of lying and standing blood pressure in hospital
Can we have more open access article like this RCNi?
Went to an event hosted by the Holyrood Magazine this week which looked at the challenges and progress of the Third National Dementia Strategy here in Scotland the highlight of which was the announcement of the release of this report by the Care Inspectorate. The report follows a year-long focused analysis of 145 care homes for older people by the Care Inspectorate, Scotland’s social care scrutiny and improvement body.
Inspectors noted that although more than half of care homes were now delivering good quality care, more could be done to challenge expectations of what living with dementia means and the quality of care that can be provided.
The report examined the way Scotland’s national standards of care for dementia in Scotland were being met.
The Standards of Care for Dementia in Scotland, which are set by the Scottish Government, were developed to meet three principle aims: help people with dementia and their carers to understand and protect their rights, indicate to care, providers, what is expected of them and improve the quality of dementia care homes.
The inspection focus found that more than a third of people living with dementia (35%) had no access to independent advocacy to help them express their needs and expectations.
It also found that while 55% of care homes had provision for ongoing organised activities every day of the week, 10% of care homes did not provide any opportunities for people to keep active and engaged.
So lots of progress, but more still needs to be done. To download and view the full report click here
If you want to know more about what the care Inspectorate do and more about their campaigns they have there own YouTube Channel click here to view
This week in Public Health England’s Health Matters Blog they have chosen to focus on older people’s Musculoskeletal (MSK) Health. A good time of year to focus on this as today the outside temperature across most of Scotland today fell to -2 degrees Celsius. So its a high risk of falls day (and a put on your big coat day as we’d say here)
The Public Health Blog focusses on the burden of the three groups of MSK conditions:
- Inflammatory conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis
- Conditions of musculoskeletal pain such as osteoarthritis and back pain
- Osteoporosis and fragility fractures such as fracture after fall
As well as age, the prevalence of MSK conditions is being fuelled by rising levels of physical inactivity and obesity, and poor health habits such as smoking. MSK conditions are a substantial problem for individuals and the NHS. The blog looks at how local authorities, commissioners, healthcare professionals, and the private and voluntary sectors can all contribute towards promoting productive healthy ageing and preventing the onset of MSK conditions. It includes a set of infographics and slides to support local commissioning and service delivery, as well as best practice case studies, so why not have a look and make use of them. See