Strengthening the Human Rights of Older People

Guess where I was this week! Murrayfield, but not for the rugby! It was Dementia Champions Cohort 8 & 8.1 and DISL’s Cohort 2  graduation. Proud to be part of the team delivering these important programmes in improving health and social care for people living with dementia. For more details here is avery short video about the graduation.

So what else has been happening?

Help Age International has called again for a UN Convention on the Rights of Older People. Their newest report called “Entitled to the Same Rights” in which older women speak out about their rights shows again that the existing human rights mechanisms fail to adequately protect and promote the rights of older people. They are suggesting that a new international convention on the rights of older people, is the most effective way to make sure that all people enjoy their human rights in older age, and on an equal basis with others. There is more about what they want the Convention to include and you can download the report at

You can find out more about supporting the campaign for older people by getting involved with their global Age Demands Action campaign.

If you are part of an organisation you can join the Global Alliance for the Rights of Older People and work with other agencies seeking to promote and strengthen the rights of older people.

You might also want to find out about the UN’s Open-ended Working Group on Ageing who have been looking at producing a human rights framework for older people since 2010. See

It’s about time they got a move on!



Finally Getting Recognition and a Million Euros!


This week brought recognition to four neuroscientists who received the Lundbeck Foundation’s Brain Prize for their crucial research into Alzheimer’s Disease. The four scientists are Bart De Strooper from Belgium, Michel Goedert from Luxembourg, Christian Haass from Germany and John Hardy from the UK. They have been recognised for their highly specialised studies of Alzheimer’s disease and other dementia disorders and are now being awarded the world’s most valuable prize for brain research, the 2018 Brain Prize, worth 1 million euros (approximately 7.5 million Danish kroner).

Together, these four internationally respected neuroscientists have revolutionised our understanding of the harmful changes in the brain that lead to Alzheimer’s disease.

So what did they do? This is taken from the Lundbeck Foundation’s own news release about the awards and thank goodness I didn’t have to translate this from Danish.

So let’s start from scratch

German doctor Alois Alzheimer described the disease as far back as 1906, but no-one yet knows what causes its onset. Alzheimer’s primarily affects older people but can be seen in many adults under 65 years of age. Once the disease develops, brain cells gradually die and proteins accumulate both between the brain cells (beta-amyloid plaques) and inside the brain cells (tau tangles). These proteins have a function in the normal brain, but in people living with Alzheimer’s they are produced in an abnormal form, causing them to accumulate which leads to the disease.

So what have the prize winners contributed to our knowledge

“By the nineties, prizewinner Christian Haass already knew that beta-amyloid is not the result of a pathogenic process but that the protein forms naturally from precursors. Haass also identified and described the secretase enzymes which control its formation. Thanks to Haass’ research, we now know that the accumulation of beta-amyloid between brain cells is due to an imbalance in the production and the clearance of amyloid.

Bart De Strooper’s significant contribution was to describe in detail how the secretases are constructed and how they function. This insight led to the development of drugs which either lower production or increase clearance of beta-amyloid.

Michel Goedert has proved that the tau protein is the most important constituent of the tangles we see inside the neurons in Alzheimer’s. Goedert was also instrumental in proving it likely that tau itself plays a role in the development of Alzheimer’s.

Steen Hasselbalch, Professor at the University of Copenhagen and Alzheimer’s specialist, says: “Goedert’s most recent and very exciting discovery is that tau can spread within the brain. With this discovery, Goedert has shown that Alzheimer’s is more than just an accumulation of beta-amyloid. It has given us valuable new ideas for the development of therapies.”

Finally, John Hardy’s work focuses on the genetic mutations that can cause Alzheimer’s. In rare cases, Alzheimer’s disease is inherited, and there are families in which the risk of contracting the disease from one parent is 50%. Based on his genetic studies, John Hardy and his co-workers were the driving force behind the hypothesis that accumulation of beta-amyloid is the cause of Alzheimer’s disease. “

Their research achievements form the basis for development of the drugs that are currently tested as therapies for the disease.

All 4 are going to Denmark on 9 May to receive the Brain Prize at a ceremony in the Royal Danish Library Black Diamonds Building.

There is a bit more about their success on the BBC Health pages at

Alzheimer’s researchers win brain prize

Older People, Scams and Fraud


People lose an estimated £10bn to fraud every year. People of all ages and backgrounds are victims. However, older people are over- represented as victims of particular frauds, including pension and investment scams, postal scams, doorstep scams and telephone scams. Some older people are especially at risk, either because they are deliberately targeted or because they are vulnerable, for example if they are bereaved, lonely or living with dementia. The financial and health impacts can be devastating. Consider for example that people defrauded in their own homes are 2.5 times more likely to either die or go into residential care within a year.
OK, so I have made my point, but why has this come to my attention this week. Age UK and Action Fraud (who are the UK’s National Fraud and Cyber Crime Reporting centre), have joined forces to launch new pilot programme to combat scams targeting older Londoners. The new programme will initially be piloted in London with the aim of creating a prevention model that can be rolled out nationally. The programme aims to support older victims, and raise awareness of scams more widely to help empower older people to feel more confident at spotting and avoiding scams.
So I am not living anywhere near London. I am disappointed there is only one pilot site but happy that at least something is being done and thought, ‘I could do my bit to raise awareness particularly given the health consequences of being scammed.’ You can find out more about these from a great little Age UK booklet called “Older People Frauds and Scams” which you can download HERE, it was released in October 2017.
If you want to know more about the scams prevention and victim support pilot programme just click the blue link.
There is also a  video accompanying the new programme which you can access on this  Age UK News page
Which? on their elderly care pages also have a link to an advice guide and directory on their Scams and Older People page. There is also a nice little booklet from Citizens Advice Scotland from 2014; Called “Scammed and Dangerous: The Impact of Fraudsters” just in case you need to more about this problem and its impact up here in Scotland
Now all this information is no good just posted here so if you read this far, please share this with the people you know who will benefit. (That’s just about everyone!)

Do We Still Want Docile?

Sorry I went “missing” for a week, nothing unfortunate, just a holiday where I didn’t have the time or reliable access to the internet to sort my post out. I think its quite a while since I went a whole week without posting.

I’m back this week and many thanks to Kate Swaffer for bringing this to my attention. This month saw the release of a Human Rights Report into misuse of anti-psychotic medication in dementia care in USA

The report ‘They Want Docile’: How Nursing Homes in the United States Overmedicate People with Dementia, estimates that every week in US nursing facilities, more than 179,000 people, mostly older and living with dementia, are given anti-psychotic drugs without a diagnosis for which their use is approved. Often, nursing facilities use these drugs without obtaining or even seeking informed consent. Using anti-psychotic medications as a “chemical restraint”—for the convenience of staff or to discipline residents— violates US federal regulations (and regulations in most EU countries including the UK) and may amount to cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment under international human rights law.

Yet another reminder of the dangers of these drugs, a problem very effectively highlighted in UK healthcare on the publication of the Banerjee Report in 2009.

Things have been improving in the UK but it is still an issue worth highlighting and bringing to people’s attention. Particularly bearing in mind that the Department of Health in 2012 said antipsychotic use was still  “resulting in as many as 1,800 unnecessary deaths per year.” despite the improving awareness of the problem. Note that overprescribing of anti-psychotics is not confined to nursing homes. In fact many nursing homes have arrangements in place to minimise all over-prescribing that many healthcare professionals could learn from. See the HALT project in Sydney and this deprescribing anti-psychotics algorithm from Ontario if you want some inspiration for reducing anti-psychotic prescribing for the people living with dementia that you care for.

So I’ll leave you with a final thought,

How could we possibly think that it is a good idea to treat stress, distress and unmet needs using sedation?”


Have You Seen RCP Commentary Before?


Sorry for failing to post on Friday this week. Went off on Friday night for a week away with the family before the stress that my son sitting his Highers will cause. So what has caught my eye this month? Well, the Royal College of Physicians Commentary Magazine looks at end-of-life care. Palliative consultant Dr Ollie Minton and Prof Albert Weale, chair of the RCP Ethical Issues in Medicine Committee, introduce the features which include amongst other things an honest and emotive account of a death at home, and how more joined-up care could have lessened one family’s distress. Its worth a look just for this contribution but the magazine itself is one of these “gems” that more people should be aware of.  You can access this special issue here Thanks to Professor David Clark of the End of Life Study Group at the University of Glasgow for bringing this to my attention. If you are unaware of the work of this group you should visit their webpage at The home page of the “Imminence of Death Study” which might just be the most influential care study carried out in Scotland in recent years.

The second thing I’d like to bring to your attention this week, particularly if you do live in Scotland is the ScottsishGovernemnst current consultation on its plans to develop a first national strategy for tackling social isolation and loneliness. Currently labelled  “A Connected Scotland: Tackling social isolation and loneliness and building stronger social connections” If you click on the link the page takes you to where you can download the consultation paper and would encourage to add your views or to try and get your organisation to contribute as effectively reducing social isolation is a public health issue that has a devastating impact on our older population. See


Sláinte: Alcohol Consumption and Older People

Well, it was food last week so this week let’s turn our attention to drink.

NHS Scotland this week released a new report, Hospital Admissions, Deaths & Overall Burden of Disease Attributable to Alcohol Consumption in Scotland that indicated that more than 3,700 deaths in Scotland could be directly linked to alcohol consumption. In addition, more than 41,000 people were admitted to hospital as a result of consuming alcohol. These findings overall show that alcohol has a wider impact on health than many people think, supporting the Scottish Government’s case that minimum alcohol pricing. This starts in Scotland in May 2018 and given this state of affairs has to be at least worth trying.

So why is this important to older people? Well, you have to look at alcohol consumption in the UK. In those that drink alcohol (about 83% of the total population) Drinkers aged 65+ years drank more frequently than any other group and were also more likely than any other age group to have drunk alcohol on 5 or more days in the previous week (24% of men and 12% of women) compared to 3% of men and 1% women aged 16 to 24 (Office of National Statistics, 2017). See Drinkaware if you want a more comprehensive view

There is an alarming lack of recognition of the extent of this problem in frontline healthcare staff who remain more likely to associate heavy drinking with the 16-24 age group, perhaps because they are more likely to binge drink, with all the problems that cause rather than older people steadily drinking more.

So it was really good this week to come across a new resource called Vintage Street Not the snappiest or most obvious name, unfortunately, that is purpose-built for people over 50 who are concerned that they are maybe drinking a little too much. It offers a range of online advice that older people, their families, employers may find useful. It also lets you know how to get in touch with the 5 Drinkwise Age Well centres.

Seems appropriate to put these here so you can check yourself out before you visit the site!


Digging is Good, Hunger is Bad!


Congratulations firstly to Sarah Noone @SarahNPhD who had her first article about her PhD work published in the Journal Ageing and Mental Health. Called Digging for Dementia it about the experience of community gardening from the perspectives of people living with dementia. You can see her work by Clicking Here

So after the positives, unfortunately a negative as I’ll add my support to the BGS Call for urgent action on hunger and malnutrition amongst older people. See their Blog Post here.  The UK governments All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Hunger’s Report published this week highlights that malnutrition is most likely to arise among older people following an accumulation of setbacks which leave them unable to access food easily. Like winter detahsits hard to understand how we got to a situation where we put the most vulnerable people in our community at such high risk.

Finally, a warning for all my students the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) are currently consulting on updating their guidance for Dementia.The new guidnace will be called  “Dementia – assessment, management and support for people living with dementia and their carers” and is due to be published in June 2018. You can come back and look here nearer the publication time as no doubt It will feature since its so important to what I teach people about.

If you or your organisation want to contribute to the consultation it is at Dementia Consultation