A really interesting development was discussed on the BBC this week that concerns depression. In the UK, it is believed that one in four older people have symptoms of depression that require treatment, and that fewer than one in six older people with depression discuss their symptoms with their GP. Out of this group, only half receive adequate treatment. This is really important because untreated depression is the leading cause of suicide among older people, with men living alone at particularly high risk (Royal College of GP’s, 2011). So any new developments in this field have the potential not only to improve the lives of older people, but can actually save lives!
As the BBC report, it’s not very often we get to talk about a revolution in understanding and treating depression and yet now doctors are talking about new work, some of which is taking in place in Glasgow being one of the strongest discoveries in psychiatry for the last 20 years.
The focus of this new line of enquiry is on the idea that an errant immune system causing inflammation in the body, is altering mood sufficiently to trigger clinical depression. If you consider the last time you had a cold, you will appreciate that there is probably a link, but this is taking that thought a big step further.
For more information about this work you can read about it at
Another way to find out more is to listen to the BBC Radio 4 documentary “The Inflamed Mind” which you can catch at
If you want to know a bit more about Depression in Older Adults, there is a really useful introductory leaflet available at:
Last month saw the publication of a new report by the charity Independent Age which summarises research looking at how and why families avoid talking about the challenges they may face in older age. The report is called “We need to talk about caring: dealing with difficult conversations” and can be downloaded from here:
It draws on an online poll of 2,066 people conducted by ComRes and a series of focus groups and interviews. This work indicates that while four out of five people agree that it’s important to discuss key topics like housing and care in old age, less than a third of British adults have ever had a conversation of this kind with a family member. The picture doesn’t improve as people get older and these issues become more real – almost two thirds of those aged 65 and over have never had aconversation with family members about these key topics. That’s around 7 million older people and their families uncertain about how they’d manage if they needed care and support in older age. Exploring the reasons behind these missed conversations using focus groups, older people and their families told us that:
- They often lacked knowledge and confidence to begin a conversation and were anxious they might suggest the wrong thing
- They wanted to avoid thinking about scenarios that might threaten future independence such as needing to leave your home
- They wanted to protect family members from worry or upset
- The timing never seemed right and they felt it was better to wait until an event or trigger made the conversation unavoidable
- Distance and a lack of time together could also act as a barrier
So what can we do to encourage people to sit down and have these difficult conversations. Alongside their research the charity have also launched an online resource for families whowant to talk to older relatives about sensitive issues. It gives some suggestions for how to begin conversations and specific information on five key areas that they think families should consider talking about. The guide can be found at Difficult Conversations Guide
So now that I have raised the issue; have you had this kind of conversation with your loved ones? Maybe now is the time.
Its that time of year; its cold, its wet and its windy (at least this week it has been), so it must be Edinburgh Festival time! So if you are going to Edinburgh at all this week here is a recommendation. You could try and see a play called “Finding Joy” . Its on between Aug 4 – Aug 14 at 16:30 at the Assembly Hall in the appropriately named Rainy Hall.
Finding Joy explores the life of Joy, who is a woman who has a playful spirit, a love of dancing, and dementia. Joy lives with her daughter and grandson, Danny . The play is actually based on the true story of Danny, a young man who uses unorthodox methods to care for his Grandmother. Finding Joy has been touring the country, with Edinburgh apparently being the last leg, so you will need to be fast to see it. Hopefully it will tour again if it is a success.
Here is a short clip and a warning that if you go along, hankies may be required.
Age International this week announced the winners of their ‘Strength For Life’ photographic competition. The images are quite captivating along with the stories of the people that they portray but sadly the exhibition is only being shown in London. The winning photos will go on display alongside images taken by The Guardian’s David Levene, during October. If you want to have a look at some of them go to: http://www.ageinternational.org.uk/latest-news/winner-of-the-strength-for-life-photo-competition/
If you liked these, you might also like the work being done by Eva de Vries’s called “The Wise People Project”. Eva is a a Dutch freelance journalist and storyteller and since March 2016 has been based in East Africa. In this project she takes portraits of older men and women and explores their stories and her first set of images and stories are really powerful. See: http://storiesbyeva.com/multimedia-projects/the-wise-people-project/
Worth keeping an eye on I think.
This week I want to draw your attention to Charity called Safe Lives. Safe lives is a national charity dedicated to ending domestic abuse. Previously called Co-ordinated Action Against Domestic Abuse (Caada). Their experts set out to find out what works to stop domestic abuse. It claims to have a really high success rate in what it does stating that after getting the right help, more than 60% of victims tell the charity that the abuse has. stopped
Throughout July and August, they have decided to focus upon Older People and domestic abuse they are releasing the latest research and practical resources for professionals working with older people. To give you an idea of the scale of this problem this Safe Lives Infografic has been published and is reproduced here:
For more details about what they are doing and to access more resources visit: http://www.safelives.org.uk/node/861
I also want to mention the sad news of the death of Kate Granger, who died on Saturday 23rd July 2016 from a rare sarcoma.If you have never heard of her, Kate was the person largely responsible for re-affirming the idea that every encounter with a person attending an NHS service should begin with the words “Hello my name is …”. So every morning when you put on that “hello my name is” badge, it is Kate Granger’s efforts that you are acknowledging. To find out more about her, and the campaign she started got to http://hellomynameis.org.uk/
I personally think its a great tragedy that such a campaign was ever needed as healthcare professionals are all taught the importance of good communication. It just goes to show that what is taught can just as easily be unlearned or forgotten, if it does not become a habit. However, as both a patient and doctor her observations and those of so many other people required a response and introductions, as she rightly points out are the first rung on the ladder to providing truly person-centred, compassionate care; something that has my full support. An interesting section of the site gives some of the evidence behind the importance of introductions to view this go to: http://hellomynameis.org.uk/evidence