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!

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Digging is Good, Hunger is Bad!

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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

Countering ‘Age Apartheid’ to Unite a Divided Society

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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!

Catch-up on Old People’s Home for 4 Year Olds

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!

A Xmas Mash-up

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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?

 

Looking After Your Musculoskeletal Health

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

https://publichealthmatters.blog.gov.uk/2017/12/06/health-matters-productive-healthy-ageing-and-musculoskeletal-health/

Feeling Lonely and Cold? Unfortunately Your Not the Only One.

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Its the 1st of December and Age Scotland has launched its Christmas campaign, “No one should have no one”. A recent survey they have undertaken reveals that they think about 60,000 people aged over 65 will have no-one to spend Christmas Day with, a 50 percent increase over 2015 figures. Another 80,000 say they feel lonelier at Christmas time than at any other time of year, with those who have been widowed most at risk. They haven’t published the full survey results yet but you can see their report by clicking the link here  Age Scotland Report

They are hoping to highlight the extent of loneliness and isolation in Scotland and encourage people to take action to reduce loneliness in their communities. Interested to find out what you can do? Go to The Campaign to End Loneliness

December also signals now my annual rant about winter deaths because today is the day that we here in the UK start counting!

So why do I go on about this? Well let’s use the Scottish Government’s own figures

There were 20,930 deaths registered in Scotland in the four months of winter 2016/17
from (December to March), compared with 20,509 in winter 2015/16. Comparing the number of deaths in the four winter months with the average for the two adjacent four-month periods, the seasonal increase in mortality in winter 2016/17 was 2,720. This was 130 fewer than the corresponding value of 2,850 for the previous winter.
So what that means is that every year about 2,800 people in Scotland die from the cold.
Just in case for some reason you think that this is OK, its been happening for every winter from 1951/52 when they began counting, and things aren’t really getting better. The seasonal increase of 2,720 in winter 2016/17 was smaller than in most of the previous 65 winters but exceeded the level seen in 10 of the previous 20 winters, and in 5 of the previous 10 winters.
According to the World Economic Forum 2017, we here in the UK live in the 5th richest economy on the planet yet people still die from the cold at an excessive rate in the winter from essentially fuel poverty. This is just embarrassing and shameful and our figures are consistently worse than Scandinavian countries so we have no real excuse.
Want to find out more go to the End Fuel Poverty Coalition