My Blog is 3 Years Old Today!

birthday-492372_1280This is a bit of a landmark because when I started out this blog it was really as an experiment to see what I could do to keep my own MSc in Gerontology students up to date with developments in older people’s care occurring during their programme.

So 3 years on and I have posted 162 times. The site has been viewed by 2,299 different people, I have 33 followers and the most popular day to come to this site is a Monday (about 20% of all viewers)

So thanks to everyone who visits and spreads the word about this blog. It’s gone well beyond the “classroom” although I know many of my students do visit regularly. Please keep following and visiting. And remember that despite everything that’s going on, things are getting better.

For example; in the last 5 years across European mortality from the four major noncommunicable diseases (cardiovascular diseases, cancer, diabetes and chronic respiratory diseases have been on a 2% decline per year on average based on the data from 40 of the 53 countries in the European Region. In addition, a WHO 2017 progress review established that the WHO European Region is likely to achieve its target of reducing by one-third premature mortality from non-communicable diseases through prevention and treatment and promoting mental health and well-being earlier than 2030 and will probably exceed it.

See the WHO Factsheet by clicking here

Fantastic news that you probably haven’t heard.

Advertisements

More New Guidance from NICE and the Importance of Healthcare Quality.

arthritis

Last month it was NG 97: Dementia, this month an equally important one NICE Guideline 100: Rheumatoid arthritis in adults: management

As with Dementia, the flowchart has also been updated making it easy to follow.

At the same time, they have also updated the Rheumatoid Arthritis Quality Standard (now Q33) which has 7 recommendations that it would be worth becoming aware of. Rheumatoid Arthritis affects over 400,000 people in the UK making it one of the most prevalent long-term conditions health professionals see. If you need to know more about rheumatoid arthritis its worth looking at the NHS Direct entry which you can see by Clicking Here

In the wake of the celebrations to mark #NHS70 and in the light of recent negative publicity about the health of the NHS, it’s probably a good time to mention this.  A new report from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the World Health Organization (WHO) and the World Bank has claimed low-quality healthcare services are holding back progress on improving health in countries at all income levels. (i.e. the NHS is not alone in the problems its facing).

te report highlights that 1 in 10 patients is adversely affected during treatment in high-income countries. Adherence to clinical practice guidelines in eight low- and middle-income countries was below 50 per cent in several instances. Also, 10% of hospitalised patients in low- and middle-income can expect to acquire an infection during their stay, as compared to 7% in high-income countries. The report outlines the steps health services, health workers, governments, citizens and patients needed to take to improve healthcare quality. It would be a shame to let this important report slip under the radar because of #TrumpVisitUK and the Brexit mess. See:

OECD/WHO/World Bank Group (2018). Delivering Quality Health Services: A Global Imperative. World Health Organization. Geneva, Switzerland.

DOI:10.1787/9789264300309-en.

A Bad Week All Round

Sad-photo-709732

Some weeks are bad weeks but this week could rank as one of the worst for bad news about the NHS and its relationship with older people in a long time.

Firstly we had the revelation that 450,000 women aged between 68-71 had not been invited to routine breast cancer screening due to a computer error, that has been traced back to 2009!. Public Health England has said that it was not aware of a national problem with the screening programme until January 2018, which seems a bit worrying when they were aware at the same time that screening uptake amongst older women was falling. Watch out for the public inquiry and subsequent report particularly since NHS “everywhere else” didn’t have the same problem. Most people are probably unaware that a full review of the NHS breast screening programme was undertaken in 2012. So if you are affected by this systems failure in any way it’s worth looking at THIS REPORT and making your own mind up about the impact that it may have had on you or your loved one. My concern is that if this had been any other group would it have been noticed sooner and acted upon earlier?

As if that wasn’t bad enough a report released today (May 4th. 2018) is probably worse and even more significant. The annual report for 2017 of the Learning Disabilities Mortality Review (LeDeR) was released today and did make the national news. Their findings are very worrying and point to problems with institutional discrimination across services dealing with people with learning disabilities to the extent that life expectancy at birth if you have a learning disability is 19.7 years lower than for people without learning disabilities. Equally disturbing is that more than a third of deaths of people with learning disabilities were potentially amenable to health care interventions. Again much more will be said about this in the coming days and months so it’s worth taking a look at the primary source, which you can see and download from THIS SITE.

I haven’t even mentioned the dementia care ward at Glan Clwyd Hospital, in Denbighshire which closed in 2013 and it’s culture of “institutional abuse”. Too sad to go there but if you want to know more see this BBC Wales  TIMELINE

Worldwide, Older People’s Rights Continue to be Denied

age_positive_badge

In a new report published by  HelpAge International launched to coincide with World Health Day 2018 (which is tomorrow, 7th of April 2018) older people explore their right to be able to make their own decisions and live their lives according to their own values and preferences. The report called Freedom to Decide for Ourselves,  brings together the findings from a consultation with 450 older people in 24 countries to find out their perspectives on their rights to autonomy and independence, long-term care and palliative care.

Yet again this report has found that as people age, the autonomy and independence they enjoyed earlier in their lives is often denied by the negative, ageist attitudes of those who believe older women and men are unable to make their own decisions, or disregard their choices when they do.

Shockingly the reported ageism was especially evident in older people’s health and socila care. Many participants said there was a lack of access to comprehensive long-term care and support services within their communities or, if they existed, the cost makes them unaffordable to everyone who isn’t on a high income. This leaves families as the only providers and when this is the case it is often at the cost of an older person’s control over their care.

HelpAge International are calling for a UN convention to protect older people’s rights and have a campaign called Age Demands Action which is working to achieve this goal.  Why not add your voice as they suggest!

Ireland has a Say No To Ageism Week. Seems like a good idea to me. This year it’s June 4th to 8th 2018!

Finally Getting Recognition and a Million Euros!

pressevaeg2018

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

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!

new-unit-guidelines-infographic-V6-480x1024

Is an Effective Dementia Drug Treatment Getting Further Away?

stop medications

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!

See https://britishgeriatricssociety.wordpress.com/2018/01/18/qualitative-research-in-age-and-ageing/