Grapevines and Kung-Fu kicks

Trust Housing Association invited us to run healthy active ageing showcase events at 18 of their premises across Scotland.  Thanks to funding from the Life Changes Trust we were pleased to be able to say yes.  Doug Anthoney reports.


Number nine: Grapevine.  Number two: do Kung-Fu.

These are just a couple of the ‘calls’ that can come up when Trust Housing Association’s older tenants play our Strength and Balance bingo game.  It’s a fun way of getting everyone moving, and almost everyone can move: the activities we showcase are based on NHS exercises for older people, and there’s a seated option for most of them.

We focus on strength and balance because these are particularly important for long term health.  If we don’t look after these aspects of physical health, our muscles will deteriorate gradually from age 35, and we’ll have lost a third of the bone density in our hips by age 80.  The good news is that because bone and muscle are living tissue we can build them up, whatever age we are, by doing simple exercises on a regular basis.

hiresstornowaytrust_4

Our showcase doesn’t just focus on the body.  We also look at what everyone can do, whatever their age, to keep the brain healthy.  A key message is that any concerns we have about changes in our thinking abilities are best shared with a doctor, sooner rather than later.  Surveys have found that people are far more likely to see a doctor about physical aches and pains than they are for problems affecting thinking, memory or communication abilities.   Yet many of the causes of such symptoms can be stabilised or even reversed.  And if something that can’t be cured is responsible, such as dementia, then getting a diagnosis is an important step towards getting the support and treatment that can enable someone to live well with the condition.

It’s not possible to guarantee that someone will never get dementia, but there are things that we can all do to reduce the risk of dementia.  Our showcase highlights these: from eating well to challenging ourselves to learn new things.

So far there’s been a lot of laughs in our showcase events with Trust residents: from Newton Stewart to Stornoway.  We’re serious about our message, but that doesn’t mean that we take ourselves too seriously, and when learning is fun it’s more likely to stick.


Doug Anthoney is Training Programme Officer with Age Scotland’s Early Stage Dementia project.

Dementia: “I wasn’t offered help – I was castigated.

James McKillop’s long career in the civil service came to an abrupt and unpleasant end after he developed the symptoms of early stage dementia. Here he tells his story, and calls for employers to show workers with dementia compassion and fairness, not the door.


james-photo

I joined the Civil Service in 1959. I went where I was sent, and after a few years in England, found myself in Glasgow in 1971. Where I worked, females outnumbered the males, by at least ten to one. It was a great place for a single man to meet a possible wife, and so I did; marrying in 1973. Four children followed. Life went on, and then it changed. I was taking longer and longer to do my work. It wasn’t rocket science or brain surgery, just clerical work. The work was routine and you did the same work on the first of January, as you did a year later on the 31 December. And the same again the next year.

I ran a small team and I checked their work. It had to be correct when it left me otherwise the customer would suffer another day’s delay. I was doing my work correctly but frequently had to consult my work’s manual to get it right. This meant staying behind unpaid, to keep up with my workload. I did not mind this, as being correct was so important to me.

My supervisor noticed I was not coping but instead of being asked if all was well and being helped, I was castigated. If I had had a drug or alcohol problem, all sorts of help and counselling were available, but there was nothing for an employee, who had given his all since leaving school. And now at age 55, was now experiencing some sort of problem. There was no mention of being referred to anyone, who could look into the situation. Note, I did not have a diagnosis of dementia at that time. But I was struggling.

The pressure mounted on me and took toll on my health with absences for high blood pressure. I ended up off for some months. The day I went back I had such a harrowing interview with my supervisor I had to go to the work’s nurse. My blood pressure was so high she said I would die if it stayed at that level. She sent me home in a taxi, and I never worked another day there. I took a retirement package, before I was pushed out or died from the high blood pressure. What a way to end your lifelong career! Normally at retirement there is a ‘do’, presents and speeches. No one in my group knew I had retired, until a month later and that was by accident. If I had been offered a job at the level below me, my work would have been checked, with no disadvantage to the customer.

At work I was in charge of people and one time I noticed a very good worker, a widow, was not coping. I spoke to her gently, pointing out she was not up to her usual standard, and was there anything I could help with. She had problems with a lodger that were affecting her sleep and her finances. She refused to show him the door, as she could not do that to somebody’s son. She took my advice to buy him a one way ticket back to the islands. Her work rate immediately improved and she looked and sounded better. I looked after my staff – but I wasn’t looked after by my employer when it was me who needed help.

Some years later I was at Alzheimer’s Scotland, making a video for them with ten others, who had been diagnosed with some form of dementia. During a break in filming we got chatting, and found every single one of us, had left work under a cloud, as our performance had slipped. We were got rid of. Employers need to be aware that dementia is a disability, and people should be treated under any Disability or Human Rights acts around. Sadly, there are people reading this article that will go on to develop dementia. Make sure your rights are in place before that happens.


This article is taken from James’ presentation today to a Dementia and the Workplace conference for trade union reps, organised by Age Scotland, STUC and Alzheimer Scotland.

Putting dementia on the workplace agenda

Dementia can affect any workplace – but if and when it does, how likely are employers and employees to respond in the right way?  Since joining our Early Stage Dementia team in April Doug Anthoney has been working to ensure Scotland’s workplaces are dementia aware.   Here’s the story so far.


“If one of your employees had dementia – would they tell you?” That’s the question we posed to the twenty employers taking part in a dementia awareness training taster day in May.  Only a handful were able to say “yes”.  This needs to change.

The case for putting dementia on the workplace agenda is clear.  Our population is ageing, state pension age is rising, and employers no longer have the power to force retirement at age 65.  Which means that more of us will experience the first symptoms of dementia at work, and more of us will be juggling work with caring for someone who has dementia.  In dementia unaware workplaces employees affected by the condition are more likely to be shown the door than compassion, and employers run increased risks: of quality and safety problems; legal non-compliance; and needlessly lost staff skills and experience.

Raising awareness in workplaces wasn’t in our original Early Stage Dementia project plan.  But calls to Silver Line Scotland and comments by employers to our Now & Next pre-retirement training team highlighted a need and a demand.  We were delighted when project funder Life Changes Trust accepted our case for an additional focus on workplaces.

My first task was to research the links between dementia and employment matters.  Two things helped immensely:  new findings on Dementia and the Workplace from the University of the West of Scotland and Heriot Watt University, and training materials already designed for raising the dementia awareness of Age Scotland member groups. Given this head start I was able to offer two half-day training workshops from late May: a general dementia awareness session for everyone in the workplace; and a specialist session for human resources staff and managers.  So far I’ve delivered workshops to employers including Stirling Council, HM Courts and Tribunals Service, SSE, Horsecross, Cohesion Medical and Glasgow Caledonian University, with really positive feedback.

CohesionTWEET

I’ve also prepared five dementia aware tips for employers and a workplace dementia awareness display kit comprising display boards and flyers.  This is free for employers that book our workplace training, and we’ll be handing out kits to trade union reps at a conference we’re planning jointly with STUC and Alzheimer Scotland at the end of September.  Also in the pipeline is an Age Scotland guide to dementia in the workplace, which will be free to training participants.  We’d also like to develop video resources in which people living with dementia explain to employers what support would have helped them.

Could your workplace benefit from what we’re offering?  You can find out more at www.yourbrainyourjob.scot and get in touch at ESDteam@agescotland.org.uk.

 

workplace display

Are you ready for winter?

Ready Scotland is a campaign by the Scottish Government to help people across Scotland to think ahead and get prepared for winter. Recent research suggested that after a couple of milder winters, many people were not taking any steps to prepare for emergencies or severe weather. The Ready Scotland site brings together simple steps you can take that can make a big difference – with the help of their trademark dog!


 

For many it has been a good few years since daily life has been disrupted by waking up to find a few feet of snow has been dumped at their front door by Mother Nature or plans have had to change thanks to the impact of strong winds and rain.

Research undertaken by the British Red Cross and the Scottish Government found that the longer the time period since an individual has had to deal with the effects of severe weather the less likely they are to take steps to prepare. As the memories of the severe weather experienced in 2010 and 2011 fade so does the intention to be ready.

Unfortunately, severe weather doesn’t stick to a rota. Past performance by the weather is not necessarily an indicator of what to expect this winter.

Scottish Government Cabinet Secretary for Infrastructure, Investment & Cities Keith Brown said:

“If there is anything recent winters have shown us it is that Scottish weather is unpredictable. The unpredictability of weather patterns means we cannot simply hope that we will miss the worst of it. While we can’t stop the weather causing disruption, we can be well prepared to cope with it.”

There are 3 elements to think about when it comes to being ready for winter.

Firstly, there is staying informed. Whether through local news, radio, social media or by signing up to the Met Office alert service, it is important that you stay in the know about imminent weather conditions.

The second element is about being prepared. Whether in the home, at work or travelling out and about there are a simple actions that will ensure you are better prepared in the event they have to deal with severe weather.

It is also important to consider whether you are prepared enough. For example, having an ice scraper and de-icer might be fine if you are only driving a mile from your home. However, for longer journeys you will want to make sure you have a blanket and a hot drink in the car in case you and your car become stranded.

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Thirdly, think about others. Are there individuals in your local community who might not be as able as you to deal with the effects of severe weather? Consider what you can do to help them be ready.

David Miller, Director of the British Red Cross in Scotland, said:

“Making sure you are prepared now for winter can make a huge difference when extreme weather hits. At the Red Cross we know that severe weather, including snow and floods, can have serious consequences. However, with a few simple steps you can make yourself and others ready for the disruption it can bring.”

For more information on how to get ready for winter visit www.readyscotland.org.

Action on Hearing Loss Scotland – April’s “Hot Tips”

Our free calendar “Hot Tips” aims to ensure everyone in Scotland knows about the organisations and services available to them, and how to make the most of later life.

April sees us team up with Action on Hearing Loss Scotland to bring you information about taking care of your hearing. In this guest blog, Delia Henry, Director of Action on Hearing Loss Scotland, explains how having your hearing tested is a vital first step towards getting the support you need


Delia Henry Action on Hearing Loss Scotland

Delia Henry – Action on Hearing Loss Scotland

Recognising that you have hearing loss can be an uncomfortable truth which many don’t want to deal with and people often confide in me that they are having difficulty hearing but are not sure what to do.

71 per cent of people of over 70-year-olds have hearing loss, with signs of deafness such as turning up the television volume, thinking others are mumbling and needing to ask people to repeat themselves.

With funding from the Scottish Government, Action on Hearing Loss Scotland and RNIB Scotland produced resources to help you recognise whether you have hearing or sight loss. The information cards and videos also provide useful deaf awareness and communication tips.

People can wait up to 10 years to take action from the point of first experiencing hearing difficulties but we encourage you to get your hearing checked regularly. Asking your GP to refer you to an audiologist for a hearing test is a vital first step on your way to getting the support that you need.

Good quality digital hearing aids are free on the NHS in Scotland and you can also choose to buy hearing aids from private dispensers too. Action on Hearing Loss and Which? have produced the ‘Best hearing aid providers: How to get the best hearing aid’ guide to help you to make informed decisions about which hearing aids are best for your individual needs.

Although hearing aids will help you to hear your conversations with friends and family more clearly, it can take time to adjust to wearing them. Community-based support from our Hear to Help volunteers, who have hearing loss themselves, in Tayside, Greater Glasgow and Ayrshire & Arran can make a big difference – especially for people who are housebound or have mobility difficulties. Our website has details of our drop-in sessions and contacts for home visits.

Hear to Help volunteer talks through the equipment

Hear to Help volunteer talks through the equipment

Learning to lipread can be also be a big help as the ability to identify lip shapes, patterns and facial gestures can fill in the gaps of conversations you have misheard. Details about what happens during lipreading classes, the benefits they bring and those running in your area can be found on www.scotlipreading.org.uk

There is also equipment such as personal listeners, hearing loops, amplified phones and flashing or vibrating doorbells to help people with hearing loss in everyday life. Visit www.actiononhearingloss.org.uk/shop or call 0141 341 5330 to find out about the latest products.

I hope that I have reassured you about the range of support that is available for you, if you are diagnosed with hearing loss but, if you need more information about Action on Hearing Loss Scotland’s services, please visit www.actiononhearingloss.org.uk/Scotland or email: scotland@hearingloss.org.uk

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