Don’t fear the D word 

Dementia is a word that strikes terror in many.  And no wonder: newspapers regularly feature headlines that sensationalize the ‘misery’ of dementia ‘sufferers’.   Yet there is a growing number of people with dementia who are active as campaigners, and they reject such language as stigmatizing.  Instead, they call themselves people who are living with dementia.  In one survey more than two thirds said they were living well with dementia.

Does the way we talk about dementia matter?  Yes.  A recent survey of the general public by the Alzheimer’s Society asked: “if you had a physical symptom, would you see a doctor right away?”  60 per cent of the sample said they would.  However, asked whether they would see a doctor right away for a non-physical symptom, such as a memory problem, only 2 per cent said yes.  For many people, fear of discovering that they have dementia will keep them from talking to their GP.

It’s beneficial for people who are worried about their thinking to get it checked out as soon as possible.  They may learn that their symptoms aren’t caused by dementia.  Did you know that memory loss, the symptom most associated with dementia, can also be caused by other things such as stress, depression, infections, nutritional deficiencies and even lack of sleep?  Moreover, with around 100 types of dementia that can affect the brain in different ways, memory loss is not necessary the first sign.  The range of early dementia symptoms includes reading problems, difficulty judging distance, less fluency when speaking, and even becoming less kind and caring.  Because of this a diagnosis can take time to reach: other possible causes need to be ruled out.

Getting a diagnosis is worthwhile, as without it you won’t be able to get support to live well with dementia.  In Scotland everyone who receives a diagnosis is entitled to personalized support which, if their dementia is in its early stages, will be from a Dementia Link Worker.  Link Workers can help someone understand and adjust to their diagnosis, to plan for the future, and to get the support they need to live well with dementia.

That support can come from a range of sources, including other people with dementia, and opportunities to enjoy supported activities, from singing to sport.  Did you know that many of the things that help people to live well with dementia are the same as those that make it less likely someone will get dementia in the first place?  Physical exercise, eating well, staying within safe alcohol guidelines, stopping smoking, socialising and challenging the brain can all play a part.

Age Scotland’s Early Stage Dementia project offers free guide booklets on a wide range of dementia related topics.  You can request these from the Age Scotland Helpline: 0800 12 44 222.

Break Away – a new service for veterans

Age Scotland is proud to be partnering with Poppyscotland as part of the Unforgotten Forces consortium. Unforgotten Forces is a partnership between 14 leading organisations which will deliver a range of new services and enhancements for older veterans living in Scotland. We hear from Poppyscotland on an exciting new service for veterans.


As part of the Unforgotten Forces project, Poppyscotland are proud to launch an exciting new service, Break Away, providing much-needed breaks for veterans aged 65 and older. Poppyscotland recognise the value of a break and the boost it can give to a person’s health and wellbeing. The service is aimed at anyone who would benefit from a holiday, whether it’s coping with ill health or bereavement, or for those who just need a change of scene and some new company.

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The Break Away service will run throughout the year and can be enjoyed anywhere in the UK.  Each break will be tailored to meet the individual’s circumstances and break preference, with many packages providing disability-access coaches, hotels and activities. The cost of the break, travel costs and a small pot of additional spending money will be made available.

For some, the break might be a six-day escape to the Highlands, taking in the ‘Bonnie Banks of Loch Lomond’, the mountaintops of the Cairngorms and the beautiful valleys of the rivers Spey and Dee. Others might prefer a trip to South Devon’s glorious coast for a relaxing stay in Torquay. Here they can enjoy sandy beaches, a lively waterfront and the chance to take an excursion on the famous Flying Scotsman. These are just a few of the options available.

Respite breaks are also available for those with more complex personal care needs such as a severe physical disability or medical condition.  You and your partner / carer can be taken on a break that will be tailor-made for you and give you both the much-needed holiday that you can really enjoy.

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All applications will be assessed on a basis of welfare need and means, and you must be 65 or over.

If you are an eligible veteran, or if you know of someone who might qualify, we would love to hear from you.  For more information about the service or to make an application for a break, please contact Louise Maiden, Breaks Coordinator on email: breakaway@poppyscotland.org.uk or tel: 0131 550 1557.

To find out more about Age Scotland’s Veteran’s Project please visit our website.

 

 

 

Quality of Life on the Isle of Shapinsay

Toni Giugliano, Age Scotland’s Policy Engagement & Campaign Officer, recently headed to Orkney as part of his work around quality of life in later life in partnership with Stirling University. 


Earlier this month the Quality of Life Project took me to Shapinsay in Orkney. It was a unique opportunity to gather the views of older people about what makes a good life in later years in a rural and remote part of the country.

I was humbled by the extremely warm welcome I received by the organisers and participants. I was picked up from the ferry terminal in the community electric car and whisked along to the “Boathouse” – a fantastic community space where we were protected from the ultra-strong winds (which locals told me were not, in fact, that strong at all!).

In total, eight residents took part in the discussions, which explored several themes, including health and wellbeing, the importance of a close-knit community, relationships, care, transport, personal independence and the role of older people in society.

Below are some statements that came out of the discussions:

“Befriending services are a lifeline – even if you have a close family, often you feel like you don’t want to impose on them. You want to be independent, and a befriender won’t pass judgement.”

“Pass times are so important once you reach a certain age – they give you a focus, a purpose in life, a reason to be on this world.”

“As you become older, you enter a different category. You are likely to become slightly invisible.”

“Many people who once had a social status during their working life tend to lose it once they reach a certain age.”

“Older people still have a lot to contribute to society.”

“There should be incentives for volunteers to take on home care visits and spend some time chatting to people. The home visits you get only last 15 minutes – it’s just not enough. You want to get to know a person and have a chat with them. With the current system they just don’t have enough time to do that.”

“The cost of the ferry is too much; it’s not affordable. Other islands (local authorities) get a better deal”.

“We’ve had to fight hard on this island for the services we have. We need to stay on the ball and continue to do that if we want to keep them.”

It was particularly interesting to hear about the work of the Shapinsay Development Trust and the activities and services it runs to improve the lives of people on the island, including social activities to combat loneliness and isolation. The Sew Shapinsay project, for example, is a great social activity bringing many people together.

The Shapinsay focus group discussion, like all other focus groups that have taken place across the country, will soon be analysed by our researcher teams (who themselves are older people). The project seeks to: (i) explore what older people believe the essence of a good life is; and (ii) lobby decision makers to improve policies that support older people as they age.

Whilst in Orkney I took the opportunity to visit the Age Scotland office in Kirkwall to discuss the Scottish Government’s Social Security Consultation and how the proposed changes are likely to impact older people. We received a number of responses which helped shape our submission. For more information on this, see the relevant pages of our website.


The Quality of Life Project is funded by the Life Changes Trust. To find out more about the project, visit our website.

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.


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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.

Time for a wee ramble

Ramblers Scotland has 56 walking groups across Scotland and the number is increasing. So what is it about walking that’s got so many people heading outdoors?


Wouldn’t it be great if there was an easy activity that would improve your physical and mental health, lower your risk factors in a range of illnesses, give you a chance to enjoy quality time with old friends and to make new ones, and that you could do throughout most of your life? Well, there is, and it’s as simple as going for a walk.

Walking is an excellent all-round exercise. Almost everyone can do it, anywhere and at any time – and it’s free. You don’t need special clothing and it’s easy to fit into your daily routine. Older adults should aim to walk for around half an hour on most days of the week, but doing any exercise at all is better than nothing. If you’re unfit you can start slowly and build up gradually.

There are real health benefits from being more active; it helps protect the body from many illnesses and conditions, such as heart disease, strokes and osteoarthritis, and also helps to lift depression and improve mental health. But never mind all the health benefits, it’s also enjoyable. Walking helps you to collect your thoughts and appreciate the changing Lochwinnoch BP photo
seasons as you walk throughout the year, and it’s also a sociable activity. 
Walking in a group helps reduce feelings of loneliness and isolation and increases social contact. It also means you may be more likely to turn out on a cold morning, and to keep up the activity over time.

Ramblers Scotland has 56 walking groups across Scotland, all with walk programmes led and organised by volunteers, and they often also include social events. Non-members are welcome to go on a few walks for free before deciding whether you’d like to join us. You can be sure of a warm welcome and a good chat with like-minded people. As Dot, one of our members in Dalgety Bay, says, “I joined the Ramblers when I first retired as I was looking for something to do. I never expected I would get so much pleasure out of walking with my group. As well as being much fitter now and making lots of friends, I’ve loved getting to visit Scotland’s fantastic countryside.”

Cunninghame - New Lanark

If you want to explore your local neighbourhood, our Medal Routes project has gathered over 600 short, circular routes of 15, 30 and 60 minutes – bronze, silver and gold medal routes – from Dumfries to Shetland, which help you to get out and about. They are all available from our website. We also have a routes database, Ramblers Routes, which has route suggestions across Scotland, with shorter walks free to download for non-members.


For information on finding your local group, call 0131 472 7006 or email scotland@ramblers.org.uk. or visit our website

Community researchers needed for quality of life study

Age Scotland is excited to participate in a new project which will research the views and aspirations of older people on what good quality of life in later years means to them. 

The Charity is being supported by the Life Changes Trust to collaborate with the University of Stirling in a research project which will give older people themselves the role of researching what the key issues and challenges are for securing good quality of life.

The Project is seeking to involve 20-25 community researchers who are over 50, including people with dementia, from across the country to help establish what good quality of life means to older people in Scotland. The findings from the project will be crucial for the Charity for informing our campaigns and parliamentary engagement.

The role of the community researchers will work in teams of 4-5, alongside researchers from the University of Stirling. Their role will be to find out what people want in later life to make them happy through running small group discussions and evaluate the information gathered. No previous research experience or skills are needed, as researchers will be provided with all the necessary training and support by Age Scotland and the University of Stirling over the course of the project, between July 2016 and August 2017.

We are now engaged in the process of recruiting the community researchers, so if you would be interested in becoming a community researcher please get in touch with Richard Baker. This should be a rewarding and informative experience for those who take part, and it is certainly going to be a crucial part of the Charity’s work over the coming year.632x305_research_project

EU Referendum: one week to go

As we approach the European Referendum, Age Scotland’s Chief Executive Brian Sloan encourages everyone to use their vote.


With only a week until the European Referendum, it is vital that Scotland’s older people have their say on this historic decision for the future of our country. Age Scotland is very conscious that there is a diverse range of views on our future in Europe among older people in Scotland.  That is why we feel it is very important we as a Charity take a neutral position on the referendum.  However while we will not support either of the campaigns in the referendum or encourage older people to vote for a specific position, we certainly do encourage older people to use their vote.

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Brian Sloan – Age Scotland’s Chief Executive

There can be no doubt that big issues affecting older people have been placed at the heart of the referendum debate by both campaigns – the future of our pensions, our public services and our NHS.  It is also true that many people who are weighing up how they will vote on the 23rd feel they would still like more information from the two campaigns to help them come to a decision.

As Scotland’s charity for older people, we are keen that Age Scotland does what we can to help encourage debate on these important issues and ensure people have they information they need to come to an informed view.  That is why we invited leading figures from both campaigns to write articles for our Advantage magazine to explain how they have come to their view.  Professor Sir Harry Burns, a former Chief Medical Officer for Scotland, writes on behalf of Scotland Stronger in Europe, and Tom Harris, a former MP, is now Director of Scottish Vote Leave and has outlined that campaign’s position.

You can view the articles here on pages 14-15 and I am sure you will find them interesting and informative. How you will vote in the referendum is up to you, but given this is a big decision for Scotland’s older people I do encourage you to use your vote.