Good Nutrition: the hidden issue

Nutrition is an important but often hidden issue for carers and their families. We hear from Lynne Stevenson BSc from Nutricia Advanced Medical Nutrition on how we can help provide better support for carers around nutritional problems and eating difficulties.


Good nutrition is vital for all of us, but particularly as we age and if we are living with long term conditions.

It’s also crucial for carers, who need to know about good nutrition for the person they are caring for as well as to look after their own health and wellbeing. In a recent survey Carers UK found that 60% of carers worry about the nutritional intake of the person they care for. That is why Carers UK/Carers Scotland are working in partnership with Nutricia Advanced Medical Nutrition to improve understanding about nutrition and caring.   This partnership provides carers with the information and resources on nutritional care for themselves and the person they care for.caring & nutrition photo

The following titles have been produced through the partnership to help provide better support for carers around nutritional problems and eating difficulties.

  • Eating well with COPD
  • Eating well with stroke
  • Eating well with dementia
  • Eating well with cancer
  • The importance of eating well for carers
  • The role of good nutrition when caring for someone
  • Understanding the nutrition gap and how it affects the person you care for
  • Speaking to your GP when you are concerned about the nutritional intake of the person you care for

You can find out more information by visiting the Carers UK website on or the Nutricia website. There is also the opportunity to learn more through an e-learning module.  Like Age Scotland, Carers Scotland and a whole host of organisations working on behalf of older people and carers do so much to highlight the importance of nutrition, and that is why we have been pleased to work to develop these publications to help ensure people have the information they need for good nutrition and healthy living.

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What becomes of the carer?

As a carer, losing the one you are supporting can be a double pain of bereavement and redundancy. Here, guest blogger Christine Rae opens up about her experiences.

Why am I writing this piece about caring?   The reason is simple – because when I became an accidental carer for my Mum I couldn’t find the information I needed to do the task effectively. With hindsight I suspect it was available, but just not in one place, and the conversations I had with others in similar situations seemed to bear this out. This article illustrates my experience and it acknowledges my gratitude for all the help I got from those people who time and again rescued me from the mire.

Christine Rae

Christine Rae

To me there are two types of carer, visible and invisible. The visible ones are easily recognised, generally wear a uniform and have had some specific training to equip them for their caring role. Invisible carers on the other hand, have in most cases had no training at all, relying on a combination of love, basic instinct, resourcefulness and sheer good luck to enable them to look after their loved one, and are recognized only by their relationship to the person they care for.

I’d hear people saying things like, “Caring is a steep learning curve.”  “It’s a strain sometimes, but what’s the alternative?” “A warped sense of humour helps!” “One day I’ll remember all the laughter we shared, then I’ll feel sad and guilty.” “Mustn’t complain.”   “I love him but I get so tired.” “Where’s the five minutes I promised myself?” “It’s very isolating.”

And what becomes of the carer after their loved one dies? There is the immediate pain and grief, the keeping up appearances in public, the eventual rebuilding of some kind of lifestyle, and superficially at least, they look as if they are managing, coping, doing OK. It is the same problem again. They have loved and cared for their relative, in many cases for years, and have suddenly been deprived of that ability. They are suffering the double pain of bereavement and redundancy, and as a result of a loss of purpose and focus, need help and support to rebuild their sense of self-worth once more.

I found that the most important thing was admitting to myself that I was feeling vulnerable and letting other people help me. Don’t feel guilty about accepting it, they would not offer if they didn’t want to become part of your life. Let your guard down, open yourself up and let the world back in. It won’t flood in, it will only come in as quickly as you need it to, and one day the person doing the helping and supporting will be you, the no longer redundant carer.

 

This is a ‘Soapbox’ article from our Advantage Magazine (p25). Soapbox columns do not necessarily reflect Age Scotland’s views or policies. To submit an article call Advantage on 0845 833 0200 or email advantage@agescotland.org.uk

Congratulations to Thomas Whitelaw, winner of the Campaigning and Influencing Award

On 1st October Thomas Whitelaw received the Jess Barrow Award for Campaigning and Influencing from Age Scotland at its annual Scottish Parliamentary Reception.  See the video for Tommy’s speech, in which he pays tribute to his mother, and to love stories.

Tommy gave up an established career to become the sole carer for his mother in the five years she had dementia right up until her death in September 2012.  While he was looking after his mum he began campaigning on behalf of dementia sufferers and their carers.  With support from The Alliance (Health and Social Care Alliance) undertook a marathon walk across Scotland in 2011, ‘Tommy on Tour’, attempting to raise awareness, inviting carers across the nation to contact him with their stories, and lobbying politicians and influential people.  He made excellent use of a daily blog to publicise his tour and carers’ stories, which he intends to continue. He created and promoted a DVD – ‘It’s okay to ask for help.’

Tommy is now invited to talk to audiences including journalists, students, healthcare providers and politicians, and has raised awareness that behind a diagnosis of dementia is a person with a rich life history.

Brian Sloan, Age Scotland Chief, Executive said: “This Award is truly well deserved. Tommy has demonstrated tenacity and creativity in his campaign, and genuinely helped change perceptions and attitudes towards people with dementia and their carers.”

The Jess Barrow Award for Campaigning and Influencing is sponsored by McCarthy and Stone.  It is given to an individual or group who’s campaigning has highlighted a specific issue and affected change to the benefit of older people.

Jess Barrow was Policy and Public Affairs Manager at Age Scotland’s predecessor charity, Age Concern Scotland.  She campaigned widely for the rights of older people and was a lifelong contributor to the third sector.  Jess passed away in 2007 at the age of 44.  She is survived by her husband, Gordon Russell, and their two sons, James and Calum, who was there to help present the award.

Congratulations also to runners up:

  • Grey Matters
  • Viewpoint Housing Association
  • Woodlands Senior Citizens Club