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As the country re-opens…

Coming out of lockdown

The more we understand about risks the more we can look after ourselves and in doing so help protect those we come into contact with.

Until now we have had very hard and firm guidelines in the UK which have brought the R0 (R-naught = reproduction rate) of the COVID outbreak down to below one. This means on average every 100 people infected with COVID 19 will pass it on to fewer than 100 people. If we could maintain R0 below one the coronavirus will shrink out of existence within a few months.

If you want to find out more about R0 we can suggest two options:

  • the Australian Academy of Science explain about it to show why physical distancing works, click here.
  • the Maths Magazine have an article which explains about the interplay between R0 and herd immunity, though it is for those who are more comfortable with equations, click here.

Physical distancing

Information to help you stay safe in public

However, it is impractical to keep a country in permanently in lockdown and physically distanced. The firm rules we had are becoming more fluid as people are encouraged back to work and more social contact is permitted. We have been asked to use our common sense and, in order to do that, we should try and get an understanding of the risks in different situations and how to avoid them. The 2 metre rule may be impossible to maintain, but there are times when that is OK, times when it is not and times when even being on the other side of s big room might not be safe.

We have found a really informative breakdown which explains the science of how to catch a virus and more importantly how to avoid catching a virus.

  • How safe is it to pass someone in the street closer than 2 metres?
  • How safe is it to sit on the other side of a large office to other people? (it depends on the air conditioning!)
  • Is risk affected by the type of activity people are doing?

The brilliant Erin Bromage is a Comparative Immunologist and Professor of Biology (specializing in Immunology) at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth. That means he knows his stuff. And like the cleverest of people has a way of explaining it which makes it digestible to those of us who are new to it. He uses some American numbers but the basic behaviour of the coronavirus is the same the world over so the information stands.

If you want to get a better understanding of how to manage the risks, click here and read his explanation.

Staying safe when isolated

If your behaviour means you spend significant amounts of time by yourself please do consider getting and personal alarm system of some sort. We happen to think ours is pretty great, so please do have a look at the Assure.

 

Recovery: finding drugs to treat COVID-19

So far the struggle against COVID-19 we have heard about has concentrated on avoidance. Social isolation and social distancing have slowed the transmission of the virus but it is clear that this cannot continue indefinitely. A vaccine will take at least another 15 months and possibly 3-5 years to be widely available.

There has also been work going on about how we can best treat COVID-19 so that those people who do get ill with it can have the best chance of survival and full recovery.

Until now there are no drugs of proven value against COVID-19. Some drugs that might help but only small-scale trials have taken place throughout the world. Whilst the findings may be promising they are not statistically sound enough to base roll out of treatment into the general population.

The National Health Service (NHS) is going to run a large randomised evaluation of a variety of potential pharmaceutical treatments to see which have beneficial effects.

Data from the trial will be regularly reviewed so that any effective treatment can be identified quickly made widely available.

The trial has been named RECOVERY

The RECOVERY Trial will begin by testing some of these suggested treatments:

  • Lopinavir-Ritonavir (commonly used to treat HIV)
  • Low-dose Dexamethasone (a type of steroid, which is used in a range of conditions typically to reduce inflammation).
  • Hydroxychloroquine (related to an anti-malarial drug)
  • Azithromycin (a commonly used antibiotic)

All of these drugs have been used for many years and are expected to have minimal side effects.

To find out more about the trials visit: https://www.recoverytrial.net/

 

Woman gardening wearing emergency alarm wristband for elderly and disabled

Making the most of Social Distancing and Social Isolation

Making the most of Social Distancing and Social Isolation can seem like hard work. We know we have some tough times ahead but we need to look for the silver linings in the clouds and make the best of a bad lot.

Making sure we are aware of what these words mean is important, and actually they refer to physical distancing and isolation.

50 years ago, being physically distant automatically meant someone was socially distant too. A lucky few would have access to a phone and could dial a friend and have a one to one chat, probably sitting by a telephone table in their hallway. That you are reading this online is a testament to how far things have come. Physical isolation does not mean social isolation and may even offer opportunities to reconnect with old friends electronically who we have lost touch with.

What we know about COVID-19 is that it is highly infectious and that it tends to have relatively mild effects in people below the age of 50 who have no existing medical complications, but as the age and medical history increase so does the death rate.

Though nobody can truly be said not to be at any risk, we must all take sensible precautions to try and give the more vulnerable among us the best chance of not being struck down.

This is where ‘social distancing’ and ‘social isolation’ come into play.

Senior Man Doing Crossword Puzzle In Garden

What is Social Isolation

Social Isolation is trying to stop all but the most essential contact. You might have heard of it as Quarantine. At the moment this is self-imposed by households where someone has symptoms or where they have recently returned from a notified area. Those in isolation should not venture outside unless they have to. They should try and have any shopping delivered to their doorstep. There are health benefits to going outside and health secretary, Matt Hancock, has said ‘People should go outside. Yes, walk your pets, but, if you’re in household isolation, do go outside but try to avoid other people.’

‘Lockdown’ is a more aggressive version of Social Isolation where it is enforced by the police or army. We are not there yet (19 March 2020), and hopefully this can be avoided.

What is Social Distancing

Social Distancing is the current instruction. This is a softer version of social isolation where non-essential work is still happening with people travelling to and from work, public transport is still available to all, though we are advised not to use it and it is OK to walk with friends in the open air as long as we keep a sensible distance and keep washing our hands. We are also advised to keep going to the shops but to keep our distance from other shoppers.

However, both of these scenarios involve us being in direct contact with people less and being physically isolated more.

Physical isolation could mean social isolation and before technology was so widely used probably would have done. However, there is so much we can now do to combat that sense of social isolation to minimise the problem, and could even offer a few opportunities, perfect for making the most of social distancing and social isolation.

Making the Most of Social Distancing and Social Isolation
Old technology

If you live in a small community, and are able to, why not start a telephone tree. This needs someone to coordinate it and make sure a printed sheet goes through the door of anyone who is ‘off the radar’ asking them to give you some contact information to be used during distancing/isolation so that the community can be confident everyone is OK. Be explicit about the use and keep these records with sensitivity, but frankly there are bigger fish to fry than full compliance with General Data Protection Regulations at the moment.

Older people are often reluctant to ask for help until a problem turns into a crisis. It may take some convincing to get people to offer their telephone number as they think they will not be affected. Make sure everyone gets a call at least once a day – twice would be better – even if they are feeling fine. Have a few questions to make sure people are alright and have food and other essentials but if anyone is particularly vulnerable make sure you can give them some time so they are reminded there are people in their community who care and are there for them if they need it. Make sure there is a roster of people who can help by getting essential shopping; leaving the shopping on the doorstep does not risk infection.

Using people who are normally socially isolated can be great for the caller as well as the callee. We benefit from having a sense of purpose and the caller is connecting with more people than those receiving a call. Make sure that everyone gets called, including the callers, they might need help too.

Create a community store/resource. If someone needs a food parcel or some painkillers at 8pm on a Sunday night could you muster some up from people in the community or from a store rather than having to wait for the shops to open?

Making the Most of Social Distancing and Social Isolation
New technology

People having access to the internet can be a real boon if you can’t get out. Is there a neighbour who doesn’t have access that you could lend an old iPad to and show them how to do a few basic things. Is their house covered by a neighbours WIFI that they could borrow? If so, you can help them keep up to date with the latest news and be linked more to the village community.

There are lots of ways of using the internet to keep connected. You may already be aware of these but if not see if you can get connected to them and try them out. You are better to establish your use early rather than waiting until you need it.

WhatsApp

This is a fantastic way of keeping in touch with family & friends when making the most of social distancing and social isolation

As well as sending messages you can have phone calls and video chats with up to 16 people, but more usually just with one or two people. This medium lends itself to quite intimate conversations as well as general keeping in touch.

WhatsApp needs the user to have a mobile phone even if they use the desktop version. If you don’t yet have it is well worth getting as you can still see people face to face when you can’t see them in person.

Facebook

There are three main advantages of using Facebook
This is a big Social Media platform and has the following uses:

Keeping in touch with family, friends and acquaintances.

You connect with people you want to (and who agree to connect with you) and people share what is happening for them, what is of concern or often just things that have made them smile. You can respond to what people say and start conversations. Generally, the tone of the discussions are like you would have if you bumped into someone in a café or bar. You can get started by joining, finding a few people you know and putting in a friend request. You’ll then be able to get an idea by seeing what is going on before making your own post.
You can also send direct messages to individuals through a facility called ‘messenger’

Keeping in touch with what is going on in a location or interest group.

There are also community-based bulletin boards where information for the benefit of a particular group (geographic or interest) can be shared. Be careful about what you see on Facebook as people can inadvertently pass around false news and rumour, so anything factual or medical should be checked to see if you can find a reliable source saying it.

Online games

In the Facebook ‘explore’ menu there is a link to ‘Games’ if you choose a game to play you can invite specific friends, groups or anyone you know to play an online game with you.
So even if you can’t meet in person for Bridge Night, you can electronically. There are games of all sorts (strategy, action, quizzes) and for different numbers of players. You can use messenger to have a conversation while you play.

Video Conferencing

This lets you speak face to face to anything from 1 to 100s of people. If you don’t have WhatsApp or want to connect with people who aren’t on WhatsApp you can get a free video conferencing account.
Personally, I find www.whereby.com very easy to use as I give people a web address to visit. 4 people can meet in a free account which is often enough. www.zoom.us also have a free plan but this involves downloading and running a small programme which might put some off.

Some of the opportunities for video conferencing:

Coffee mornings

If you can’t meet in the café, you can continue to see each other. There are some advantages too, as you no longer need to spend time and effort getting to the meeting place you can meet more frequently, perhaps three or more times a week where you only used to meet once. You might even think of including people who have moved away as now distance is immaterial, this could be a chance to reacquaint yourself with old friends.

Watching TV together

This sounds odd but when making the most of social distancing and social isolation, provided you watch the same TV programme live, you can share the experience a bit like being in the room together. Whether is adds spice to quiz shows or makes comedy shows funnier (have you noticed that you don’t laugh in the same way when you watch a comedy by yourself?) or just adds a bit of company this is something worth trying out.

Singalongs

Without intending to hark back to the blitz spirit, many of us have seen how the singing from balconies by those isolated in Milan has been uplifting. As video conferencing can have hundreds of participants there are singalongs organised in some communities. You don’t need to be good at singing but can join in for the craic.

Music/Poetry groups

See if you can keep doing those things that give you joy.

Getting help in an emergency

Some people have been waking up finding it is difficult to breathe. Think about how you would get help in such a situation. Telephone trees would be good but might take some time to for people to realise you need help.

Please consider a getting a device like the Assure to make sure that if you are isolated and have any need (non COVID related incidents will continue to happen) you can get help.

We didn’t design the Assure specifically for pandemics but for anyone when spends time alone and could need help, programming an I’m OK check every few hours is such a simple way to confirm you don’t need help and along with its SOS buttons and fall monitor it could be ideal for getting through isolation with peace of mind that if the worst does occur you can easily get help.

Learning remotely

How many people have said ‘I’d love to learn about x, y, or z, if only I had time’.
If you find you have lots of time on your hands there are loads of online courses. There are a few things you can’t learn online, swimming for example, but there are lots of things you can learn, or at least learn the theory side of before getting the practice in once freedom of movement is back.

Futurelearn is a great place to look as it aggregates courses run mainly by UK universities. Access to the course learning is free. Find out more at www.futurelearn.com

If you’d like to get to grips with a language there is a page full of advice at www.bbc.co.uk/languages/learn/

Keeping fit

Getting out is normally a key part of keeping up levels of exercise, if you are stuck indoors it is still important to maintain fitness as best you can. The NHS have some online classes for you to follow where you get to choose the type of exercise that is right for you. 

Visit www.nhs.uk/conditions/nhs-fitness-studio/ to find out more.

IMPORTANT:

Most of us are grateful for those in our community who are keeping essential services going. Working in health or social care at the moment is difficult as is trying to keep shops functioning and a myriad of other services that will help us to get through this crisis. When you see someone who is working under pressure, if you are grateful, let them know it.

 

BrewMonday

Brew Monday

This is an idea about how we can combat Blue Monday. Today is officially meant to be the most depressing day of the year (at least things can only get better). The Christmas decorations are down, the days are still short and it is a long time until the next significant break for many of us.

London Underground notice board poem about Brew Monday

Just to compound matters we have just started a cold snap. The forecaster’s advice is to check on older or vulnerable people and make sure they are OK.

There is an increased risk of stroke in the cold. Bear in mind that, even if the person is wearing extra jumpers, if the air they breathe is consistently below 18 degrees C they will become more susceptible to respiratory infections. If someone has a broken heating system this is when it might become apparent. With an Assure system you can look online to make sure that the home is warm and even set a minimum temperature so that if the person is at home and the temperature drops below this minimum you will get a message to let you know – we call it the ‘cold at home’ alert.

Many in our communities have fading eyesight as they age making them less confident about going out at night and the long dark evenings can leave them feeling isolated.

Brew Monday

So far Blue Monday doesn’t sound like a bundle of laughs, but ‘Brew Monday’ does its best to ‘turn that frown upside down’. If you were passing through some London Underground stations you might have seen this poem on a notice board.

Instead of feeling blue, connect with someone. Ask a neighbour over, put the kettle on, brew some tea and have a chat. It doesn’t need to be over anything important. If you don’t know what their favourite pasta shape is that could be a starting point. If they are uncomfortable coming out at night, take some cake around and ask if you can share it.

As the poem suggests, it doesn’t need to be at home (is there someone who might appreciate a trip to a pub for a different kind of brew?) and it doesn’t have to be today – but today is as good a day as any!

It is important in the colder weather and long nights that those of us who can look out, for those who need it.

As the Zulu idea of Ubuntu proposes, we are defined by how we relate to those around us (they say ‘I am because we are’). So let’s put in a bit of effort to connect – over a brew.

To find out more have a look at the Samaritans information page.

 

Artificial intelligence

Using Artificial intelligence in triage

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is an automated way of processing information. In this case, a computer system has been taught about medical conditions their symptoms. It asks questions to narrow down the possible causes and decide the priority the medics should give to it.

Human machine analysis

If you speak to someone on NHS 111 they will be using AI to take your answers and to ask the next question, until the system makes a recommendation. You can also do this yourself online at www.111.nhs.uk whenever you feel worried about a condition.

The at-home service will become even easier as the NHS has entered an agreement with Amazon so their Alexa platform will be able to answer your health queries. You will get advice just by talking to Alexa. (read more on this here)

There is some debate about how much Alexa should guide an individual’s health. Should it listen for indicators of suicidal thoughts (more here); and what does that do for individual privacy. Even the most ardent protector of personal privacy might soften if someone they loved was saved by an intervention because of ‘listening in’.

Some hospitals, such as Birmingham University Hospitals, are encouraging patients to undertake a two minute “artificial intelligence triage” before they consider attending hospital. This could instead direct people to their pharmacist or possibly advise people to call 999 for rapid assistance (read more here). Some hospitals have booths set up so when you first arrive you can enter your symptoms.

Spotting hidden urgent conditions

Many people have been surprised by the effectiveness of these AI systems.

A&E is often operating under pressure and humans naturally will go towards the obvious need. However, there are a number of conditions that don’t present dramatically but where speed of treatment is vital. For instance, strokes and sepsis are two conditions where early intervention can dramatically improve the outcome and where delay can cause life changing outcomes or even death. You may have heard of the ‘golden hour’ for strokes but many patients may present with cuts & bruises after a fall and not realise they have had a stroke. Likewise Sepsis (www.sepsistrust.org ), which kills 52,000 people a year, often presents as a general lethargy and occasionally people can be sent home to rest when they desperately need medical assistance.

With the pressures on A&E departments, many are missing their targets to see patients within 4 hours, when for some patients being seen immediately is paramount. Having pods where patients go upon arrival to fill in an electronic questionnaire may seem impersonal but it is a very efficient way of getting the information, perhaps because the machine will not get side-tracked by chatting about the weather, last night’s football scores or ‘Strictly’.

Other than the speed of collecting the right information, the major advantage of AI is it has machine learning and can scour through millions of individual’s records for combinations of symptoms that match. By tracking the eventual, confirmed diagnoses of patients with matching symptoms there is a stronger idea of your diagnosis. This is particularly impressive when separating out symptoms that may be due to overlapping issues.

Evin if your pattern of responses to the questions has only been seen 5 times throughout Europe, AI will find them all in seconds and include their end diagnoses and prioritise you accordingly.

Once you are in the NHS system you will then be cared for by professionals (humans) but AI can help get you to the right starting place faster and more reliably.

Spirituality

 

Creativity and spirituality

The previous parts of this guide is aimed at ensuring you can age healthily by being best placed to meet your ‘physiological needs’ over the longer term, however the guide would not be complete without exploring creativity and spirituality.

Three standing stones of the Ring of Brodgar

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?’ Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. …”

~ Marrianne Williamson (full quote below)

Creativity

Creativity is exploring how to do things differently, like an artist adding more techniques. Probably they will never revolutionise their established way of doing things but from time to time they might find that their exploration re-engages them with how they were doing things before and changes things in a nuanced way. Some may find things they enjoy and bring it into a portfolio of work or like Picasso you might find what you do transformed from time to time. It is never too late to join a choir or write a memoir.

The Arts are great ways of getting creative and there are so many things to see and to do yourself. The Arts can demand that you stretch yourself emotionally and can give you new ways of seeing the world. If you can, commit to seeing or visiting two things a month for the next six months and set aside two hours a week to learn a new creative skill which demands your invention and engages your emotional side. Painting, pottery or writing are suitable but crochet, where you are following a pattern does not engage your creativity in the same way.

Travel can also be a fine way of expanding your horizons (literally) and seeing how others live their lives gives us permission to see our own lives differently.

Spirituality

For millions of people, their religion or spirituality is a core part of their being. Many would not use those words, yet they too face the big questions of life – Do I have a purpose? How do I live well? What do I owe other people?

We can have different ideas about many things, but most of us accept that our life on this earth will end. Some people may simply dismiss all this and concentrate on enjoying life, helping others, and sorting things out so as not to leave a muddle when they do go. There are far worse approaches to life. However, as we get older, this may spur you to think more deeply.

Here are some thoughts for those who want to go further.

Your religion and its community may become more important to you and it might be a time to become more involved. Questions may be thrown up which take you exploring in other directions. People who ‘gave all that up at school’ may revisit that decision.

The majority of us don’t belong to an organisation with a formalised system for exploring how to live. Even those who do may differ very much from each other in terms of how they live. It is worth remembering that for many people familiar practices, festivals, and the community of the faith matter more than the fine detail of beliefs.

Wherever we start, we are on our own journey, and even if we find answers, they may not be those other people find.

 

“Rivers, ponds, lakes and streams – they all have different names, but they all contain water. Just as religions do – they all contain truths.”

~ Muhammed Ali

 

Many religious organisations have formal worship, social activities, or courses to find out more. Some might enjoy Evensong or Taize singing without being committed church goers.

Some offer a safe space or community for you to explore your thoughts and do not have expectations of beliefs.

You can consider a practice which takes you out of yourself through physical exercise and has spiritual aspects which makes no demands on what you believe. Yoga and Tai Chi are good examples. Some people like solitary reflective practice outside such as walking in a park, the countryside or by the sea.

Meditation and mindfulness etc are often taught as techniques without much emphasis on the underlying philosophies.

If entering a new group, is it friendly and open? Are allowances made for new people? If the emphasis of the group seems to be money, laying on guilt, or exerting pressure, then be wary. Ask trusted family and friends for recommendations.

You could also consider:

    • Philosophy groups
    • Lectures or discussion groups, or good courses on science or history.
    • Walks and simple activities where you attempt to be more ‘present’ than usual and notice what is around you.
    • Book Groups
    • Yoga groups: try gentle ones if you are starting out, and ideal for keeping fit too.
    • Tai Chi
    • Art groups
    • Communal singing
    • Local places of worship and set yourself time limits when you will review your experience and see if this is nourishing.
    • A pilgrimage or retreat: this does not need to be of a group that you particularly agree with but being in a group of people with a shared intention is powerful and may move you on your journey.

The point of this discussion is simply to say that thinking about life as the end gets a bit closer is natural. We have choices how we live, which affect us, our immediate surroundings, and the community. Every stage of life has opportunities, and you may have time to explore. Fortunately, we are not all required to think or be the same.

 

The full quote from Marrianne Williamson:

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us.
We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?’ Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you.
We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone.
And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

Healthy Active Ageing

This post is the final section from Healthy Active Ageing, a series of mini-guides that together cover most of what we can do as human beings to make the later stages of our lives as positive as they can be. If you complete the details below we’ll email you one of the guides every until you have the full set. You will know a lot of the information but there is nothing wrong with a reminder every now and then; and there may even be some information which is new to you.

 

 

Reducing Stress

 

Identifying and reducing stress

“In times of stress, the best thing we can do for each other is to listen with our ears and our hearts and to be assured that our questions are just as important as our answers.”   ~ Fred Rogers

Important: health warning If you think you are currently in an emotional crisis you could contact the Samaritans. You can call them free at any time from any phone on 116 123, email jo@samaritans.org or you may have a branch near you that you can visit (see samaritans.org/branches).

Stressed man

Identifying the cause of your stress

Whatever event or situation is stressing you, there are ways of coping with the problem and regaining your balance. Sometimes a therapist can help you to identify what is bothering you and help you to regain your life balance. Sometimes simply considering matters yourself in a moment when you are more relaxed will reveal your issues and potential solutions. These are some of the most common sources of stress for you to consider:

Stress at work

While some workplace stress is normal, excessive stress can interfere with your productivity and performance, impact your physical and emotional health, and affect your relationships and home life. It can even mean the difference between success and failure on the job. Think about what you can do to protect yourself from the damaging effects of stress. There might be simple things like wearing headphones to cut out noise, or getting a headset to make phone calls easier, or it could be that you are at a stage where you are ready for a different challenge. If you find yourself stressing about work the day before you are returning then speak with your Human Resources department.

Retirement & unemployment stress

Losing a job is one of life’s most stressful experiences. It’s normal to feel angry, hurt, or depressed, grieve at all that you’ve lost or feel anxious about what the future holds. Losing a job is far more than just losing income. It can be a change of identity and a loss of purpose which can rock your sense of purpose and self-esteem.

While the stress can seem overwhelming, there are many things you can do to come out of this difficult period stronger, more resilient and with a renewed sense of purpose. If your change is due to retirement then try activities that give you a sense of purpose. These could be projects in your home & garden, helping your family, volunteering with a local charity or project or if you have business or other relevant skills offering to be a trustee. Many people who retire can find a renewed sense of purpose and drive and also that they have less free time than when they were working.

Caregiver stress

The demands of caregiving can be overwhelming, especially if you feel you’re in over your head or have little control over the situation. If the stress of caregiving is left unchecked, it can take a toll on your health, relationships, and state of mind — eventually leading to burnout. There are charities that can offer support and also put you in touch with respite opportunities. Using a suitable device such as the Assure can give you more day to day freedom. knowing the person you care for can alert you if they need to, gives you more time out, perhaps catching up with friends, than if you are constantly worried when you are out on a task.

Grief and loss

Coping with the loss of someone or something you love is one of life’s biggest stressors. The pain and stress can feel overwhelming. Many people experience all kinds of difficult and unexpected emotions, from shock or anger to disbelief, guilt, and profound sadness. There are ways to cope with the pain and emotion of loss. Cruse Bereavement Care has excellent advice and resources for those who are having emotional difficulties due to loss.

Financial stress

This can be caused by having too much as well as too little money and typically results from a lack of financial planning that can lead to debt. It is easy to lose control of your finances and this can lead to stress. Managing your money can be a complicated task so either take the time to learn how to do it or seek expert advice. Most importantly, do not be taken in by any ‘get rich quick’ schemes.

Addiction/dependency stress

This is a specialised area but many people have suffered from addictions and help is available. The ‘Anonymous’ networks (such as Alcoholics Anonymous) have a tried and tested system or your doctors should be able to point you in the right direction. Mind.org.uk maintain a list of addiction and dependency services which you can visit by clicking www.acticheck.com/dependency

Event/situation based stress

Often people find themselves under stress because of illnesses or conditions they find themselves or loved ones with. Usually there are specialist charities where people understand the stresses related to particular medical conditions or life events. Seek them out and speak with them. They will be able to point you towards resources that others in a similar situation have found helpful both emotionally and for extra costs associated with a condition; and it is good to know there are others in the same boat who are willing to support each other and who understand.

Trauma stress

At the moment of a crisis such as a fall or sudden incapacitating pain there will be an adrenaline rush and though the event will have been highly stressful your body has a way of getting you through the immediate aftermath.

More damaging for many is the aftermath of such a situation if they are not found and don’t know how long they will have to wait to be found. Even diligent neighbours have been known to take 4-5 days before looking through windows, such is the British reserve and respect for personal space. The waiting and not knowing whether help will come before your demise can be far more traumatic than the initial shock and many people don’t make it home after this type of experience. 13 people aged over 65 die every day through a fall and there are 600 emergency hospital admissions every day. You can eliminate the trauma of a long wait by making sure you have an alert system to get help in case you need it.

Loneliness stress

Some people are happy in their own company whilst others with a similar level of contact describe themselves as lonely. It is all very well to say you should ‘get out more’ and this guide offers lots of possibilities but there are other ways. There is a far more complete list of stresses at www.helpguide.org

Reducing unhealthy stress

Identifying the causes of stress may have already set you on a path to reducing unhealthy stress and you may have committed to a course of action. Often that can be supported by making small changes to have an evolution to becoming less stressed. The following actions could help:

Connect with your existing support network

A strong network of supportive friends and family members is an enormous buffer against stress. When you have people you can count on, life’s pressures don’t seem as overwhelming. Families are more dispersed than ever however technology can help bring them closer. Here are some commonly available free technologies that are great at keeping people in touch

  • WhatsApp WhatsApp is a brilliant app for keeping families in touch. It is entirely private and you can share messages and photos with chosen individuals or groups and also have phone calls free of charge to people on your network or even video calls. It is not difficult to set up, and you can start with just two people and then build different networks from there. There is no advertising on WhatsApp either but you will need a smartphone.
  • Facebook Facebook allows you to build a social network and most things that are said are shared with everyone on your network. It is not as good at communicating one to one or with smaller groups but comes into its own when you want a wider forum, so think of it more as being in a market square.
  • Skype, Again this has free calls and video calls but is not as good at generally sharing photos as the others as it is focussed on realtime communications. You both have to be looking at Skype at the same time but it still offers you free calls worldwide.
  • Appear.in A really simple system where if up to 6 people visit the same webpage at the same time and turn their video cameras on (on phone, tablets or laptops) they will be in a conference call/chatroom. You make your chatrooms by adding a random set of words after the link appear.in, for instance www.appear.in/acticheckisgreat !

Connect to others

The simple act of talking face-to-face with another human can trigger hormones that relieve stress when you’re feeling agitated or insecure. Even just a brief exchange of kind words or a friendly look from another human being can help calm and soothe your nervous system. So, spend time with people who make you feel good and don’t let your responsibilities keep you from having a social life.

Ubuntu

Ubuntu is a Zulu word that translates as ‘I am because we are’. This highlights the idea that we are formed by our relations with others, that a child born in isolation would not grow into a rounded adult even if it were fed the same information and given the same knowledge as someone who has grown up in community.

Have you been clear about your needs? Don’t assume people know you are feeling lonely so make it clear. Some people will withdraw through loneliness and, to outsiders, it can be seen as a being aloof. Help them to help you by telling them how you’d like to relate to them and if someone comes to visit who you’d like to see more often be grateful for the time they have taken and don’t complain about how long it has been since you last saw them.

If your natural network still leaves you feeling lonely then you should speak to charities, your local council or your local GP who will be able to point you in the right direction. Do not suffer in silence! As well as ensuring you have people you are connected to, the radio can be a useful tonic at home. If you look online or on a smartphone or iPad app you can find internet radio stations like Radio 4 Extra which broadcasts archived repeats of comedies, drama and documentaries 24 hours a day.

Get moving

Upping your activity level is something you can do right now to help relieve stress and start to feel better. Exercise clatters your body chemistry which lifts your mood and can be a distraction from worries, breaking cycles of negative thoughts that feed stress. Rhythmic exercises such as walking, running, swimming, and dancing are particularly effective, especially if you exercise mindfully (focusing your attention on the physical sensations you experience as you move).

Engage your senses

Another fast way to relax can be to engage a single sense— sight, sound, taste, smell, touch, or movement. The key is to find the sensory input that works for you. Does listening to an uplifting song make you feel calm? Or smelling ground coffee? Or maybe petting an animal works quickly to make you feel centred? Everyone responds to sensory input a little differently, so experiment to find what works best for you.

Learn to relax

Relaxation techniques such as yoga, meditation, and deep breathing induce a state of restfulness that is the polar opposite of the stress response. When practiced regularly, these activities can reduce your everyday stress levels and boost feelings of joy and serenity. They also increase your ability to stay calm and collected under pressure. There are lots of resources online, for example relaxlikeaboss.com has interesting ideas on using positive affirmations to control stress

Eat a healthy diet

Eating a diet full of processed and convenience food, refined carbohydrates, and sugary snacks can worsen symptoms of stress while eating adiet rich in fresh fruit and vegetables, high-quality protein, and omega-3 fatty acids, can help you better cope with life’s ups and downs. Get your rest. Feeling tired can increase stress by causing you to think irrationally. At the same time, chronic stress can disrupt your sleep which can in turn make you more stressed. Find ways to get adequate rest.   

The next (and final) mini-guide explores Spiritual Health.  

 Healthy Active Ageing

This blog post is an excerpt from Healthy Active Ageing, a series of mini-guides that together cover most of what we can do as human beings to make the later stages of our lives as positive as they can be. If you complete the details below we’ll email you one of the guides every until you have the full set. You will know a lot of the information but there is nothing wrong with a reminder every now and then; and there may even be some information which is new to you.

 

Memory maximisation

 

Keeping your memory in the best shape

“Nothing is ever really lost to us as long as we remember it.”
~The Story Girl, Lucy Maud Montgomery

Important: health warning
If you have concerns about memory loss or not being able to identify people or things you know, see your doctor. Early diagnosis can dramatically slow deterioration for many of the ageing diseases.

Senior Man Doing Crossword Puzzle In Garden

Activities to maintain your memory

These ideas are useful practices to slow normal ageing memory decline.
There is an old saying that goes ‘Use it or lose it’. Playing and learning is good. You could try to:

Play games which use strategy
Chess, bridge or Scrabble are good as are crosswords, word puzzles, or number puzzles such as Sudoku.

Read newspapers or magazines that challenge you
Choose journals where you don’t always agree with their editorial position. If you don’t like reading go to debates.

Get in the habit of learning new things
Games, recipes, driving routes, a musical instrument, a foreign language. Take a course in an unfamiliar subject that interests you.

Improve existing skills
If you already speak a foreign language, commit to improving your fluency. Or if you’re a keen golfer, aim to lower your handicap.

Get planning
Whatever the project, a garden, a drawing or a holiday, the planning is a good brain exercise.

 

The next section looks at mental health & stress.

Healthy Active Ageing

This blog post is an excerpt from Healthy Active Ageing, a series of mini-guides that together cover most of what we can do as human beings to make the later stages of our lives as positive as they can be. If you complete the details below we’ll email you one of the guides every until you have the full set. You will know a lot of the information but there is nothing wrong with a reminder every now and then; and there may even be some information which is new to you.

 

How Personal Alarm Systems Benefit the Elderly

Personal alarms are an excellent way to help people who live alone to feel safer and more secure. They provide family members, and the elderly person, with the peace of mind that they would be contacted in the event of an emergency. There are several different types of personal alarm systems available, including the Assure®, so it is important to make the right decision for you. 

Why are personal alarms so important? 

Many accidents often happen in the bathroom or on overnight visits to the toilet, which is you should choose a system are designed to be worn at all times. Falls are the most common cause of injury-related deaths in people over the age of 75. Studies show that longer a person stays on the ground following a fall, the longer the length of their recovery time and the lesser the extent of their recovery – which can be detrimental to a person’s life. However, by receiving immediate help, this dramatically increases the chance of a full recovery.

How do personal alarms give the elderly greater independence? 

  • They can live by themselves

Having a personal alarm system allows the senior to call for help when they require assistance. They are free to live in the comfort of their own home, with the confidence that help is available if required. With automatic fall detection, the alarm can generate a call if the wearer is unable to push the button for any reason, perhaps because of loss of consciousness or disorientation from an accident. 

  • No heavy technology 

Fall alarms are portable, lightweight devices which are a comfortable accessory for the elderly wearer. For example, the Assure™ is a wristband design that fits with a modern, vigorously independent lifestyle. This wristband is designed to be worn all the time and it allows you to call for help by simply squeezing the band and can monitor for falls, while still allowing regular No Response checks at times of your choice during the day. Some are designed for use in the home, some for outside whilst the Assure can do both.

  • Un-assisted showering

As many personal alarm systems are waterproof, including the Assure®, this allows for elder family members to still continue with their daily routine. Slips and falls commonly occur in the bath or shower, which can cause concern about calling for assistance without having in-house care. This system avoids that level of worry, as should an accident happen, the alarm is still able to generate a call for aid.

How can the Assure® help you? 

Here at Acticheck, we have developed the Assure® wristband which is a must-have for anyone who spends a significant amount of time alone – especially the elderly. It is a very intelligent system which utilizes automated calls, emails and texts, giving those who care the information they require when they need it. It is waterproof and has a battery that lasts for over one year so there is no recharging. The online dashboard system allows anyone, with permission, to set up and manage the Assure® and its optional settings from anywhere with internet access.

If you would like to purchase our excellent Personal alarm and monitor for the elderly, please feel free to visit the shop on our website. However, if you would like to have a chat with a member of our team – give us a call on 0345 25 75 080. Alternatively, send an email to info@acticheck.com and someone will get back to you as soon as possible.

How To Avoid Fall Risk In The Elderly

One of the biggest worries that family members face about their elderly relatives is their risk of falling and sustaining severe injuries. As a person grows older, their body’s is more prone to bruising and pressure sores whilst their ability to heal gradually slows down, so the injuries resulting in a fall can be very serious. Falls can not only lead to severe injuries and disability, but they often are the reason behind a loss of confidence and increasing dependence on other family members – or even moving into a nursing or care home.

Of course, you are going to want your loved ones to avoid this situation as much as possible, which is why we have compiled some ways that you can prevent falls from occurring. 

Regular check-ups 

Ageing friends and family members should always have regular, full checkups so that any medical conditions can be quickly diagnosed and treatment can be promptly started. Visits to GPs should be very much encouraged, as well as loved ones just checking upon them in their home. You should always ensure that their body is functioning adequately and their vision and hearing are not getting impaired, as this can cause many problems down the line. 

Check their home

Your elderly loved ones need to be living in a safe space, free from any trip hazards. There are many changes you can make to their home that will help them avoid falls and ensure their own safety. Small furniture and everyday clutter, such as bags, pet bowls, small decor, electrical and phone cords, or even throw rugs can cause falls. 

For example, on the stairs, there should be non slip treads and handrails are on both sides. In other rooms, all carpets and large area rugs should be firmly fixed to the floor to avoid tripping – as well as ensuring that adequate lighting is maintained throughout the premises. 

Invest in a monitoring system 

Personal alarms which implement fall monitoring technology are an excellent way to help prevent the risk of serious injuries from falls. Here at Acticheck, we have developed the Assure® which allows the wearer to gently squeeze the sides of the smart band to call for help and is also monitoring for potential severe falls. It is waterproof and has a battery that lasts for over one year so there is no taking off to recharge, which means the wearer can have it on them all the time, even overnight and in the bathroom when most falls happen.

If an alarm is triggered and you do not respond when the system calls you, it will automatically call the people you choose– friends, family or neighbours  or the monitoring centre – to help. All this comes in a stylish, easy-to-wear wristband that is designed to be worn 24 hours a day with great home and garden coverage because you never know when you might need help, so it really is the perfect fall monitor for the elderly.

About Acticheck

The Assure™ was conceived by Karl Gibbs, after having a discussion with his mother when he asked there was a way of confirming she was OK each day. Karl was soon hit with the realization that many other families have been searching for a personal alarm for seniors who are in the same situation as his mother. The opportunity then came about to explore with local business people and experienced engineers whether his vision of a smart wristband could be made real – and if it was something worth doing.

Our team at Acticheck understand that family and friends might like to know and be able to help in an emergency situation even if they are not with the person for the critical event. Therefore, if you would like to understand our product in more detail, have a browse through our website and find out the many more ways we can help your relatives who live alone. You can also telephone 0345 2575 080 or email info@acticheck.com where we are on hand to offer our assistance wherever we can.

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