I offer advice, give talks and write articles about a wide range of issues which affect older people, from choosing appropriate housing to eating a nutritious diet, maximising income to surviving a hospital stay, getting around city centres if you have a disability to finding romance in later life.
My mother spent time in three care homes in the late 1990s and the treatment of people in these establishments has been an enduring interest of mine ever since. You can read the story of my personal experience of the care field here . A hundred pages of my Survival Guide to Later Life deal with choosing and living in a care home, and I have reported on the selection of care homes and how to remain happy in them in the annual publication Care Select - Choosing a Care Home .
Improvements to the care homes system are desperately and urgently needed and if you would like some ideas on what these might be, do contact me. Until recently I was a trustee of the only national charity which tries to support people living in care homes and to secure improvements to the care homes system, the Relatives and Residents Association.
Older People's Issues
Apart from care homes, there are certain fields in which I have a particular interest. These include:
Just click on the headers below to expand and contract for each subject
Ageism pervades countless aspects of life in Britain today, despite the strictures of the Equality Act, 2010. I explored ageism in a talk at the Lowdham Book Festival in 2005. You can read this here: Government accused of Ageism
One aspect of ageism in the health service is the massive reduction in the number of beds for elderly people with long-term disabling conditions: the number was cut by two-thirds during the last quarter of the 20th century. After a battle, I managed to secure one of these NHS Continuing Care beds for my mother. However, the Continuing Care system is not ideal, and when in 2005 the House of Commons Health Select Committee conducted an inquiry into NHS Continuing Care, I submitted evidence, which you can read here: Inquiry into NHS Continuing Care
My interest in access to the countryside sprang from recognition of the enormous amount of land in Britain on which people may not legally set foot even though they would do no conceivable damage. For people with mobility problems (as a result of anything from osteoarthritis to lung disease), exclusion takes on a huge additional dimension. Large numbers of these people are shut out of glorious countryside simply for the want of basic features like seats, gates (instead of stiles) and paths with a smooth surface. Lack of basic infrastructure to facilitate walking is certainly not confined to the countryside: in towns too perfectly straightforward steps could transform the lives of many people, as I explain in this article from Woman's World - Elderly Mobility - Way to Go
The current debate on assisted suicide has polarised views. Some argue that it is a fundamental human right to control the time and nature of one’s demise. Others maintain that the legalisation of assisted suicide would reduce support for palliative care and put pressure on elderly people to end their lives to save their families money.
In an article in the Daily Express - Assisted Suicide - Beware of Granting a Licence to Kill the Old and Sick - I explained why I believe that assisted suicide would have serious repercussions for frail elderly people; and in my Survival Guide To Later Life I aim to give people the knowledge to ensure that they know what palliative care they should be asking for, if it is not offered.
Massive advances are required in the way in which people with dementia are cared for and their human rights - not least their right to determine their own future – are treated.
I first became involved in the world of dementia when my other developed the condition, a story which I recounted in an the following article published in The Sunday Telegraph: Dementia - The Day I Abducted My Mother
Since then, I have had much experience of the condition, mainly through visiting people with dementia in care homes but also seeking to support a small number of individuals with dementia in their own homes. I often give talks about dementia, such as this one which I gave to Carers Support in 2005: Dementia - Our Cinderella Disease
I have been a member of the Alzheimer’s Society since my mother first developed dementia in the late 1990s. After involvement in the Sutton branch, London Area Forum and National Advisory Council, I now sit on the Society’s Quality Research in Dementia forum, which evaluates applications for funding for research projects into both the scientific and the care aspects of dementia.
Many people provide unpaid care to disabled or frail relatives and friends which the state would have to provide were it not for their efforts. Yet carers often receive very little by way of help and are often unaware of their entitlements. I often give talks to carers groups, offering practical advice and discussing issues that affect them, such as my talk in Northumberland in 2005: New Charter for Home Carers
Also see faith groups below.
All sorts of activities can appeal in later life. Activity is an especially important aspect of care home provision.
Art for Disabled and Elderly People
Creative art for disabled and elderly people (wherever they are living) is one activity which specially interests me; here is an article I have written about a national movement to enable physically disabled people to engage in creative artwork called Conquest Art. Elderly Activities - Art for people with disabilities
Keeping a Pet
Choosing a pet when we are getting old involves special considerations, which I explore here: Elderly Activities - Keeping a Pet
And here are some suggestions for those seeking a romantic relationship in later life: Elderly Activities - Finding Romance
Older people are often the mainstay of faith groups, which in turn could provide for an enormous wellspring of support. Yet sometimes faith groups ignore elderly people's special needs, whether physical, psychological or spiritual. I explore some of the ways in which churches could better respond to the opportunities and to the needs of older people in an article here below and I report on a conference on this subject in an article published in The Tablet which you can also read below.
- Faith & Religion in the Elderly - Article published in Plus, the newsletter of the Christian Council on Ageing
- Faith & Religion in the Elderly - Article published in The Tablet
Another related field in which churches are beginning to realise they could do far more is support for unpaid family carers.
For some of my suggestions about what they could do click here: Home Carer Support from the Church
My 640-page A Survival Guide to Later Life covers a range of topics in fields such as housing choices, maximising income in later life and obtaining practical help in the home and good care in hospital. I believe that many of the problems of old age can be avoided if people plan ahead and become better informed about their rights as well as the range of help available to them.