Category Archives: Health & Older People

Men’s Sheds Supporting Mental Health & Wellbeing.

men's shed, mental health & wellbeingWhat a brilliant idea!! A chance for men to work together and form friendships. Men’s mental health is not always discussed openly but it is an issue. Loss of purpose on retirement, friendships formed through your partner, lack of social activities aimed at men in rural areas – these can all lead to feelings of isolation.

Here we have an international movement helping men’s mental health & wellbeing, Men’s Sheds! a brilliant and simple idea. It can be so much easier to voice and share problems shoulder to shoulder with other men, working on a joint project.

The movement began in Australia when men realised the value of coming together around practical tasks on a regular basis, particularly when they had a designated place or workshop where tools and work in progress could be stored. The first Men’s Shed in England was opened by Age Concern in Hartford in 2009. Now there are nearly 300 helping men’s mental health & wellbeing in the UK.

This link takes you to the Men’s Shed page and you can search for your nearest Shed. In East Anglia there are currently 20, with 9 more in the pipeline.

Henry from Poringland Men’s Shed says “It’s all about guys working together and forming friendships. Men tend not to have the social networks that women have. We talk better shoulder to shoulder whilst working together, than face to face”. The Poringland & District Men’s Shed Team work with South Norfolk Council as a recycling hub and are about to paint Arminghall Village Hall.

Which brings us to the other great thing about Men’s Shed’s, they will try to fix anything. So if you have something that needs fixing but is not economical to mend – try taking it along to your local Men’s Shed!



Could a Virtual Assistant be the answer in Older Age?

Could a Virtual Assistant answer to your care needs in older ageIt is true that getting older can have its challenges when all we want to do is maintain our independence amidst those challenges.  At different stages of the process we often need some support to ensure our independence is maintained for as long as possible.  Our ability to deal with everyday tasks such as cleaning, gardening, transport and other areas can become impaired along the way.  Other times we just do not have the time and prefer to have someone else do it so that we can be free to pursue more enjoyable activities.

Older age and technology

The increasing need to deal with technology as part of our daily lives just to maintain our lives can be very challenging for some of us – tasks like paying bills, banking etc.  If managing your personal business affairs is difficult, then having the support of someone you can trust on a regular basis could be the answer.

The growth of technology has encouraged the birth of the  “Virtual Assistant” otherwise known as a VA. This new industry is growing and a VA offers a wide range of skills and experience having started life as an Administrative Assistant, Executive Assistant or a PA in the corporate world.

Such highly skilled people can bring these support services and skills to the domestic and home environment, working with individuals as well as Care organisations.

I am Stella Gooch of SMG Virtual PA and am a good example of a Virtual Assistant with a variety of experience in this arena.

A service to support older people

When my mother-in-law developed ill health in her later years, she relocated to be closer to us as it was clear she could not manage on her own.  Although we were able to support her living independently, we were constantly having a battle to get her to accept that support.  I am sure it is a familiar story in many families.  This gave me the idea that there is a need for a service to provide general admin support to older people who want to maintain their independence on their own terms.  Help like this can be purchased on an hourly basis with no long term commitment but longer term contracts can also be arranged.

It costs nothing to have a chat with Stella, and you never know but you might just find the help you are looking for by doing so.

Stella’s contact details are:  07788 645157  – Email:

Stella Gooch, Virtual Assistant

26th May 2017

Independent Living in Norfolk and the Handyman Service

HandyPerson Services in Norfolk for Independent LivingI was recently in a meeting talking to a ‘Handyman’. This particular gent works for Broadland District Council and told me it can be hard to get the message out. To tell people there is a subsidised / free service for older people, to support independent living and staying safe at home.

Six of the Seven Norfolk District Councils offer the Service supporting Independent Living

So I looked into it. Six of the seven District Councils in Norfolk offer a Handyperson Service (Breckland Council doesn’t). Eligibility and cost vary slightly over the rest of Norfolk but the remit is the same. If you are elderly and need a small job doing in your home your local HandyPerson service can help you. This could be fitting grab rails, putting up shelves or installing a keysafe. Maybe fitting an access ramp, moving heavy furniture or fixing  leaking tap.

South Norfolk District Council offer their Handyman Service to everyone (any age) for £20 / hr, subsidized if you are over 65. Norwich City Council’s Handy Van Scheme is only for over 65’s and charges £15 / hr. This is the same as Broadland D.C.s Handy Person +, although these also offer signposting and information as part of their service. North Norfolk D.C. use the Benjamin Foundation to deliver their scheme, Ben’s Workforce, to the over 65’s.

Great Yarmouth Borough Council’s Handyperson Service is delivered by Safe at Home for £20 / hr to over 60’s, as is the Handyperson  Service in King’s Lynn and West Norfolk, delivered by the Careline Community Service.

In all cases these prices are lowered or waived if you are on means-tested benefits.

So stop looking at the front door that needs repainting, wondering how to get it done. Try your local council, get it done for a fixed rate by a trustworthy Handyperson.

Kat Navarro

Contact Care Lifeline Alarms aid Independent Living in Norfolk and Suffolk.

People who live near busy roads have higher dementia rates

Air pollution causes a range of conditions. Elevated levels or long term exposure are well-documented as affecting the respiratory and inflammatory systems. It can also lead to more serious conditions such as heart disease and cancer. Now BBC News reports: “people who live near major roads have higher rates of dementia”.

Canadian research into dementia and busy roads

A Canadian study found that people living within 50 metres of busy roads were 7% more likely to develop dementia. This is compared to people who live at least 300 metres away.

The results were produced by a major study that tracked all adults in Canada’s most populated province (Ontario) over 11 years.

Researchers also looked to see if a similar pattern was found with two other neurological conditions; Parkinson’s disease and multiple sclerosis. They found no evidence of any link.

This study of 6.8 million people adds to evidence that living close to heavy traffic may have an effect on dementia. A study the NHS discussed last year found evidence that particles caused by air pollution can physically make their way into human brains.

While this type of study cannot prove that traffic or air pollution has caused the increase in dementia cases, a link is certainly in the realms of scientific possibility. Air pollution caused by traffic can lead to exposure to a wide range of damaging toxins, such as nitrogen oxides.

Exactly what policy makers can do to reduce any potential risk of exposure remains a matter of debate.

On an individual basis, there’s not much you can do if you live near a busy road, especially if you’re in a city where most people live near busy roads. However, it does make sense to reduce your exposure to pollution if you can. For example, by walking on the further side of the pavement.  Exercise in parks or back streets rather than along busy roads.

Where did this dementia story come from?

The study was carried out by researchers from a number of Canadian institutions: Public Health Ontario, Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences, University of Toronto, Dalhousie University, Oregon State University, Health Canada, and Harvard-Smithsonian Centre for Astrophysics in the US.

Kat Navarro

Contact Care Pendant Alarms, sharing information from NHS Choices

Personal Alarm Button to reduce bed-blocking crisis

Personal alarm button can reduce bed-blocking crisis in NHSLast month the Telegraph reported on “NHS bed-blocking rising 42% in a year”.

This “impacts on A&E as hospitals struggle to find beds for incoming patients. Days lost to delayed transfers of care totalled 193,680 in November. This is the third highest number on record, and 26 per cent higher than the figure for November 2015.

A personal Alarm Button helps.Tunstall alarm and personal alarm button

So this is where we assist. As Community Alarm providers we make a difference. Occupational Therapists can discharge elderly patients sooner knowing they have a personal alarm button to wear in their home. With their button worn around their neck or wrist, they are able to call for help. (See how the Contact Care Personal Alarm works.)

Thus the discharged patient is not ‘alone’ at home.

So, at Contact Care we endeavour to get our lifelines installed in the home promptly. We respond to the urgency, maybe that very day or the next morning. Therefore getting a patient safely discharged from hospital, contently back in their own home and another bed freed up.

Kat Navarro

Contact Care Personal Alarm Button, reducing Bed-Blocking

Home Adaptations for Independent Living

Home adaptations for independence in older age, pendant alarmAdapting the home for an older person

Adaptations may become necessary as you grow older. If you think you need some home adaptations, contact your local council and ask for an assessment by an occupational therapist (OT).  The assessment is free.

Don’t forget to hold of Contact Care to get a lifeline alarm!

Here in Norfolk, most of the District Council offer a Handyperson Service if you are over 65 and wish to make minor repairs or adaptations to your home. The  Handyperson Service provides subsidised rates including up to two hours free labour on a means-tested benefit. For further information read Contact Care’s article on Independent Living in Norfolk and the Handyman Service)

Small home adaptations that can help are:

  • installing grab rails in a bathroom or by the front door
  • adding a bath seat or electric bath lift
  • fitting a second banister on a staircase

Also consider equipping yourself with:

  • riser-recliner chair (much less strain on arms and wrists)
  • alternatively (and cheaper) you can raise your armchair higher from the ground
  • walking frame (no shame, they really help)
  • trolley (excellent for carrying your cup of tea and cake through to the lounge)
  • perching stools in your kitchen or shower (great for use at the sink, ironing etc.)
  • lifeline alarm (it’s there with, you just in case..)
  • kitchen aids like kettle tippers, easy-open can openers, adapted cutlery

Larger home adaptations:

  • installing a downstairs bathroom
  • fitting a stairlift
  • widening doorways
  • lowering worktops in the kitchen
  • installing outdoor stair rails or a ramp

Here you may want to ask your local council about grants. Most Councils offer a Disabled Facilities Grant (means tested) towards the cost of making changes to your home. They may also be able to put you in touch with other grants funds available.

Kat Navarro

Contact Care Telecare Service: supporting Independent Living

Senior Independence: Exercise for the over-65’s

 Senior independence. Senior health.

Senior independence and staying healthy in oder ageGuidelines for older adults aged 65 and over. Seniors, aged 65 or older, who are generally fit and have no health conditions that limit their mobility, should try to be active daily and should do:

At least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity such as cycling or walking every week,


Strength exercises on two or more days a week that work all the major muscles (legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders and arms).


75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity such as running or a game of singles tennis every week,


Strength exercises on two or more days a week that work all the major muscles (legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders and arms).

NHS – keeping you independent in older age:

This advice comes from the NHS who wish to keep you healthy and enjoying your independence in your own home. For more information visit NHS Choices.

Kat Navarro

Community Alarms: Supporting Senior Independence through health.

Maggie’s Centres and the Norfolk & Norwich Hospital’s Cancer Centre

maggies-2The story of Maggie Keswick Jencks

Touring the car-parks looking for a space in a busy cancer hospital will reveal a small modern building set apart in the grounds. This is the Cancer Centre.

Maggie Keswick Jencks was a designer, married to architect and designer Charles Jencks. After being diagnosed with cancer, Maggie worked to create a blueprint for a place for people affected by cancer, different from a traditional hospital.

“Maggie got her diagnosis in a 20-minute slot with her consultant, who then said ‘I’m really sorry, I know it’s terrible news, but I’ve got another patient to see.’ And she was in shock. She got put out into one of these stereotypical corridors with nowhere to sit, and all she wanted was to go and have a cry and take it all in.”

The emergence of a blueprint:

Maggie wanted to have a more human place to absorb what was happenContact care explains Cancer Centresing. Consequently, she thought about what patients and families need during cancer diagnosis and treatment. The brief she came up with is hard to categorise. “So it’s a bit more than a house, but it’s not a house, and it’s into art, but it’s not an art gallery, and it’s kind of spiritual, but it’s not a church, and it’s like a hospital, but it’s not medical.”

So Maggie started something amazing before she died in June 1995. The first Maggie’s Centre opened in Edinburgh in 1996. As a result there are now 15 Centers at major NHS cancer hospitals in the UK.

Norfolk and Norwich Hospital:

At NNUH the Big C Centre follows the same blueprint. So does the Louise Hamilton Centre at James Paget Hospital. Thus, these centers are providing counselling, family therapy, complementary therapies, courses on looking good, feeling good and eating well. All in an airy, light, comfortable environment where you are free to make a cup of tea and relax.

Big C is Norfolk’s Cancer Charity, and you can find them in the grounds of the Norfolk and Norich Hospital. They can offer you:Big C centre Norfolk and Norwich Hospital

Welfare Advice
Look Good Feel Better
Family Therapy
Relaxation Group
Complementary Therapies
Headwear Options
Healthy Matters
Bereavement Support Group
Food and Nutrition Workshops
Carers’ Club
Cancer Information Day – Living Well with and after cancer
The HOPE Course

Kat Navarro

Contact Care Elderly Alarms: covering Norfolk, Suffolk, Essex, Cambridgeshire.

Prevent delayed Discharge home from hospital with a Personal Alarm.

elderly_patient_handsThe National Audit Office published its report in May this year. It focused on patients deemed as ‘medically fit for discharge’ but who are stranded in hospital.

Between 2013 and 2015, official delayed transfers of care rose 31%. Consequently, in 2015 delayed discharge accounted for 1.15 million bed days. Most noteworthy, 85% of these patients were aged over 65.

Elderly are more likely to be delayed in getting home from hospital:

Waiting for Social Care was the biggest cause of this sharp rise. Since 2010, waits for Home Care packages have doubled and waits for beds in nursing homes have also increased by 63%. This isn’t surprising given the increasing number of old, frail and medically complex hospital patients, coupled with 10% cuts in real-terms funding for social care over the past five years.

Lifeline Alarms to get you home from hospital:

I have not yet managed to find research quantifying how Lifeline Alarms reduce discharge delays. However, my  regular conversations with OT’s, Discharge Coordinators and patients support the fact. Having a lifeline alarm installed in an elderly patient’s home can get that patient discharged and home from hospital sooner.

We are often asked to install a lifeline ASAP, meeting a family member in the patient’s home to get the lifeline in place so they can come home from hospital later that day. The NNUH provide patients and their relatives with information on Pendant Alarms as part of preparing for discharge.

I have seen many people – tired, frail and leaning on an arm – yet so happy to be back home. Looking forward to a peaceful sleep in their own bed without bells buzzing and other patients calling out. It means so much to both the elderly patient and their relatives to have mum or dad back home and kept safe.

Kat Navarro

Contact Care Telecare Alarm, getting you home sooner

Nuts are not just for Christmas!

nuts-articleI have just got back from my MOT with the nurse: cholesterol and blood-sugar levels were checked, blood pressure taken, BMI recorded. At the end of which the kindly nurse gave me a percentage risk score for developing heart disease or diabetes.

The process got me thinking, so I was particularly interested to then read about nuts reducing the risk of these very conditions.

Recent research shows that eating 28 grams (a handful) of nuts daily reduces your risk of developing diabetes, heart disease and cancer.

It is from a robust analysis of 20 previous studies, carried out in Norway. It was funded by a charitable trust, health authority and university, so is a pretty trustworthy source.

However, as is so often the case with studies into diet and health, the researchers cannot 100% prove nuts are the sole cause of these outcomes. It’s hard to discount the possibility that nuts were just one component of a healthier lifestyle pattern, including balanced diet and regular physical activity. It could be this overall picture that is reducing risk, not just nuts.

Bearing this in mind, the study of 376,228 adults did find nut consumption reduced the risk of cardiovascular disease. Each 28 gram/day serving was linked with a 21% reduced risk. (nb. if you have a family history of heart disease, a healthy diet including nuts can help, but still may not be able to eliminate the risk entirely).

The study of 304,285 adults found that one serving of nuts per day reduced risk of any cancer by 15%.

And of recorded 85,870 recorded deaths within the huge study group, one serving of nuts a day was linked with a 22% reduced risk of respiratory and diabetes deaths.

So it may be worth stocking up on some of those nut bags on sale in the supermarkets for the festive season. But carry the habit on right into the New Year and beyond.