Category Archives: Prevention

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

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.

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.

Christmas Gift ideas for your elderly parents this year

present-2Wondering what to get your elderly parents for Christmas? If they’ve already got enough scarves and warm socks and they’ve told you they really don’t need anything… try looking around their home from a different perspective and see if there’s not something you can DO for them.

Try donning a pair of imaginary glasses, not Rose-Tinted but a pair of Elderly Lenses, and put yourself in their shoes as you move around your parents’ home and garden. Here’s some pointers:

START AT THE ENTRANCE. If there’s a step to either the front or back door, is there a sturdy handrail? Are the steps even? Turn your attention to outside lights. Is there good lighting outside the door?

Then come inside the door, when mum or dad locks the door at night, is the key left in the lock? This will mean no-one can unlock the door from outside if your parent is inside and needs help. If not in the lock, are the keys nearby in case they have to get out quickly? A handy solution can be a simple hook (either in the nearby wall or a suction hook on the door) for the keys to hang on. And don’t forget the doormat – is it a trip hazard?

REDUCE SLIPS AND TRIPS. On the subject of mats, check all the mats and rugs around the house. Are they curling up and causing a trip hazard? Replace them. Do they need a rubber liner underneath to stop them slipping? Cast your eyes around for potential trip hazards – wires or objects on the floor and see if they can be moved. Then turn your attention to footwear. Sloppy slippers, open-backed slippers, worn-out slippers, big-fluffy-loose-fitting slippers should all go.

BRIGHTEN THE PLACE UP. Pay attention to lighting inside too. As they get older and eyesight deteriorates, your parents may benefit from more powerful overhead light fixtures, as well as task lights carefully placed near work surfaces such as kitchen counters. Make sure that the ambient lighting is glare-free and at a consistent level from one room to the next to avoid eye strain.

VISIT THE BATHROOM. Mum or Dad might say they really don’t need grab rails in the bathroom. But when they are there, you do just use them without giving it a thought. If you do slip in the bathroom you tend to go down with a bump. So avoid it. Non-slip mat? Bath seat? Raised toilet seat?

GET TECHNOLOGICAL. There is no need to be completely tech savvy, but there are some useful gadgets. Do they receive lots of cold calls making them get up to answer the phone all the time? These can be screened and blocked. How about a daily skype or facetime? Not only does it keep you in touch but you can also see how they are looking.

The benefits of exercise can be great

It is never too late to begin a programme of exercise and the benefits can be great. Improving your strength, stamina and balance will not only make you feel better, you may lose weight and lessen your risk of having a fall due to poor balance.

Balance is affected by several factors; decreased vision, weak hips and legs, poor posture and general weakness. Some prescription drugs can have side-effects that affect balance. Low blood pressure and not eating properly can also lead to light-headedness, making us more susceptible to a fall. That is why beginning a balance programme which incorporates strength training, endurance training and balance training is essential in maintaining and promoting good balance and overall health and wellbeing. It’s best to approach beginning exercise gently,5 minutes a day is enough to make a difference and you can increase this over time as your strength and stamina improve.

A study published in the journal Age in 2014 trained and tested a group of 24 people aged between 91 and 96 for 12 weeks. One group of 11 trained twice a week, carrying out vigorous exercises for strength and to improve balance. The 13 others did 30 minutes of far less strenuous mobility training, including gentle stretching and flexibility exercises. At the end of the experiment, the first group showed a significant improvement in walking speed, hip and knee flexibility. Their muscle mass had increased, they found it easier to get out of their chairs and they were less likely to fall over.

The group that did less strenuous exercise showed far less progress. Professor Mikel Izquierdo, who led the research, said physical inactivity causes muscle loss and frailty. He said: ‘The training raised their functional capacity, lowered the risk of falls, and improved muscle power. To get all of the benefits of physical activity, try all four types of exercise; endurance, strength, balance, and flexibility.

This will give you the maximum benefit. Just make sure that you never exercise when you feel unwell, have a fever or swollen joints. It is also always very important to speak with your doctor before you begin a new exercise regime, especially if you have underlying health problems that could be exacerbated by undertaking a sudden change in your activity levels.

You can do balance exercises almost anytime, anywhere, and as often as you like, as long as you have something sturdy nearby to hold on to if you become unsteady. In the beginning, using a chair or the wall for support will help you work on your balance safely. It’s a great starting point for someone new to exercise as they are usually simple and low impact and will be most important in helping you reduce your risk of losing balance and falling.

Reduce slips and falls with a new pair of slippers

Contact Care are teaming up with Norfolk County Council to highlight the need to reduce the number of slips and falls amongst the elderly in our region by hosting a Slipper Swap event at Tuckswood Library, Robin Hood Road, Norwich NR4 6BX on the 29th January between 10am – 12pm. According to the University Hospitals of Leicester, 24,000 over-65s in the UK fall over at home every year because of poorly fitting footwear.

Shockingly, falls account for at least a third of all hospital admissions in the over 65s, according to Age UK’s website* Other worrying facts include:

  • Falls are the largest cause of emergency hospital admissions for older people, and significantly impact on long term outcomes, e.g. being a major precipitant of people moving from their own home to long-term nursing or residential care.146
  • Almost 3,653 people aged 65+ died from having a fall in 2013 (E&W, latest available data). This was almost equally divided between men and women, and would equate to ten people every day.147
  • Around 70,000-75,000 hip fractures occur in the UK each year. These are mainly due to falls. The annual cost for all hip fractures in the UK, including medical and social care, is about £2 billion. *

Winter can be a particularly hazardous time for the old and infirm and with the colder months upon us, it is important to keep a check on the wellbeing of older friends, neighbours and relatives. It is also important that organisations in the community work together to support the elderly to continue to live independently and to signpost them to events that are designed to do just this. Research has shown that older people are more likely to fall in the home if they are wearing ill-fitting footwear. A significant number of older people fall every year because of slippers that do not fit very well or have become unsafe through wear and tear – a problem identified as one of the main causes of falls.

A Slipper Swap is a beautifully simple idea but it can really help to raise awareness and provide a practical solution to reducing slips and falls. The idea is that you bring along your old, worn out or ill-fitting slippers and the friendly team from NCC will swap them for a brand new, non-slip pair. Simple!

Catrina, from Contact Care will also be offering advice on solutions for supporting people through the trauma of having a fall. A contact Care lifeline service gives reassurance and peace of mind by ensuring that help is immediately at hand at the press of a button. A trained member of staff from the 24hr response centre will provide assistance in whatever form is needed and if required they will contact nominated emergency contacts to alert them to the situation and request assistance. If this sounds like something you or an elderly/frail relative or friend could benefit from then head over to the Contact Care stand where Catrina will be providing advice and leaflets on the service.

Other help on offer includes advice about fall prevention, NHS Health Checks and information concerning the free one-to-one Health Trainer service. As well as the swap, there will be free thermometers and information leaflets on a wide range of subjects as well as free hot drinks and refreshments. So come along, it’s at Tuckswood Library, Robin Hood Road, Norwich NR4 6BX

29th January, from 10am – 12pm. We look forward to seeing you!
For more information about falls and how to prevent them, visit:
To find out more about local services that can support you in making positive changes to your lifestyle, please