The latest in our blog series for Autism Awareness Month, we’re looking at Wenn Lawson’s excellent book for autistic adults. The first book to look seriously at the practical issues facing older adults with autism, Wenn Lawson’s groundbreaking handbook Older Adults and Autism Spectrum Conditions offers support, advice, and sensible ways in which to look at the issues. In this extract, Wenn uses himself as a case study.
As I’ve aged, I’ve noticed a few changes related to ASC that are relevant to this discussion. I’ve divided them into physical setting, emotional wellbeing and social setting, though clearly each overlap.
This broad topic includes health and mobility at home, outside home, at work, using public transport, and visiting family and friends.
In this blog post, author Dr Shibley Rahman addresses the urge to recognise the needs of the workforce in dementia education and training by asking a simple, yet poignant, question: what real progress has been made in this direction over the past few years?
The current Prime Minister’s Dementia Challenge 2020 has successfully improved the awareness of dementia (and quality in other areas), but it also did produce a lot of other industrious contributions, such as courses and conferences, not always with a primary aim of educating the workforce.
A lot has been made of the finding that people living with dementia are “core users” of the NHS and social care. And it has been said “dementia is everybody’s business”. But these tropes are too easy to trot out. Rather, the needs of people with dementia and their care partners often go unaddressed, despite much effort being publicly pumped into ‘dementia awareness’.
Just before Christmas last year, as a full time carer of a family relative with dementia, I had reason to experience at close quarters an English hospital admission. Although I am loath to extrapolate from what was essentially an anecdotal experience, I found the mismatch between reality and political rhetoric quite revealing. Continue reading
Felicity Chapman, author of Counselling and Psychotherapy with Older People in Care, is an accredited mental health social worker who has extensive training and experience in psychotherapy and specialises in work with seniors both in the community and facility settings. Here, she talks about the importance of senior-friendly practices and redefining our relationship with “old age” and aged care.
We know about our ageing population. We know that, soon, it won’t be a skateboarding teenager that we’ll have to look out for while taking a stroll outside but a speeding mobility scooter – but what about our relationship with “old age” and all those who represent it?
Is it a passionate love affair or something we just do? Or maybe it is something that we can’t even fudge an interest in. Too “urgh” to even think about. If that’s you – I hear ya’. What’s a person to do when all that is blaring in their ears is to “fight the signs of ageing”? Beat that “old age” monster back (only with a certain product of course).
And what about our throw-away society? Much as we might not want to replace and dispose, many of us have little choice. Your eight-year-old washing machine stops working. What to do? Shell out a lot of money to try and fix it or spend not much more on a brand new one? Yep, planned obsolesce is certainly in-built in our life.
You see, even if we have the best of intentions, “old” can become synonymous with “urgh” or “obsolete”. What does this mean for how we view other things when they are old? People when they are old?
I’m not wanting you to hug every grandma you meet or guilt you in to acts of service for older adult populations. I am just appreciating the social milieu that surrounds our Western world when it comes to how we view this thing called “old age” and how much we value, or not, our elders.
My question to you is this – is it time to “bring sexy back” to how we view aged care?
It seems like a good time to me. We know the clock is ticking and our cohort of seniors is growing day by day, and living longer. I don’t like being affected by dire warnings of a “grey tsunami” but I do think that now is the time to see our ageing population as an opportunity to celebrate age and all those who represent “old age”.
So, what does it mean to “bring sexy back” to how we view aged care or older adults?
I’m sure Justin Timberlake did not have older adults in mind when he sung “I’m bringing sexy back…” Sexy is often everything that aged care is not. But by using the word “sexy” I am not referring to the high octane experience of being intimate with someone. Who knows though, older adults may well want to talk about such things! How senior friendly to encourage this?
What I mean when I talk about “bringing sexy back” is bringing a sense of spice or pizzazz associated with respect back to our Western society that appears to have lost its way in valuing seniors. I am a social worker before I am a psychotherapist. It seems perfectly natural to me to examine systems at all levels and not accept the status quo if it is at odds with a senior-friendly practice.
Nothing, I believe, should be exempt. From community attitudes, to what governments will fund, to social policy, our learning institutions, organisational mandates and the field of geropsychology – all should be fodder for our discerning eye as we look through the lens of valuing seniors. Bringing sexy back for me means to ensure that, as a society, we are senior friendly and celebrate age in all that we do.
This is not limited to healthy ageing campaigns or practices, as good as they are. As a social worker and a gerontological psychotherapist I am interested in models that extend the good that already exists and challenges what has not yet been challenged. From the way that older adults are engaged with psychotherapeutically through to how our governments and industry prioritise senior health and emotional wellbeing. All systems need to be scrutinized for how senior friendly they are.
For the sake of the current group of advanced seniors – and all of those who will surely follow – it is in humanity’s best interest to develop senior-friendly practices and be excited about the opportunities that await us when we turn our personal and professional energies toward redefining our relationship with “old age” and aged care. In the field of psychology, experts are lamenting a lack of interest in aged care, worldwide.
I hope that my book Counselling and Psychotherapy with Older People in Care: A Support Guide can go some way toward exciting and equipping workers – not just psychologists – who are either thinking of “dipping their toe in” to the aged care sector or who are fully immersed already. I also hope that it offers new horizons of thought in how we, as a society, relate to this thing called “old age” and aged care. Whether you are in to aged care or not, I’m sure you’ll agree that everyone on this planet deserves respect and dignity – especially when we are at our most vulnerable.
And if you think that psychotherapeutic work with older adults or aged care is staid and boring. Think again! What a rich mix of things to navigate. It’s seriously interesting!
It is – I think – a little bit sexy.
Moving into residential care is not an easy decision. Some people won’t even consider the idea, whereas others might just accept it as an inevitable step. In this blog post, Colleen Doyle, co-author with Gail Roberts of Moving into Residential Care: A Practical Guide for Older People and Their Families, shares her personal experience and gives some advice on what to do when a loved one might be moving into a care home.
“No care home is perfect, so people need to work out what is most important to the individual and focus on how to achieve that”
Moving into residential aged care is a step that is dreaded by many older people. My parents were born in the 1920s and were part of the generation that valued stoicism as an approach to many of the challenges that life brought. Before I was born, my parents spent many years living in remote Australia while my father worked along the railway line that snaked its way through the central deserts of Australia. My mother coped with caring for my two older siblings while living in the desert. My father was by necessity a great inventor whose creative solutions enabled them to live independently when support services were non-existent. When he came to the end of his life he, like many people, let it be known that under no circumstances whatsoever would he consider moving into a nursing home. For someone who had spent most of his life in control and fending for his family, the thought of being at the mercy of health services was too much to bear. In fact he faced his terminal cancer at home, being cared for by a wonderful palliative care team, and spent his last week of life in a palliative care unit of the local country hospital. When my mother was faced with the same challenges at the end of her life ten years later, she acknowledged that care at home was not an option and asked her children to ‘find me a good home’, a task that was very daunting even for those of us who had worked in aged care for a long time.
Both circumstances are commonly faced by families and older people who have all to work out what is the best solution for providing good quality of life, when people’s health may also be deteriorating and services may not match what an individual wants. Families need help to choose the right services for their older relative in a time when there seems to be very little that will satisfy all the needs of the individual. Sometimes if the older person is having to move unexpectedly, the rush in decision making can make the situation even more stressful. Very often the emotional response to residential care is very negative. In our book we emphasise that allowing the older person themselves to have control and lead decision making as much as possible will assist them to adjust to the move. We have found that there is information available, including for example checklists to help with choosing residential care. However the checklists are generic, and what needs to be considered are the main priorities of the individual – not only what their health care needs are but what gives them purpose or meaning in their life. No care home is perfect, so people need to work out what is most important to the individual and focus on how to achieve that. The coping styles of individuals will contribute to how long it takes to adjust to their changed circumstances. One of my mother’s favorite responses to her own chronic pain was ‘it will pass’. Being able to let go, and focusing on the positives in the moment can help older adults to get through difficult days. Older people have a lifetime of experience, diverse backgrounds and varied family supports, all of which will impact on how they approach moving into residential care.
We hope that this book will provide valuable advice to help older people and their families and friends who are considering a move to residential care. Our book brings together the latest research on what helps and what does not help during a move to residential care, advises where to find some of the latest resources that are available on the internet, and describes some stories from people who recently experienced the move. Everyone has different life experiences and circumstances, but we share the common goal of having the best quality of life possible, no matter where we live.
Colleen Doyle is Professor of Aged Care at Australian Catholic University and Honorary Research Fellow at the National Ageing Research Institute. She is the co-author with Gail Roberts of Moving Into Residential Care: A Practical Guide for Older People and Their Families, Jessica Kingsley Publishers, December 2017
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With a key theme for every week of the year, this resource contains extended multi-sensory reminiscence group session plans for older adults.
Written by experienced occupational therapists, it provides detailed session plans for running successful and therapeutically-valuable activities within group sessions, from remembering school days to celebrating the natural wonders of the British Isles. Each plan has been developed to be suitable for people with a variety of abilities, including for those with dementia, and help to support memory, sensory function, confidence, communication, connection, as well as overall physical and emotional wellbeing.
These group session plans are taken from Sophie Jopling and Sarah Mousley’s new resource, The Multi-Sensory Reminiscence Activity Book: 52 Weekly Group Session Plans for Working with Older Adults.
Sophie Jopling and Sarah Mousley are State Registered Occupational Therapists and together they run their own independent OT business, Kent Occupational Therapy.
To mark JKP’s 30th anniversary year, Professor Dawn Brooker writes for us on the challenges and achievements of 30 years of dementia care. What has changed and what still remains to be done?
Dementia; Reflections 1987-2017
by Professor Dawn Brooker
The field of dementia care has changed beyond recognition in the last 30 years. In part this has been driven by the sheer numbers of people whose lives are now affected by dementia. In 1987 dementia was a rare condition. It was barely spoken about in its own right but rather was seen as an insignificant part of older people’s psychiatric care. There had been a report published by the Health Advisory Service called “The Rising Tide” in 1982 which highlighted the rising numbers of people we should expect and called for “joint planning and provision of comprehensive services for the elderly mentally ill”. The predictions they made about numbers came true. The number of people with dementia in the UK is forecast to increase to over 1 million by 2025 and over 2 million by 2051. There are over 40,000 people with early-onset dementia (under 65) in the UK. Dementia impacts the whole family and society. A recent survey by Alzheimer’s Research UK showed that a 24.6 million people had a close family member or friend living with dementia. 1 in 3 babies born this year will develop dementia in their lifetime. Unfortunately, the strenuous suggestions the Health Advisory Service made about joined up comprehensive services to meet these growing needs have not yet materialised.
In 1987 I was working as the lead clinical psychologist in the NHS services for older people in Birmingham. Even the language then was radically different. My job title was the EMI (Elderly Mentally Infirm) Clinical Psychologist. My office was in a psychiatric hospital (the asylum) covering many long-stay wards which were mainly populated by elderly people. Some had lived all their lives in hospital having been admitted for being pregnant out of wedlock or for some other “misdemeanour”. Many patients that I saw in those early days had undergone hundreds of electric convulsive therapy treatments, brain surgery and prescribed mind-bending drugs. There was little formal diagnosis of dementia. People were generally classified as senile. The ward that catered for people with advanced dementia and physical health problems was known as the “babies ward” by the nursing staff and known as “the non-ambulant dements ward” in official documents. This was 1987, not Victorian England. Continue reading
Published to celebrate the 30th anniversary of Jessica Kingsley Publishers, 30 Years of Social Change gathers together over 30 leading thinkers from diverse disciplines – from autism specialists and social workers through to trans rights activists and complementary therapists – to provide a thoughtful account of how their field of expertise has changed over the past 30 years, and how they see it evolving in the future.
Here is Jessica Kingsley’s foreword to the collection:
“Thirty years is an arbitrary period – a bit more than a generation, a bit less than a working lifetime. This small book marks 30 years of publishing here at JKP, in and around the social and behavioural sciences, with the increasingly explicit goal of helping to create positive social change. Continue reading
Robin Dynes, author of ‘Positive Communication: Activities to reduce isolation and improve the wellbeing of older adults’ shares an activity you can use to get group members discussing coping strategies for when they feel down.
Everyone has periods when they feel sad and depressed. Mostly after a brief time of feeling down, these feelings can be shrugged off fairly easily. At other times individuals can become overwhelmed with a sense of sadness and hopelessness that inhibits the ability to get on and enjoy life. Thoughts may become focused on negatives; the person may have started to become self-critical and pessimistic about the future. As people get older there is often much to start feeling pessimistic about: aches and pains, bad health, loss of friends, children and grandchildren becoming independent, etc. They might become less able to do things they have always enjoyed. It then becomes difficult to remain motivated and take action to fight this decline into depression. Continue reading
Outlining the enhancing dementia care programme developed by the editors, this book looks at the activities trialed within care homes and gives evidence of their success.
The activities presented in this book have been designed to provide meaningful engagement for residents, while respecting each individual resident’s readiness to engage and participate. This approach to person-centred care has proven to be extremely effective: activities such as Namaste Care and Memory Cafés have engaged residents who had previously not responded to interventions, demonstrably showing an increase in their levels of well-being.
In this extract, Memory Cafés Educating and Involving Residents, Relatives and Friends, Jason Corrigan-Charlesworth explores the benefits and the areas to consider when looking at developing the role of a Memory Café as part of the care home environment.
For more information and to buy a copy visit our website.