Category Archives: Wellbeing

Make your home dementia-friendly

A thought-provoking film was shared by Alzheimer’s Society at the Dementia Care Conference, which drew nearly 40 delegates from public and charity sectors – including Patricia Berry from MMHS.

In How I Made My Home Dementia-Friendly, Alzheimer’s Society ambassador Wendy Mitchell shares her story of living with the disease. The conference heard that dementia will affect more than a million people by 2025.

Disabled writers champion social media

Social media used to have a bad press. But it’s good news for many people living with a disability or chronic illness.

Information and advice service Independent Living gathered people’s views on the role social media plays for them. Their findings are positive.


Lauren Matthewson of Access Your Life described social media as ‘an incredibly powerful platform’ for those living with a disability. ‘It allows us to connect with other people living with similar conditions,’ she said.

Lauren has learned to overlook the negativity that can be found on social media. But scrolling through comments online can be depressing – ‘particularly when I’m stuck in hospital and my feed is filled with pictures of everyone having fun!’ She has to remind herself that most people post life’s highlights, as opposed to their reality.

Carrie-Ann Lightley of AccessAble (pictured above) started out as a disabled travel writer online in 2010. She wanted to share her passion for travel with the rest of the world, and to show that accessible travel is possible.


‘The best feeling in the world is someone telling you they’ve had the confidence to book a trip, as a disabled person, because they’ve read your latest post,’ said Carrie-Ann.

Martyn Sibley of Disability Horizons (pictured below) believes social media gives everybody a voice. ‘For years, disabled people were not empowered to speak up,’ he said. But Martyn believes social media offers useful content, community support and debate forums. His vision is where governments, businesses and society fully value disabled people.

As a wheelchair user, Georgina Harvey of Chronillicles has found social media has been ‘life-changing’ – in a good way. ‘It makes me feel less alone in what I’m going through,’ she said. ‘It also shows me amazing ways I can customise my chair to make it feel more like my own!’ For the full story, visit here.

Have fun in the sun – with care

Take simple steps so fun in the sun doesn’t become holiday in hospital. That’s the message from the NHS as warmer weather has been hitting these shores.

Chief nursing officer for England Ruth May is encouraging households to take common sense precautions and follow the NHS top tips like – drinking plenty of water, using high-factor sunscreen and taking allergy medicine where needed.


The risk of serious illness is much higher for older people. ‘The NHS will be there always for anyone who needs it,’ said Ruth. ‘But everyone can help by checking in on vulnerable friends and neighbours.’

She added that people should ‘talk before they walk’ and join the hundreds of thousands receiving fast and free advice on the best course of action from the website or 111 phone line.

Too much sun can affect everyone. Some are more at risk to the danger of hot weather including – those over 75, people with serious chronic conditions and mobility problems – or those who’ve had a stroke. People on certain medications must be careful, too. Here are ten tips for coping in hot weather:


– shut windows and shades when it’s hotter outside, opening windows when it’s cooler;
– avoid sun during the hottest part of the day (11am-3pm);
– use light-coloured curtains and keep them closed;
– have cool baths or showers and splash yourself with cool water;
– drink plenty of fluids – water, lower-fat milks and tea and coffee are good options;
– listen to alerts on TV, radio and social media about keeping cool;
– plan ahead to ensure you have enough food, water and medications;
– identify your coolest room;
– wear loose, cool clothing – a hat and sunglasses outdoors;
– check up on friends, relatives and neighbours.

(Photo: Clive Price)

How to stay safe at home

Free resources from two leading charities show how you can keep out of harm’s way at home.

Published this month (April) by Independent Age, Home Safety is a 52-page guide that helps the reader to avoid accidents around their house or flat.

The publication shows people how they can keep themselves from harm by being aware of danger areas and unsafe habits.

Readers can identify some common hazards in their home and get advice on such issues as:

• avoiding falls;
• fire protection;
• electrical safety;
• gas, oil and solid fuel;
• staying safe in the kitchen;
• food safety;
• avoiding floods and scalds;
• managing your medication.

The other resource is Safe At Home: Tips For The Over 65s by The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents. This 12-page guide offers information on how to cope with the most common accidents around the home:

• how to prevent falls;
• what to do if you’re hurt;
• how to get up after a fall;
• preventing fires;
• how to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning;
• preventing scalds and burns;
• avoiding hypothermia;
• home safety checklist.

According to RoSPA, more accidents happen at home than anywhere else. People over 65 – particularly those over 75 – are among those most likely to have an accident at home.

Improved living standards, better healthcare, greater awareness of the importance of a healthy diet and taking regular exercise have led to more and more people enjoying life into their 80s and 90s.

But older people, in particular the frail elderly, are one of the groups of our population most vulnerable to accidents, particularly in and around the home.

Many accidents are attributable wholly or in part to frailty and failing health, said RoSPA. This can lead to failure or slowness to see and avoid risks. By drawing attention to danger spots and unsafe habits, then accidents can be reduced. (Main photo: RoSPA)

How to add life to your years

If life is a journey, how do we enjoy every step? Business and life coach Marian Byrne addresses that in Adding Life To Your Years (Veritas).

The author doesn’t promise to change our lives. But her book offers to be the start of ‘improving your experience of the one you have’. Marian Byrne (pictured) shares simple ways of changing our mindset.


There are three themes – self-awareness, self-acceptance and movement. The aim is to start where we are and work with what we’ve got and with what is within our control. ‘Little things…can lead to big changes,’ says the author.

Each of the 26 sections starts with a short insight into such areas as – gratitude, wealth, stress, listening, mindfulness, memories, music – and even hugging! They are followed by snappy lists of practical things to do.

You may have read some of these ideas before in other self-help books – reviewing your first thought of the day; spring cleaning your home; our relationship with money; listening as a gateway to connect with others; changing your body language. Like other similar works, it’s a broad look at life’s challenges and opportunities.

Marian Byrne encourages such positive life steps as – being a ‘deliberate creator’ in our lives; thinking of the legacy we want to leave behind; having the ability to grow, develop and change; looking for opportunities to give time or money to others; and listening to people in a deeper way.


‘We are what we repeatedly do’ is a key message at the heart of this book. The hope is that applying some of the information can interrupt old habits and introduce more useful ones.

Of course, this book may not be our ultimate answer. But like other publications of a similar nature, it offers insights and ideas to get some work done. For reading this kind of title, it’s helpful to have a notebook to hand, to keep a journal of your experiences.

Carers have their day

‘Caring For Your Future’ is the theme for Carers Rights Day on 30th November.

Behind the event is national charity Carers UK, who are focusing on supporting people to prepare for the future. That’s because every day 6,000 people become carers – but often it’s not something they planned for.


Each year Carers Rights Day brings organisations together to help carers in their local community know their rights – and find out how to get support.

Supported by Nutricia Advanced Medical Nutrition and Specsavers, Carers Rights Day will see hundreds of organisations holding events to help carers in their community.

Caring is a growing movement. Carers UK say in the last decade, the number of people in Britain estimated to be caring for a sick or disabled partner, child or elderly relative, has gone up by at least a million, to 7.6 million.

Analysis by the Social Market Foundation says family carers are providing 149 million hours of care every week – equal to the work of four million full-time care workers. Research from the University of Leeds and Carers UK suggests informal carers are saving £132 billion a year that would otherwise be a cost to the NHS and Social Services.

Some carers have to give up working. Many struggle with poverty and social isolation, as well as their caring responsibilities. One in five have such financial problems, they even cut down on food. Yet an estimated £16.6 billion in benefits is unclaimed every year. Carers UK say four out of ten carers don’t know about such support, so don’t claim it.


Carers UK have published a new edition of their guide Looking After Someone which outlines carers’ rights and gives an overview of support available. You can download it for free at – You can get a printed copy by calling their telephone helpline on 0808 808 7777.

Independent Living have a range of helpful articles for carers. These can be found at –

Autumn focus on Alzheimer’s

Former Southampton GP Jennifer Bute was shocked when patients started kissing her. Later she realised the patient who’d hugged her was a friend.

‘Soon after, I wouldn’t recognise people I had known for 20 years,’ she said, ‘then I started getting lost along familiar routes. That was kind of how it all started.’


Dr Bute (pictured) is now one of 50 million people in the world with dementia. With a vibrant Christian faith, she has written a book Dementia From The Inside: A Doctor’s Personal Journey Of Hope – and gives talks about her experiences.

She regards dementia as ‘a God-given unexpected gift’ and even ‘a glorious opportunity’ – which is the name of her website – to understand this global, hurting community.

Dr Bute’s story is shared in the World Alzheimer Report 2018, published recently by Alzheimer’s Disease International (ADI) on World Alzheimer’s Day, 21st September.

ADI hope their report will increase awareness and spark a debate which will lead to more governments and businesses dedicating funds and focus to help people with dementia – and their families – live better lives.

September was World Alzheimer’s Month, an international campaign that raises awareness and challenges the stigma surrounding dementia. There are more than 850,000 people in the UK living with dementia – yet many people have little or no understanding of the illness.


Independent Age have published a useful factsheet called Living With Dementia that looks at the different types of dementia and the help that’s available.

Being diagnosed with dementia can come as a shock and can be very distressing for people as well as their families. Independent Age hope their factsheet will help people understand what dementia is and where to get support.

Churches can aid people with dementia

CEO SPECIAL REPORT: My role as MMHS’s Chief Exec takes me on interesting explorations from time to time. Recently I had the pleasure of learning about the life-enhancing interplay between music and dementia.


Having attended the main hearing of the House of Lords Commission on Dementia and Music chaired by Baroness Sally Greengross, I was invited to the subsequent celebration of the launch of the Report in the House. What a complete privilege it was to hear experts talk on the subject – and at the celebration, listen to a wonderful choir of people with dementia singing their socks off led by Dame Lesley Garrett!

The Utley Foundation have been pioneers in championing the benefits of music-based interventions for people with dementia. In 2017, ILC-UK (a think-tank which seeks to impact on policy to do with longevity, ageing and population change) was asked on behalf of the Foundation to set up the world’s first Commission on Dementia and Music.

What did I learn?

At present, not enough people in the UK benefit from interventions. For example, educated estimates suggest that high quality arts and music provision may currently only be available in just five per cent of care homes. Music brings dementia sufferers to life. It allows many to relax and communicate with their carers and families for the first time in years.

The commission has identified that interventions can take place in the home, theatres, town halls, specialist units and care homes. It was a pleasure for me to learn that MHA employ music therapists as part of their specialist dementia care across the UK.


I would add churches to the above list of places. Churches are perfectly placed to be part of the change that is needed. What can you – I – do in our church? I shall end with a quote from a freelance opera singer, Demelza Stafford, who for more than ten years has sung therapeutic concerts in hospitals and care homes:

‘As we perform, we see reactions from visitors and carers too, often completely overwhelmed at seeing loved ones interact in ways they haven’t for months, years even. Carers are often moved to tears when residents who can’t usually engage or speak, manage to sing every word, tap a toe or even find their way to their feet to dance.’

What’s age got to do with it?

Meet the lay preacher who wrote a book at 100 years of age because he couldn’t stand long enough to preach, and the 95-year-old who organised local church support for his care home.

They and others feature in Louise Morse’s book What’s Age Got to Do with It?, which offers a scriptural view of old age. Published by Monarch, the book challenges the thinking that being old is about retreating to a rocking chair and easy lifestyle.


Media and Communications Manager for Pilgrim Homes, Louise explains how God set in motion times, seasons and the ageing process. But many see themselves as ‘useless’ and are afraid of being a burden. Ageism has destroyed their self-image and expectations.

The author shows how to live the way God intended. Among her evidence, Louise cites social psychologist Ellen Langer who dared to ask the question, ‘Could we change our physical health by changing our minds?’ Dr Langer and her team devised ‘the Counterclockwise Study’. They took groups of eight men in their 80s on a week-long retreat in a house that had been retrofitted and taken back to 1959. They were to go back in time, to live in that year, not discussing anything after 1959.


People came out of the experience with their hearing and their memory – even the strength of their grip – significantly improved. Fingers lengthened as arthritis diminished and they had greater manual dexterity. There were improvements in height, weight, gait, posture, and scores in intelligence tests. ‘I’ve come to believe less and less that biology is destiny,’ said Dr Langer. ‘It’s not primarily our physical selves that limit us, but rather our mindsets about our physical limits…We must ask ourselves if any of the limits we perceive as real do exist.’

Be wise through winter

Winter brings extra challenges for us all. And it’s not just severe weather that causes problems. Even average winter temperatures can affect our health.

A new updated guide Winter Wise from Independent Age offers advice on staying healthy, safe and warm – as well as information about help with higher winter fuel costs. Many of the tips will seem like common sense. However, it’s a good idea to think about them, to make sure we have everything we need as the cold weather continues.

Winter Wise is aimed at the wider population in England, so there are one or two points that don’t apply directly to MMHS residents. For instance, the guide reminds people to get their boiler serviced. The Society is responsible for ensuring all gas heating and hot water systems are serviced annually for our residents. We monitor this closely to ensure contractors comply with this requirement. Section 4 of the Tenants’ Handbook gives clear guidance on work to be included when a service is carried out – together with contact details in the event of a breakdown.

Click here for a free download of Independent Age’s Winter Wise. Print copies are available from Independent Age. Alternatively, contact Independent Age by post or phone – Independent Age, 18 Avonmore Road, London W14 8RR, tel 020 7605 4200.