Month: August 2017

Sea Hero Quest: The Key To Dementia?

As part of the world’s largest dementia experiment, a virtual reality game has been designed to test one of the first symptoms; the loss of the ability to navigate.

As reported on the BBC News, with the support of Alzheimer’s Research UK and funding from Deutsche Telekom, the game has been developed from an app to virtual reality. This will not only allow for greater depth of research, but help in diagnosing the disease.

The game challenges you to find your way through a complex map of waterways, islands and oceans, testing your sense of direction and collecting anonymous data as you play.

The first game found that your sense of direction declines during your twenties and, that men have a better sense of direction than women.

Although it isn’t expected that many people will play the developed game, it will still provide more information than can be collated in a laboratory setting.

Max Scott-Slade who has worked with scientists from three universities (University College London, University of East Anglia, and ETH Zurich) has said:

“It’s interesting to try to make something that’s normally quite a boring subject matter and lab based and bring it to the public and make it as fun as possible. The value for us is to create a much richer dataset, we’re capturing 15 times more data from the virtual reality version because we’re separating out where the head looks and where the boat is moving.”

The ultimate aim of the test is to highlight dementia in its earliest stages.

With 850,000 people living with the disease in the UK, most will have suffered the disease for at least a decade before symptoms present.

Currently, there are no treatments that can prevent dementia, but it has been acknowledged that an early diagnosis, before irreversible brain damage, will help future treatments take effect.

Dr David Reynolds from Alzheimer’s Research UK told the BBC:

“What we really want to be doing is identifying people with dementia 10 or 15 years earlier than we do at the moment. A game like Sea Hero Quest and understanding how we navigate will help us get to a much earlier diagnosis.”

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Robots may help solve social care crisis

Are Robots The Future Of Funerals?

As reported in the Guardian, Japan is leading the way in robotic technology. Robots are used in healthcare, entertainment and as companions for those who live alone.

Now, the Japanese are introducing robots as priests for funerals. Currently, they have only been used in Buddhist funerals, with the robots being coded to chant sutras and tap drums. Robots have now been introduced at a funeral industry fair in Tokyo.

According to a survey by the Japan Consumer’s Association, the average cost of a funeral in Japan is 2.3 million yen (roughly £16,300), with additional cost for a priest. Pepper, the robotic priest, will cost just £350.

As the population of Japan is ageing and reducing, many of their Buddhist priests seek additional part time work, this means that more and more are unavailable for events such as funerals. Aside from those who can’t afford a human priest, Pepper may be used when one is unavailable. As with “normal funerals”, Pepper will be present in full robes and the ceremony can be streamed to those who are unable to attend.

Although this may be appealing to the general public, it has received criticism from religious figures, as they believe “the heart is the foundation of religion”; an aspect Pepper will be unable to replicate. Although Pepper hasn’t yet been hired, as robots are slowly taking over, will they form a permanent part of the future and, how long will it be before they’re used worldwide?

So what’s really gone wrong with Care?

As the news breaks today that 200,000 more care homes are needed by 2025 in order to care for the ageing population, we look at what really has gone wrong, and how it affects those we love.

As reported in the BBC News, this isn’t just related to care for older people, but disabled people, and children too, and some are unfortunately suffering more than others.

1. Spending has plateaued

The trend has been that year on year more money has been spent on services. This is due to a growing population, an ageing population, and those with disabilities living longer. Over the past ten years, this has levelled off and Central Government funding for councils was slashed by one third by the previous parliament.

2. Care is being prioritised

In 2015-16, 55% of council budgets was being spent on social care. With this, comes cutbacks to other local services such as leisure centres and refuse collection.

3. The NHS is filling the gap

One third of last years £24 billion budget was spent on children leaving £16 billion for adults. This was supported by a £2 billion grant from the NHS.

Last year saw the biggest grant yet from the NHS, as local authority spending was £900 million less than in 2009-10.

Simply, what happens in social care, directly impacts the NHS.

4. Councils are looking after less people

To save money, care is being rationed to older people rather than those with disabilities.

Between 2008 and 2014, care from the councils for over 65s fell by 25%.

5. Patients are being forgotten

If care isn’t provided in the community, people go to hospital.

Doctors only release those they know will receive care in the community. And if it’s still not available when they’re ready to leave, they’re left on wards.

This means new patients cannot be admitted, directly affecting A&E waiting times and increasing trolley waits.

This has almost doubled over the past five years.

6. People are making their own arrangements

As reported by Age UK, 12.5% of people in care homes now pay for themselves and 30% receive no help whatsoever.

These people still have substantial needs and are unable to dress themselves, and struggle to go to the toilet.

7. Councils are being subsidised

Companies providing the services have reported that councils are being squeezed so much, in some areas they’re working at a loss.

The U.K. Care Association calculated that the cost of helping people at home is £16.60ph, but across the UK, councils are paying on average £2 less than this. Also, the fees being paid by councils are £100 less than the true cost.

This means, those who are self funding, are paying more to make up the difference from the losses ; They’re subsidising the state.

Considering 1 in 10 people has care costs of over £100,000, we are left asking if this is fair?

8. The market is at risk

The Care Quality Commission have highlighted that this is destabilising the sector, as care companies begin to focus on areas where there are more self funders.

This could create a shortage of places in those areas, such as the South East where 54% are self funding.

Over the past six years, the number of homes operating in England has fallen by over 1500.

9. Ageing population

Currently, roughly 18% of the U.K. population is over 65. This is predicted to rise to almost 25% by 2044.

By 65, one in six people have trouble with day to day tasks. By 85, this rises to half.

10. Council tax bills are increasing

Councils have been given permission to raise council tax bills in order to pay for social care.

But it would appear this is limiting, as it is still raising less than 3% of what they plan to spend.

By 2020, the Local Government Association predicts there will still be a shortfall of over £2.5 billion.

Many have tried and failed to solve this, and our current coalition government have suggested a cap on care costs; already pushed back by 4 years.

Will we ever see a solution, or will this continue until the system crumbles and we have nothing left?

Can TripAdvisor Help Us Choose A Care Home?

In an ever-changing technological world, are review websites the way forward when choosing a care home? As reported in the Telegraph, this may be closer than we think.
In the UK, if we are self- funded we might be able to decide which care home is right for us or our loved ones. But how well informed are we? Sometimes, people don’t have the benefit of time and decisions may be made quickly during stressful, emotional events. This means that we aren’t always prepared, nor do we have the necessary information readily available to make “the right call”.
All care homes are subject to Care Quality Commission (CQC) inspections. Although they look at how a care home is run and assess whether they’re running within guidelines, the inspections are informal and don’t consider how the residents feel. Care isn’t just about technicalities, it demands relationships, time, respect and trust. So, where can people find honesty?

Carehome.co.uk is already being used to gather honest, personal reviews about care homes and, although in its infancy, it still has a long way to go for this to become the norm with many of the care homes not holding any reviews. All reviews are vetted and people are encouraged to send complaints direct to the home, not to place them as a review.
So, does this really provide a realistic overview of the home? Another negative to this, is that many of the actual service users won’t be placing the review themselves. This will be down to friends and family, which although they can be honest, they will rarely be subjective as many family members will be emotionally involved in the process. Also, will they know how their loved one truly feels?
If this system of reviews, providing honest, subjective accounts is to succeed, then people will need to govern a safe, effective, non-intrusive way of gathering the information. This is the only way to ensure that everyone is provided with the information they need to make an informed decision.
In a world where TripAdvisor rules a lot of our decisions on where to stay and where to eat, isn’t it time to include care home information as well, so that useful and honest feedback is there to help make this very hard decision a lot easier.

Are These The Care Homes Of The Future?

What if care homes were no longer like a home, and more like a community with shops, salons, and cinemas? This could very well be the future for British care.

As reported in the Guardian, Paul Burstow, the chairman of the Social Care Institute for Excellence (SCIE)wrote a report identifying what the government, Care Quality Commision (CQC), investors and providers need to do to change the current structure of our care homes.

Whilst researching for this report, Mr Burstow travelled to the Netherlands and visited a gated village called “De Hogeweyk”. This village is designed for people with dementia.

Mr Burstow reported that nobody wore a uniform, all staff are trained in hospitality, and the village is designed to mimic an actual village with shops, bars and homes.

WCS Care (WCS) has taken this approach, and is now running 12 homes, soon to be 13. The aim here is to encourage them to lead a “normal” life; going shopping, washing up, cooking, setting the table etc.

Their newest home has six households, each with fourteen residents, and their own kitchen. Their meals are laid out in their kitchens, and they’re encouraged to make their choice themselves.

In WCS, everything is run as close to the outside world as possible. The laundrette for example has staff, and they deal with the “customers”, allowing them to do as much or as little as they wish. They also have a Doctor’s surgery, and a dentist, all with waiting rooms and receptionists.

They also believe in residents spending as much time outside as possible and have built in cycle tracks, hairdressers, and cinemas.

These homes are designed around the philosophy that everything is driven by the residents. They only do what they want to do, which ensures they continue enjoying life?

Not only have WCS seemingly improved the quality of care, they’re also overhauling the technology surrounding caring for residents. They’ve introduced overnight acoustic monitoring which monitor the sounds residents make when they sleep. This helps staff assess whether they need to assist the resident, reducing the number of nightly checks, therefore reducing the disturbance for the residents.

This monitoring also offers peace of mind for family members as their loved one is monitored constantly.

This technology has already reduced the number of falls during the night, in one home by 30% as staff can instantly hear when a resident is moving around.

Similarly, using this technology helped staff recognise residents that were struggling to sleep. To change this, instead of ushering them back to bed, they formed a club; chatting, playing games, having their hair styled etc. Over a short space of time, their body clocks adjusted and they were able to sleep.

Due to their nature of keeping the residents quality of life at the forefront of everything, WCS have already received six outstanding CQC assessments.

So can we take their model, their aspirational and innovative model, and make it a reality for the future of British care?