The Gallery of Spiritualities – welcome to a new exhibition in a care home

olivia luijnenburgOlivia Luijnenburg is a Research Associate in King’s College London’s NIHR Policy Research Unit in Health and Social Care Workforce. (460 words)

What is ‘spirituality’ in care? How can care home staff attend to residents’ spiritual needs? For my PhD project, I had the task of finding answers to such questions. When thinking about spirituality and spiritual needs, many people’s minds immediately go to religion and religious needs. However, what about care home residents who do not practice a religion or are not part of a religious community? We know that spiritual wellbeing is found through a sense of community, connection, nature, or the arts, which can but does not have to be of a religious nature. Surprisingly, the spiritual needs of older people in residential care have often been overlooked.

To address the lack of knowledge around spirituality in care and illuminate the intangibility of what spiritual needs might look like, I collected ‘artefacts’ from care home residents before talking with them. These could be an object, a space, a song, a person, or anything else that represented a sense of joy, peace, safety, or fond memories for the person. The ‘artefacts’ functioned as a conversation starter, as well as a stimulant to the imagination of what ‘spirituality’ might mean to the participant. They were photographed and collected in a ‘Gallery of Spiritualities’. Continue reading

Caring in company: a pre-Covid snapshot of day centres in south London 

Dr Caroline Green and Dr Katharine Orellana are Post-Doctoral Fellows, National Institute for Health Research Applied Research Collaboration South London. (346 words)

Day centres can be a lifeline for some people. Day centres offer activities, meals and a place to connect with others. At the ARC South London, we wanted to find out more about what kinds of day centres are on offer in this part of London and how they operate. We searched the internet for day centres for older people, people living with dementia, people with disabilities and long-term conditions or palliative care needs and people experiencing homelessness across four boroughs of south London. Continue reading

Towards a UN Convention on the Rights of Older Persons: 11th session of the Open-Ended Working Group on Ageing 29.03-01.04.2021 

Caroline Green is Post-Doctoral Fellow at the Policy Research Unit in Health and Social Care Workforce, King’s College London. In December 2020, Caroline released a Human Rights toolkit as a means of reflecting on human rights in the context of social care. (218 words)

The COVID-19 pandemic has unleashed unprecedented concern over the treatment and rights of older people in societies globally. It has highlighted levels of structural and institutionalised ageism in addition to numerous issues that are in violation of the human rights and freedoms of individuals who are older. Calls have thus grown louder to adopt a UN Convention on the Rights of Older Persons. Its purpose could be to provide a legal human rights framework tailored to specific issues concerning older age groups as a powerful tool for change.

United Nations headquarters in New York, seen from the East River.

To discuss the possibility of such a Convention, delegates from around the world will meet between the 29.03 and the 01.04.2021 at the UN Headquarters in New York for the 11th session of the UN Open-Ended Working Group on Ageing. It will include a virtual element and will be accessible to follow on UN TV and open to all – no registration needed. The address to access this will be: webtv.un.org. More details about the hearing are available at: bit.ly/OEWG11_OlderPersonsRights. Additional info about this process is available via the UN website – specifically on the Open-Ended Working Group on Ageing part of the site. This is available via: https://social.un.org/ageing-working-group/ – then follow Eleventh Session tab for more info/documents relevant to the hearing.

Caroline Green is Post-Doctoral Fellow at the Policy Research Unit in Health and Social Care Workforce, King’s College London. In December 2020, Caroline released a Human Rights toolkit as a means of reflecting on human rights in the context of social care.

HOPES 2 study launches! Helping older people with mental health needs to engage with social care

The HOPES 2 study commences this month. Led from the University of York by Dr Louise Newbould and Dr Mark Wilberforce, the project’s full title is ‘Helping older people with mental health needs to engage with social care: Enhancing support worker skills through a prototype learning and development intervention’. Dr Kritika Samsi, Research Fellow at this Unit, is also working on the study, which is funded by the NIHR School for Social Care Research. (542 words)

This project is about the care of older people living with dementia and complex mental health needs. Many studies show that outside help can be hard to accept for people living with poor mental health or memory difficulties. Understanding the purpose of care and communicating any worries can be hard. Sometimes people will reject the care verbally or physically, which can result in them being labelled as a ‘difficult person’. Providing care in these situations can be hard, when home care workers are under pressure to deliver care in often short timeframes. As a result, relationships between the individuals and service providers can sometimes fall apart. Our previous research suggests that “specialist support workers” within community mental health services may help older people living with dementia or with complex mental health needs to accept social care. However, these specialist support workers often say that they do not have the chance to learn or share knowledge, strategies and skills between themselves.

Our earlier research also found that the training available is often unsuitable for this group of workers because it is either too basic and does not account for their specialist knowledge from their experience in mental health work; or else too advanced as it expects them to have professional qualifications. The aim of this study is to develop a way of helping support workers to share and develop their knowledge of ways of reducing resistance to care. This will be based on what we are currently learning in the ‘Helping Older People Engage in Social care project’ (or ‘HOPES 1’). Continue reading

Women’s activism across generations and the globe in the time of Covid

Dr Valerie Lipman is Honorary Research Fellow and Chair of the Patient and Public Involvement and Engagement Advisory Group at the NIHR Policy Research Unit in Health and Social Care Workforce, King’s College London.[i] (1,198 words)

We celebrate International Women’s Day 2021 with a story of an intergenerational project between young girls and older women in West Bengal, India and their global links with European feminists. As a result of the extraordinary determination and struggle of a group of girls, over a hundred homeless older women living in cyclone flooded and Covid-affected villages in the Bay of Bengal region, India will be moving into homes which have been especially designed and built for them.

In May last year the Amphan Cyclone in the Sundarbans in West Bengal wrought destruction in this area not witnessed for about 50 years. Already reeling from the Covid pandemic, thousands of people lost their livelihoods, homes and lives. Families were destroyed and as a local worker said: ‘The old village tradition of living with each other together has now become a fairy tale’.  Older people were left isolated with no one to look after them and older women who have no rights to land ownership or their own housing in this area, were left particularly stranded. The commonly held view locally was to prioritise those struggling to support their younger families, rather than help people nearing the end of their lives. Continue reading

Next steps for day centres in south London as they reset, rebuild and renew from the COVID-19 pandemic

Kritika Samsi

Dr Kritika Samsi

Jill Manthorpe

Prof Jill Manthorpe

Kritika Samsi is Research Fellow at the NIHR  Policy Research Unit in Health and Social Care Workforce. Jill Manthorpe is Director of the Unit and Professor of Social Work at King’s College London. (1,013 words)

People working in the ARC South London Social Care theme contributed to the first thematic symposium (a webinar meeting) on 17 February 2021, that had the title Inside research: How applied research is tackling health and social care challenges and inequalities in south London – seminar series. The overall theme was Responding to Covid-19 pandemic. We focussed on how we have been Helping adult day centres to ‘unlock’ lockdown. Jill Manthorpe and Rekha Elaswarapu described this with illustrations of the different day centres across South London and some feedback on how our guidance was developed as a unique resource. We then took part in three small groups to discuss the following questions, with Caroline Green, Kritika Samsi and Katharine Orellana also helping with these discussions:

  • How are day centres recovering? What helps?
    – Is it likely that some may never re-open?
    – Do you have any experience or sense of how day centres have coped with the pandemic?

Continue reading

Health inequalities among older BAME groups in later life

Dr Nayyara TabassumDr Nayyara Tabassum is Evidence Officer in the Centre for Ageing Better. (917 words)

In March of this year when we were still learning about COVID-19 in the UK, I remember listening to a journalist on the telly saying the coronavirus does not discriminate – it infects and kills everyone, rich or poor, young or old. But as more news started filtering in, a pattern of who the virus infected the most began emerging. Even while scientists and public health personnel were grappling with this new virus and how it spreads, one of the earliest news trends of the pandemic is that the virus seemed to affect particular groups, such as older people, those with underlying health conditions, those living in deprived areas, lower-skilled workers, those working in social care, those living in care homes and BAME (Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic) groups more than any other group.

The COVID-19 pandemic has shone a light on health inequalities that disproportionately affect older people and BAME people, something also confirmed by the recent PHE report published in June 2020.

This blog looks at what we know about health inequalities of older BAME groups, what we need to know more about and what are some key recommendations to promote healthy ageing that is inclusive for all. Continue reading

Resource for day centres – Guide for adult day centres to ‘unlock lockdown’ safely

Caroline Green and Katharine Orellana, Post-Doctoral Fellows, National Institute for Health Research Applied Research Collaboration South London. (721 words)

On 23 March 2020, most of England’s population was placed into ‘lockdown’ due to the novel Coronavirus or COVID-19 pandemic taking hold across the UK. This was an unprecedented move by the government and meant that social care services, including day centres for older people or those with social care needs mostly closed to regular users.

Several months later, the government is taking a step-by-step approach to ‘unlocking’ society, with social clubs and community centres allowed to open again from 4 July 2020. But, with the pandemic not yet subsided, day centres are faced with the task of making their services safe and reducing the risks of infections to service users and staff. This is particularly important for day centres, as they may serve groups of people at risk of being seriously affected by the virus, such as people with underlying health conditions. Continue reading

Action on Elder Abuse is now Hourglass

Richard RobinsonAction on Elder Abuse recently relaunched as Hourglass. As a research team we at HSCWRU have long taken a strong interest in this area, so we are very pleased to post this piece by Richard Robinson, CEO of the charity, in its new guise, and as it nears its 30th birthday. (760 words)

On 24 March 2020, as a nationwide lockdown was announced in a bid to protect UK citizens from the coronavirus pandemic raging across the world, Action on Elder Abuse relaunched under the name Hourglass.

While the timing was extremely challenging, the rebrand was a necessary effort to mark the start of the charity’s new course as a modern, public-facing organisation building on our almost thirty years of experience. If we were to modernise and become sustainable as a charity, we had to redefine ourselves so that we could successfully champion safer ageing and break down the barriers that foster age-related vulnerability.

The Hourglass mission is simple: end the harm, abuse and exploitation of older people in the UK. Continue reading

How are older people coping with digital technology during the COVID-19 pandemic?

Dr Nayyara TabassumDr. Nayyara Tabassum is Evidence Officer in the Centre for Ageing Better. (749 words)

Online grocery shopping has made lives very easy. With just a few clicks, you can order everything from a fridge to hand sanitisers (if there’s any in stock!). But I didn’t realise how challenging that could be for some sections of people. A couple of days back, while chatting with my 76-year-old neighbour John, he mentioned how difficult it was for him to place online grocery orders. As a first-time online banking user, his card activity was flagged as suspicious and by the time he managed to get verified, he lost his delivery slot.

There are so many older people like John who have had to rely on using the internet for the very first time during the COVID-19 pandemic. Banks need to make the authentication processes easier, especially for first time digital shoppers. According to 2019 ONS figures on internet users, almost half the UK population of people at 75 and over (47%) have never used the internet. The fact that John uses the internet at all is quite fortunate. The good news is that internet use in the 65-74 age group is increasing – it rose from 52% in 2011 to 83% in 2019, and the current situation is likely to speed that increase. Continue reading