Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Energy firm staff trained to spot signs of dementia

Energy firm staff trained to spot signs of dementia in customers in "groundbreaking" move
Staff at energy company SSE have been trained to recognise signs of dementia in customers in a move described as ground-breaking by researchers.
Staff at energy company SSE have been trained to recognise signs of dementia in customers in a move described as ground-breaking by researchers.
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Experts at Stirling University provided the company's Perth-based customer service advisors with the knowledge and skills to help them better meet the needs of those living with the condition.
As a result, some of the changes SSE will look to make for people with dementia include reducing background noise when on the telephone or changing the times of day advisors contact customers.
Staff will also adopt new verbal and written communication styles and techniques, as well as signposting customers to support groups such as local dementia cafes.
Professor June Andrews at Stirling University's dementia development centre said: "We are delighted to help customer support staff to do their job better through an understanding of dementia.
"SSE is breaking new ground here, and it is not only good for customers but will help any of their own staff whose families or neighbours are affected by dementia.
"And all of that shows how businesses can really help the community."
Employees acted out a variety of scenarios which helped them to understand what life was like for those with dementia, watched videos and listened to experts talking about the condition with an aim to helping them provide better service for their customers.
Elaine Mathews, who works in the firm's priority services team, was one of the first employees to receive the training and said it was an eye-opening experience for her and her colleagues.
The team deal with many vulnerable and elderly customers who apply for additional assistance with their energy bills through the government's Warn Home discount scheme.
The 25-year-old said: "The training taught us about different things that a dementia sufferer may come into contact with, for example getting a fright easily by things like an energy bill, opening a letter or the print on the letter.
"During the training we watched a video showing us life through the eyes of a dementia sufferer and what kinds of things they may experience.
"When they are on the phone to us it can be difficult as we're only on the other end of a telephone line, we can't be there to comfort them in person.
"We did things which can help to reduce stress, like talking in a calm voice, making people relaxed, trying to diffuse a situation if the customer was to become angry or upset, keeping things in a light tone and manner, not becoming stern if they are getting angry on the end of the phone too."
Ms Mathews said the training helped the team identify areas where they could improve and now plan to use brighter colours and larger text on applications and make forms easier to complete using tick boxes.
Annette Sloan, SSE's Priority Services Co-Coordinator, said: "The increasing number of people living with dementia is a real concern for all of us. At SSE, we want to provide first class standards of service to all our customers - and to do that we need to be sensitive to to getting a fright easily by things like an energy bill, opening a letter or the print on the letter.
"During the training we watched a video showing us life through the eyes of a dementia sufferer and what kinds of things they may experience.
"When they are on the phone to us it can be difficult as we're only on the other end of a telephone line, we can't be there to comfort them in person.
"We did things which can help to reduce stress, like talking in a calm voice, making people relaxed, trying to diffuse a situation if the customer was to become angry or upset, keeping things in a light tone and manner, not becoming stern if they are getting angry on the end of the phone too."
Ms Mathews said the training helped the team identify areas where they could improve and now plan to use brighter colours and larger text on applications and make forms easier to complete using tick boxes.
Annette Sloan, SSE's Priority Services Co-Coordinator, said: "The increasing number of people living with dementia is a real concern for all of us. At SSE, we want to provide first class standards of service to all our customers - and to do that we need to be sensitive to the challenges some of them face.
"The training from the Dementia Centre was really powerful. We saw first hand how hard it is for people with dementia to do simple tasks - but we also learnt how a bit of thought from service providers can make life easier too.
"We are determined to provide as much support as possible to our customers affected by the condition. That means making sure employees are equipped with the skills and understanding to provide a better service to some of our most vulnerable customers.
"While this training has initially been delivered to advisors in Perth who work closely with our most vulnerable customers, it's part of our aim to improve our services for customers with dementia and ensure all front line employees can also benefit from awareness training."

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

People with dementia attending meetings and conferences

Many people with dementia attend, meetings and conferences, where this illness is the main topic, whether to listen or to take an active part in it.

Yet in many cases they are not treated with the respect they really deserve

It takes a lot of time to set up a presentation when your living with or caring for a person with the illness, yet many Organisers make them wait until the end of the conference to speak

These people know what its like to live with the illness or care for someone living with it, so they should be given prime spots, rather than making the wait

This is because its gets very tiring sitting listening to others, while trying to think about your presentation, wondering if you missed anything out, or have written something totally wrong.

Many of these people have a knack of setting the right tone, and should therefore be used better.

I know from my own experience that afternoons are or can be hazardous as I get tired after lunch if I don't get a good break, although everyone is so very different, so I tend to speak in the morning, while I am feeling fresh.

If a conference is talking about dementia, they should lead with the person living with it, and then when it comes to the caring side start with the carer.

Leaving them to the end of a meeting means that many people will have left.

Leaving them till lunch time, means that many people will be thinking of their lunch break and not the speakers, as I found on many occasions

Its so sad when people with the illness and their carers have to finish a conference or meeting, because they either get more and for fired up, or we find that in most cases people have left early for home, and that is something which can be annoying to the speakers.

I was told recently that some people enjoy being the speakers at the end of the event, but were surprised at how many people had already left for home before they got on the stage.


 So perhaps organisers should consider this in future

Monday, 15 December 2014

University Education and Memory problems

People with memory problems who have a university education could be at greater risk of a stroke, suggests research from the Netherlands.

In a study published in Stroke, they were found to have a 39% greater risk of stroke compared with those with a lower level of education,

This could be because their early defences against cognitive decline have been eroded.

Around 9,000 people in Rotterdam were tracked over 20 years.

They were all healthy and aged 55 and over. In a questionnaire, participants were asked if they had any issues with their memory.

Continue reading the main story

After analysing the results, researchers from Erasmus University Rotterdam found an increased risk of stroke in people who had earlier complained of memory lapses.


But the risk of stroke was even higher if participants had a high level of education, defined as higher vocational education or university training.
Cognitive reserve
Arfan Ikram, associate professor of neuroepidemiology at Erasmus University, said that education was a good indicator of the brain's ability to fight against cognitive damage, such as dementia.

This ability, known as cognitive reserve, is usually built up during childhood and early adulthood, and is thought to protect against damage to the brain.

He said: "In people with a high level of education, it takes longer for the brain to be damaged and for dementia to occur.

"But if these people start complaining about their memory, then the mechanism is gone.

"This can be an indicator they have reached an advanced stage, when the cognitive reserve is not compensating any more."

As a result, Prof Ikram said, memory problems can be an important warning sign in this sub-group, "telling you to keep a watch on this person".

A stroke occurs when a blood vessel that carries oxygen and nutrients to the brain either becomes blocked by a clot or bursts.

When that happens, part of the brain cannot get the blood and oxygen it needs and so brain cells die.

The Stroke Association says medical problems like diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol can increase the risk of having a stroke.

Leading a healthy lifestyle, keeping physically active and stopping smoking can all help to reduce the major risks.

In addition, Prof Ikram says people should start early to maintain brain health in later life - something which is as important as physical health, in the fight against stroke and dementia.

Sunday, 14 December 2014

Keep your memory sharp with a nasal spray:

From the Daily Mail

Keep your memory sharp with a nasal spray: New twice-a-day therapy could help combat Alzheimer's disease 

  • Scientists have trialed a new twice-a-day nasal spray to help memory loss 
  • Researchers believe that brain cells need insulin to survive in old age 
  • A drop in insulin levels causes damage and can lead to memory loss 
  • The trial showed insulin spray helped slow the progress of memory loss 
 
Scientists have developed an insulin nasal spray to tackle memory loss.
In a new trial, patients with a form of memory loss called mild cognitive impairment are using the spray twice a day.
This condition affects one in five older people and triggers problems with day-to-day memory, such as forgetting people’s names or losing your train of thought. In some cases, the condition can progress to Alzheimer’s disease. It is thought that brain cells need insulin to survive, and that a drop in levels can lead to brain cell damage.
Researchers have found that a twice-daily dose of a nasal spray can combat memory loss (file photograph)
The new trial, with 240 patients, follows research which shows that insulin not only reduces memory decline, but may slow the progression of Alzheimer’s. Furthermore, it is also known that poorly controlled diabetes can lead to memory loss.
In a year-long study led by doctors at Wake Forest University medical school in the U.S., patients with mild cognitive impairment or early-stage Alzheimer’s disease will use a nasal spray containing either insulin or a placebo.
The team will carry out a battery of memory tests on the patients, and also scan their brains to monitor any changes. ‘Information gained from the study has the potential to move nasal insulin forward rapidly as a therapy for Alzheimer’s disease,’ say the researchers.

NEW PILL TO COMBAT DEMENTIA

Scientists are developing a new daily memory pill to tackle the early signs of dementia.
The drug acts on the brain chemical N-methyl-D-aspartate, or NMDA, low levels of which have been associated with memory and learning problems.
In a trial at China Medical University, 50 people will be given the drug or a placebo for 24 weeks. Doctors will carry out various verbal learning and memory tests before and after the trial.
‘The results will have considerable clinical and scientific significance, and growing evidence has shown that insulin carries out multiple functions in the brain and that insulin dysregulation may contribute to Alzheimer’s disease.’
The trial follows a smaller study, funded by the U.S. National Institute of Aging, which showed that short-term use of insulin preserved memory. Those who used insulin also had a slower rate of physical damage in the brain associated with progress of the disease.
Commenting on the study, Dr Clare Walton, research manager at the Alzheimer’s Society, said: ‘Researchers are increasingly finding links between type 2 diabetes and dementia, and are now testing diabetes drugs as potential treatments for Alzheimer’s disease.
‘We believe that the concept of drug “repurposing”, where drugs already licensed for one condition may be beneficial for others such as dementia, has enormous potential to deliver new treatments faster and cheaper than producing a new drug from scratch. We look forward to seeing the results of this trial next year.’ 

Rude Health 
Men who have erectile dysfunction are known to be at higher risk of heart disease. But a U.S. study has found that it works the other way, too — i.e., men with heart disease are at more risk of erectile dysfunction.