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Eating and cooking alone isn’t easy, especially if you’re elderly or you have a disability. Buying food cheaply often means buying in bulk and often the cheapest option is a ready meal. Your social life may have changed and you may have physical limitations that making eating for one difficult. Food may also not taste as good as it used to if you have certain medical conditions.

The Senior Living website says that many of us who eat alone end up not eating balanced meals, or we skip meals because it’s easier to do so. Eating improperly can lead to a weakened immune system, loss of muscle and bone health, and loss of weight, and can contribute to other issues like risk of falling and breaking bones. Poor nutrition can lead to depression and eating the wrong things can make you gain weight, which can increase your blood pressure and cholesterol.

According to the NHS’s Eatwell Guide, we should aim for at least five portions of different-coloured fruit and vegetables each day. These can be fresh, frozen or canned. We should eat beans, pulses, fish, eggs, meat and other proteins, as they help maintain and repair your body after an injury or surgery. Oily fish are rich in vitamin D and a type of fat that helps to reduce your risk of heart disease.

Potatoes, bread, rice, pasta and other starchy carbohydrates give you energy and a range of nutrients. We should try to eat wholegrain versions such as brown rice, wholegrain bread or pasta, as these are good sources of B vitamins, minerals and fibre, which helps prevent constipation. Dairy is particularly important for elderly people, as it contains protein and vitamins and is a good source of calcium, which helps to keep bones strong.

Diets that are high in fat, sugar and salt have been linked to common health conditions such as heart disease, some types of cancer, high blood pressure, stroke, obesity and tooth decay. Many processed foods including ready meals and savoury snacks can be quite high in fat, sugar and salt. These foods should be eaten in moderation as part of a balanced diet and in many cases it may be best to consider them as treats.

So how can you live alone and ensure you eat well? Well, different people face different challenges when it comes to how they maintain a good diet. According to the Alzheimers’ Society, people with dementia who live alone may struggle to prepare meals, or food may spoil and be forgotten about. It’s important to consider that if the person is struggling with eating and drinking, it may be a sign they need more support.

Buying frozen or refrigerated ready meals for the person with dementia can help, but as we said above they aren’t the most nutritious. However, they often require little preparation and may help the person cook more easily. Some meals are also specifically made to be nutritionally balanced. You could also consider having meals delivered. A few areas offer a ‘meals on wheels’ service. Contact your local council or Alzheimer’s Society to see what is available in your area.

Online shopping can be helpful if the person struggles with going to the shops. They can order what they want and have it delivered, usually on the date and at the time of day that they choose.

If you’re concerned about a loved one’s ability to feed themselves, simple notes about where food is, and pictures, may help as well as simple instructions about how to prepare, cook or reheat food for themselves. Consider arranging a homecare worker to help the person with eating and drinking.

For those more capable of cooking for themselves, eating healthy meals can be easy when you plan ahead and make them enjoyable. The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases suggest you cook ahead and freeze portions for days when you don’t want to cook. Keep frozen or canned vegetables, beans, and fruits on hand for quick and healthy meal add-ons. Rinse canned foods to remove extra salt. Drain juice and syrup from canned fruit to remove extra sugar. Try to eat often with someone you enjoy spending time with.

Cooking healthily doesn’t have to be fancy. Harvard Medical School say that ideas can include a grilled cheese and tomato sandwich on whole-wheat bread with a piece of fruit, an egg on top of whole-grain toast with yogurt and fruit, or a whole-grain waffle with a little peanut butter, along with fruit and a small glass of milk. Blend convenience foods with fresh foods.

Lastly, batch-cooking once or twice a month can help us to eat healthily when we are eating alone. Make a big batch of lasagna, soup, stew, or casserole and divide it into numerous servings to freeze for later use.

We can all feel lonely sometimes, but it seems that in the age of social media and growing social anxiety loneliness has reached “epidemic” levels. The issue appears to be especially problematic for younger generations.

A poll referred in an article on Vox from YouGov – a polling firm and market research company – found that 30% of millennials say they feel lonely and 22% of millennials said they had zero friends. Of the people involved in the poll, 27% said they had “no close friends,” 30% said they had “no best friends”, and 25% said they have no acquaintances.

Loneliness isn’t just about feeling alone, but it can be very damaging to our health. Loneliness is associated with higher blood pressure and heart disease and it has been shown to have a health impact similar to smoking 15 cigarettes a day.

Everyone’s experience of loneliness can be different. Some may choose to be alone and live happily without much contact with other people, while others may find this a lonely experience. Or you may have lots of social contact, or be in a relationship or part of a family, and still feel lonely.

According to Mind the mental health charity, feeling lonely isn’t classified as a mental health problem, but the two are strongly linked. Having a mental health problem can increase your chance of feeling lonely. For example, you may experience social phobia and find it difficult to engage in everyday activities involving other people. Research suggests that loneliness is associated with an increased risk of certain mental health problems, including depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, sleep problems and increased stress.

For some people, certain life events may mean they feel lonely, such as experiencing a bereavement, going through a break-up, retiring and losing the social contact you had at work, changing jobs, starting at university or moving to a new area or country without family, friends or community networks. Other people find they feel lonely at certain times of the year, such as around Christmas.

Regardless of the reason why someone might feel lonely, it’s important to acknowledge that most of us experience loneliness at some point in our lives and it’s okay to admit that and to reach out for more support or social interaction. Before the internet, people were a lot better and actively going out with a view to meet new people and engage in physical conversations, but nowadays that seems to appear more difficult.

Here are some tips from Better Help for how to cope with loneliness:

1. Accept that loneliness is normal: Just knowing that others around the globe are experiencing the same feelings of loneliness can be helpful. Remember that 40% of people will experience loneliness at some point in time.

2. Seek professional help: Meeting with a mental health professional is one of the most helpful steps you can take if you’re trying to overcome loneliness. A therapist can help you explore what is behind your feelings and other issues surrounding your loneliness can be addressed as well.

3. Nurture existing relationships: Loneliness can make us pull away from our existing relationships. By nurturing the relationships you already have, you can put yourself on a path to overcoming loneliness. Try to schedule time each day or week to call or visit a friend. Invite someone out for lunch or start up conversations when you can. Use social media to reconnect with those you’ve lost touch with due to time or distance.

4. Practice positive ‘self-talk’: When you’re feeling lonely, and you start to think negatively you’re adding to your loneliness. Make an effort to catch these thoughts and replace them with a positive message instead. The process of positive self-talk takes practice, but it can be part of a simple cure for loneliness.

5. Find a hobby: Boredom adds weight to loneliness. If you’re already struggling with feelings of loneliness or social isolation, find something to occupy your time. Make sure that what you choose has some social aspect to it. Take some time to explore hobby options and then get out there!

With final decisions on Brexit just around the corner, Britain’s fear over what could happen to the NHS is ever looming. It’s been no secret that the NHS has been struggling for many years with staff shortages and a lack of funding creating whispers about possible privatisation in the future, and so with a Brexit campaign promise to bring £350 million back to the NHS if we left the EU, it’s no wonder so many were swayed to vote Leave.

The BDA reported that last year over 1 million new patients tried and failed to secure an NHS appointment in England. According to the NHS website, “everyone should be able to access good-quality NHS dental services”. The NHS currently promises to provide any clinically necessary treatment needed to keep your mouth, teeth and gums healthy and free of pain. Your dentist must make clear which treatments can be provided on the NHS and which can only be provided on a private basis, and the costs associated for each.

You don’t have to pay for NHS dental treatment if you’re under 18, or under 19 and in full-time education, pregnant or have had a baby in the previous 12 months, are being treated in an NHS hospital and your treatment is carried out by the hospital dentist (but you may have to pay for any dentures or bridges), are receiving low income benefits, or you’re under 20 and a dependant of someone receiving low income benefits.

According to Deloitte, dental services have been available through the NHS since in 1948, but most dentists aren’t employed by the NHS and operate as independent contractors, choosing where to locate their premises and how much, if any, NHS treatment to provide. In 2003–04, total expenditure on dentistry in England was approximately £3.8 billion, of which £2.3 billion was NHS funded and an estimated £1.5 billion privately funded. As the costs of NHS dental treatment continues to rise each year, the gap between private and funded treatment draws ever closer, raising the question again of what will happen to the dental industry within the UK.

The NHS’s Long Term Plan (LTP), published in January 2019, had the full backing of the Government, who committed an additional £20.5 billion funding in support of the sustainability and transformation of the NHS. However, despite the continuing problems with NHS dentistry and inequalities in children’s oral health, there was no mention of a strategy for dental services or any commitment for additional NHS dentistry funding. There were three short references to dentistry on children’s oral health, an initiative supporting dentists to see more children from a younger age in highly deprived areas, recognition of the need to improve the oral health of care home and a similar recognition of the need to improve the oral health of children with learning difficulties, but without adequate funding these are difficult to maintain through the NHS.

According to the BDA, 60% of NHS dentists in England are planning on “moving on”, and that those with higher NHS commitments are all the more likely to be considering their plans. Not to mention that 5% of the registered workforces in the NHS in each area are from Europe, lending yet more questions as to Brexit’s impact on the NHS. The Brexit agreement means all those currently working will have the opportunity to obtain “settled status” to allow them to stay, however, it is not clear what a no-deal Brexit would mean.

It goes without saying that England can’t have NHS dentistry without NHS dentists. It seems that as the NHS’s commitments equal lower morale, as an unprecedented collapse in real incomes and with recruitment and retention problems mounting, more and more dentists are going to look for private options, or to move to work out of the UK.

UK dentistry is affected by the UK’s membership of the EU, and by the decision to leave. The most obvious areas where EU legislation has a direct impact on dentistry include the movement of dentists and dental care professionals, the import and export of dental equipment and materials, the supply of medicines, health and safety, legislation, data protection regulations, and research and development.

The truth is that in such uncertain times, no one can predict what the future will hold, but what we do know is that a trend appears to show more and more UK dentists are turning to private dentistry, and that even more so are now because of Brexit. We await clarity from Government on these issues, and what they will mean for dentistry, post-Brexit.

What do you think of when you picture older people in care? Are they seated? Watching TV? Probably.

Despite what our preconceived ideas are of elderly people, the truth is that physical activity and exercise is important for people of all ages. If someone has an age-related health problem, they may be put off exercise, but staying active may actually be the key to maintaining health and independence for them.

According to the NHS, many adults aged 65 and over spend, on average, 10 hours or more each day sitting or lying down, making them the most sedentary age group. This inactivity makes them at risk to higher rates of falls, obesity, heart disease and early death compared with the general population.

Why is exercise important?

If you do not stay active, even into old age, all the things you’ve always enjoyed doing and taken for granted may start to become harder. There’s evidence that people who remain active have a lower risk of heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, some cancers, depression and dementia.

According to the Care Workers Charity, exercise can also improve the strength and tone of your muscles, meaning you’re less likely to have an accident or a fall and injure yourself. As well as these benefits, regular exercise can help our ability to continue with everyday activities, can keep your brain functioning and can affect your sense of wellbeing and self-esteem.

Importantly for older people, exercise can help sustain social connections. Whether that’s an exercise class at the local leisure centre or a regular walk in the park with a friend, reinforcing social bonds is a vital component of good health in later years.

Studies have shown that regular exercise can add 3-5 years to life expectancy figures, and not only does it add years but improves the quality of those years.

How can I get started?

The NHS adds that if you’ve not done much physical activity for a while, and are part of the older population, you may want to get the all-clear from a GP before starting.

Aim to do about 30 minutes of moderate exercise a day, along with some muscle strengthening activities. During moderate exercise, your breathing and heart rate are faster and you feel warmer.

If you’re just getting started, take it easy at first and gradually increase how much activity you do to build up your fitness. The most important thing is to spend as little time as possible being inactive.

If you’re already regularly active, you could try doing 75 minutes of vigorous exercise spread over the week. This is the type of activity where your breathing is much deeper and rapid, and your heart rate increases quickly. Or you could do a combination of moderate and vigorous activity.

If you struggle to exercise on your feet due to a long-term illness, it’s even more important to try to exercise. Exercise can improve your mood and is really beneficial for your mental health. Chat to a professional about what the best sort of exercise is for you.

Chair exercises

For elderly people, these NHS recommended gentle sitting exercises can help to improve your mobility and prevent falls, and can even be done at home.

For these exercises, choose a solid, stable chair that doesn’t have wheels. You should be able to sit with your feet flat on the floor and knees bent at right angles. Avoid chairs with arms, as these will restrict your movement.

Chest stretch

• Sit upright and away from the back of the chair. Pull your shoulders back and down. Extend your arms out to the side.
• Gently push your chest forward and up until you feel a stretch across your chest.
• Hold for 5 to 10 seconds and repeat 5 times.

Upper-body twist

• Sit upright with your feet flat on the floor, cross your arms and reach for your shoulders.
• Without moving your hips, turn your upper body to the left as far as is comfortable. Hold for 5 seconds.
• Repeat on the right side.
• Do 5 times on each side.

Hip marching

• Sit upright and do not lean on the back of the chair. Hold on to the sides of the chair.
• Lift your left leg with your knee bent as far as is comfortable. Place your foot down with control.
• Repeat with the opposite leg.
• Do 5 lifts with each leg.

In an article published on ITV, it said that nurses have missed out of the UK Government’s latest announcement that it will be giving two million public sector workers a pay rise. Instead, nurses have the option to be offered supermarket discounts and cheap gym membership in an effort to persuade workers to stay in the NHS. But is this enough?

Speaking to the Telegraph, Simon Stevens, the head of the UK’s health service, will call for the wider rollout of such schemes which have given staff savings of up to £1,000 a year on their shopping. The plans will see nurses offered access to promotions and discounts in a bid to encourage staff loyalty.

It has been revealed in the London Economic that many nurses are quitting the NHS to work in Lidl because pay, hours and benefits better. With a shortage of 40,000 nurses across the UK, the NHS continues to face a drain on staffing as nurses quit, yet they have not been announced as deserving of a pay rise in 2019.

Last year NHS leaders warned that the health service is now so understaffed that patient safety is being put at risk. Chris Hopson, NHS Providers’ chief executive said in the article: “Years of pay restraint and stressful working conditions are taking their toll”.

The Telepgraph adds that health officials say a similar NHS discount scheme in Birmingham – which gave staff access to discounts from 700 retailers, including Sainsbury, Tesco, Boots, Morrisons and B&Q – has helped the trust to keep its staff, at a time when others are losing workers. Sandwell and West Birmingham Hospitals NHS Trust has cut turnover of nursing staff by two per cent since starting the scheme. The trust says its discount website, which has more than 2,300 users, helps staff save up to £1,000 a year.

It has been announced that two million public sector workers including police officers and teachers but excluding nurses are to receive above-inflation pay increases, the biggest for six years. Police officers will receive a 2.5% rise while the salaries of teachers and other school staff will increase by 2.75%. Soldiers will get a 2.9% increase and dentists and consultants will get 2.5%, according to the Times.

Most public sector workers’ pay increase will be higher than the 2% rate of inflation. Many have been forced to accept below-inflation pay increases during the government’s austerity drive of the past decade, while rents have risen by more than the cost of living.

A recent report warned that London and the southern regions of England are facing a shortage of teachers, nurses and police officers as rising rents make housing in large parts of the UK unaffordable for key public sector workers.

The report, published by PricewaterhouseCoopers, warned that the high cost of rental housing in London and in the South East could contribute to a shortage of nurses in the area. It found that rental costs in London accounted for 39% of nurses’ and midwives’ income and noted that a ratio of 30% was the conventional benchmark that is considered affordable.

So are discounts enough to keep nurses in the NHS? Ultimately shopping budgets and gym memberships are only a couple of pieces to the puzzle. If nurses can’t pay their rents and their bills, we are going to see more and more of them move to other jobs with better benefits and pay.

However, it is a start.

We’re feeling hot! Hot! Hot! And not only do we feel hot due to the weather our clients can’t get enough of how incredible our healthcare professionals are. Secure Healthcare Solutions have had such an incredible month and our agency nurses and healthcare assistants have excelled with the level of professionalism they have had and it has brought brilliant feedback. We have had another training day this month which has allowed our nurses to develop on their current skills and we have plenty more to come this July for our healthcare assistance and nurses. Our domiciliary care team has introduced their new care coordinator, Lindsey, who has brought a positive energy to the table and has been able to help organise the clients we already have as well as helping new clients receive the package they require. We have also had a clinical lead join us this month, Irene, who has been able to provide more training then we have previously and has been able to improve the quality of care our candidates are able to provide.

With such an incredible month for Secure Healthcare Solutions, we could only say thank you to all of our healthcare assistants, support workers, nurses and NHS staff members for their incredible work ethos, their commitment to their service of providing care and how lovely they are as individuals. For this month we have two candidates who have shown excellency in their own way. We are pleased to announce Diane is our Healthcare assistant of the month as she is always happy to help us out by travelling to different areas to cover shifts, is such a polite person and we are constantly getting incredible feedback for this lady we can only say thank you. Our Nurse of the month has to be our young gentlemen Buddy, due to being able to calm the people around him, dissolve any problems on his shifts very easily, which has made him an extremely likeable person that our clients can’t get enough of and for his quality always being first class and never faltering over the many years he has worked for Secure Healthcare Solutions.

Congratulations to our winners of employee of the month and to rest of the Secure Healthcare Solutions for the hard work you continuously display.  Let’s get our sun cream on and sunglasses out and enjoy summer!

There are many reasons why we tend to slow down and become more sedentary with age. It may be due to health problems, weight or pain issues, or worries about falling. Or perhaps you think that exercising simply isn’t for you.

But as you grow older, an active lifestyle becomes more important than ever to your health. Getting moving can help boost your energy, maintain your independence, protect your heart, and manage symptoms of illness or pain as well as your weight. And regular exercise is also good for your mind, mood, and memory. No matter your age or your current physical condition, these tips can show you simple, enjoyable ways to become more active and improve your health and outlook.

A recent Swedish study found that physical activity was the number one contributor to longevity, adding extra years to your life—even if you don’t start exercising until your senior years. But getting active is not just about adding years to your life, it’s about adding life to your years. You’ll not only look better when you exercise, you’ll feel sharper, more energetic, and experience a greater sense of well-being.

Remaining active throughout life is a vital part of ageing well. All types of physical activity – from walking and gardening, to dedicated exercise classes – can improve mobility, protect against ill-health, enhance mental well-being and lower the risk of cognitive decline, as well as keep individuals more independent for longer.

The Five Year Forward View, a roadmap outlining how the NHS can remain sustainable while still providing for an ageing population, highlighted the need to encourage healthy lifestyles in people of all ages, to prevent the development of lifestyle related non-communicable diseases. Ensuring older people have opportunities and the motivation to be active is therefore paramount to securing the future of the NHS.

Local authorities, health practitioners and fitness operators all have a role to play in supporting people to be active well into old age: from broad measures ensuring the local community is easily accessible by foot, to providing specifically targeted activity opportunities for older people in collaboration with the physical activity sector.

Active ageing is the process of optimising opportunities for health, participation and security in order to enhance quality of life as people age. It applies to both individuals and population groups.

Active ageing allows people to realise their potential for physical, social, and mental well-being throughout the life course and to participate in society, while providing them with adequate protection, security and care when they need.

The word “active” refers to continuing participation in social, economic, cultural, spiritual and civic affairs, not just the ability to be physically active or to participate in the labour force. Older people who retire from work, ill or live with disabilities can remain active contributors to their families, peers, communities and nations. Active ageing aims to extend healthy life expectancy and quality of life for all people as they age.

“Health” refers to physical, mental and social well being as expressed in the WHO definition of health. Maintaining autonomy and independence for the older people is a key goal in the policy framework for active ageing.

Ageing takes place within the context of friends, work associates, neighbours and family members. This is why interdependence as well as intergenerational solidarity are important tenets of active ageing.

Apart from numerous parks, open spaces and access to Leisure Centres, the West Midlands region offers specific areas of activities targeted at older people such as Mature swimming lessons, Fitness sessions, Age Concern Tai Chi, 50+ activities, bowling , yoga and more.

We have recently teamed up with Wolves Community Trust to bring the fantastic sport of walking football to people in and around Wolverhampton. The aim of walking football is to help older people, or those with limited mobility, remain active and fit, while still pursuing their love for the beautiful game in a fun and sociable environment.

“In the UK around 22% of men die before the age of 65, compared to 13% of women. Although physically active men have a 20 – 30% reduced risk of premature death and 50% less chronic disease, by the age of 55-64 only 32% of men say they take the recommended half hour of exercise five times a week. “

The new sporting craze of ‘Walking Football’ may enable people to continue playing football into their 60s and 70s while reaping a multitude of health benefits, according to Aston University researchers. Walking Football has recently taken the country by storm, becoming one of the fastest growing sports nationwide.

Tips for staying motivated

It’s easy to become discouraged when illness, injury, or changes in the weather interrupt your routine and seem to set you back to square one. But there are ways to stay motivated when life’s challenges get in the way:

Focus on short-term goals, such as improving your mood and energy levels and reducing stress, rather than goals such as weight loss, which can take longer to achieve.

Reward yourself when you successfully complete a workout, reach a new fitness goal, or simply show up on a day when you were tempted to ditch your activity plans. Choose something you look forward to, but don’t allow yourself to do until after exercising, such as having a hot bath or a favorite cup of coffee.

Keep a log. Writing down your activities in an exercise journal not only holds you accountable, but is also a reminder of your accomplishments.

Get support. When you work out with a friend or family member, you can encourage and motivate each other.

Social Care providers say they are “dismayed” after the government failed to commit to paying a potentially devastating back pay bill for sleep-in shifts.

The crisis arose after a court ruled that carers staying overnight, known as sleep-in shifts, were entitled to the minimum wage, rather than a flat-rate £30 which had been paid by care providers. Charities say they had been wrongly advised by government guidance. It means some face bills for back pay covering up to six years, with many saying they will simply fold without a bailout.

Care providers say they are “dismayed” after the government failed to commit to paying a potentially devastating back pay bill for sleep-in shifts. In a long-awaited announcement on Wednesday, the government said it would give care providers 15 months to compensate staff who were underpaid for the shifts, which require workers to stay overnight in care facilities in case of emergency.

In the past carers were paid a flat rate for the work. But after a recent ruling they are now entitled to an hourly minimum wage and compensation for six years of back pay – a cost care providers are expected to bear. The liability could leave the learning disabilities sector alone facing a cost of some £400m, while children’s homes may face a bill of between £40,000 and £2m each.

It is a bill many organisations say will bankrupt them if the Government does not step in.

“Having to pay that amount would drive medium to small providers out of business,” Derek Lewis, Mencap’s chair of trustees, told Sky News.

Under the government’s proposed solution to the problem, care providers will opt into a “compliance scheme” which will give them 15 months and HMRC support to identify and pay what they owe workers.

It is a programme the government says has “been designed to help ensure workers are paid what they are owed, while also maintaining important services for people who access social care“.

But providers have criticised the scheme, and have urged the government to commit to financial help with the bill.

In a statement responding to the scheme, Mr Lewis said it meant only the “promise of further delay”, with “no commitment, even in principle, to accept responsibility for a liability created by Government changing the rules.”

“Today’s announcement may help HMRC understand the extent of the liabilities for back pay but it completely fails to give any reassurance to people with a learning disability that their homes and care are secure and to carers that their jobs are not under threat,” he said.

An assessment of the 2,000 specialist independent children’s homes in the UK found 25% could close if forced to meet the cost of back pay.

Jonathan Stanley, the chief executive of the Independent Children’s Homes Association, said the cost would be the “final nail in the coffin” for providers who had not received funding increases from local authorities for many years.

“Without urgent Government assistance, the residential child care sector faces profound change and one of the most important care options for vulnerable children will be lost forever,” he said.

A diabetes nursing qualification is being established in England to standardise the qualities needed for nurses specialising in the condition, The Diabetes Times has learned.

NHS England has given its backing to the scheme being put forward by leading nursing organisation TREND-UK (Training, Research and Education for Nurses in Diabetes-UK).

Debbie Hicks, Jill Hill and June James, the co-chairs of TREND-UK, want the role to have a clearer definition and for a single foundation diabetes specialist qualification to be made available, as is currently available in Northern Ireland.

This is because at the moment there is no qualification available for a diabetes specialist nurse, which means anyone within the field of nursing could potentially become one.

The trio of senior nurses have already met with Diabetes UK and representatives from Leicester and Swansea universities to discuss the next step. All parties are working together to create a position statement on the subject to be released later this year.

Progress has already been made as NHS England has identified what the role of a DSN should look like and how it differs to the job of a practice nurse, but work still needs to be done in a bid to persuade the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) to back the idea.