The Eve of All Hallow’s Day

31st October. In my day, it was different. Now I really do feel old – but more of that later!

We didn’t do much at home. It is a pagan festival and was considered somewhat sacriligious and although I didn’t grow up in a particularly religious household – it wasn’t seen as something particularly to celebrate.

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We went out to the local houses to knock and ask ‘trick or treat’ but none of us dressed up or had any ‘tricks’. It was a bit half-hearted. Kind of like when we went out carol-singing and only knew one line of the carols that we were singing and just repeated it until people paid us to leave.

Funny how an apple was perfectly acceptable as a ‘treat’. But sweets were better!

Anyway, back to Hallowe’en. I think the last time we went out as kids would have been before I started secondary school at 10. After that, it just became another day.

As a child (and to be honest, as an adult too.. who am I kidding?) Bonfire Night on November 5th is far more exciting and enticing.

Mischief Night (because we lived in Yorkshire for a period until my early teens) was more when you indulged in acts of minor and random vandalism when I was young, anyway. My recollections are that that was on the 4th November. Or it was where we lived anyway.  That usually involved knocking on peoples’ doors and running away. That was about the limits of our ‘mischief’. Mischief Night always took priority over Hallowe’en. ‘Trick or treat’ was really just ‘asking for sweets.. or apples’.

Hallowe’en also used to scare me a bit. I was a fairly sensitive child and thinking about witches and ghosts coming out at night, well, it wasn’t something I liked very much.

I was consoled only by the thought that, being a November 1st baby, I just had to resist until past midnight and make it to my birthday – which is clearly FAR more important!

Elderspeak

I admit, I had no idea what ‘Elderspeak’  term meant until I read this article in the Telegraph.

Apparently it is

defined by researchers as overly caring, controlling and infantilising communication – bears many similar traits to “baby talk”, including simplified grammar and vocabulary and overly intimate endearments.

Maybe it’s just the circles that I move in but it’s not something I’ve come across a great deal. I can’t imagine myself ever calling someone I work with ‘sweetie’ or ‘dear’. But I can’t imagine myself saying that to anyone at all – let alone someone I was actually employed to work with as a professional!

image zappowbang at flickr

According to a study quoted in the newspaper article

such verbal ageism can harm longevity by delivering a self-fulfilling message that older people are incompetent, frail and feeble, sending them into a negative downward spiral, researchers say.

This is where the study makes much more sense to me. Language is enormously influential. It harbours the attitudes that we hold dear and sometimes it is a ‘looking glass to the soul’ where we might not necessarily want it to be.  By talking to adults in child-like terms we are indicating that we somehow have less respect for their capacity to understand and perhaps to the decisions that they make. It is not only patronising but it indicates clearly that we are making assumptions about someone else’s’ ability to understand.

I have to say that I don’t use babytalk either. I personally find that children respond better when they are not patronised so the same thing holds true. Except children are more likely to have a family member speak up for them if they feel the treatment they are receiving is not appropriate.

The study in question is described further in The New York Times.

a long-term survey of 660 people over age 50 in a small Ohio town, published in 2002, found that those who had positive perceptions of aging lived an average of 7.5 years longer, a bigger increase than that associated with exercising or not smoking. The findings held up even when the researchers controlled for differences in the participants’ health conditions.

In those terms it is very difficult to ignore. It isn’t just about the words that escape from the mouth as much as the effect that they have. I have to say, as well, there are some people who call EVERYONE dear, love and sweetie, regardless of whether they are 6 or 96. That’s not really the point though. I see it more as an issue about people who modify not only their attitude but their language specifically when they are working with older adults.

There may or may not be cognitive impairment but that doesn’t entitle a person to less respect. Language can be simplified without being overfamiliar or condescending. And it does matter. If it makes someone feel that they have less validity as an individual, it is a part of the process of stripping away the humanity that is there.

The  Telegraph article finishes with the insight of one of the respondents to the study saying

“But I believe that the people who heap these endearments upon us are reacting to their own fears of ageing in a youth-oriented culture. My advice, darlings – get over it.”

Which says it a lot better than I could have.

image pamelaadam at Flickr

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Five a day

We are advised to eat five portions of fruit and/or vegetables a day to keep healthy. Good sound advice.

image mjorge at Flickr

The Times reports today on a different kind of five-a-day target that relates more specifically to mental health.

The advised steps to happiness are:

Connect
Developing relationships with family, friends, colleagues and neighbours will enrich your life and bring you support

Be active
Sports, hobbies such as gardening or dancing, or just a daily stroll will make you feel good and maintain mobility and fitness

Be curious
Noting the beauty of everyday moments as well as the unusual and reflecting on them helps you to appreciate what matters to you

Learn
Fixing a bike, learning an instrument, cooking – the challenge and satisfaction brings fun and confidence

Give
Helping friends and strangers links your happiness to a wider community and is very rewarding

So there you go, some thoughts for an early new years resolution or two perhaps. They all seem fairly sensible to me as long as we can count virtual as well as ‘real’ connections!

One other pertinent fact came out of this research and is quoted in the article – namely

Half of people in Britain who are in debt have a mental disorder, compared with just 16 per cent of the general population.

That’s an enormous amount of people. It might be a thought for another day to consider the ways and means that these two factors influence each other, but that’s possibly too much for me to take on on a Saturday morning.

But a salutary thought as we move towards a recession.

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Changes

The Guardian are publishing a supplement on both recent and proposed changes within the social care sector to coincide with the opening of the National Children’s and Adult Services Conference in Liverpool.

Not having seen a printed copy of the paper yet today, I’m not sure if the website offers all that is there.

image gwire at flickr

But a few thoughts on some of the articles.

There is an article about the rejoining of adult and children services directorates in some areas of the country after a recent pushing of the splitting apart of the service provision. Children’s Services tending to link up with Education Services.

My favourite quotation from the article is

Andrew Ireland, at Havering in east London, said: “There is no excuse for people not talking to each other if they’re all part of the same directorate.”

This made me chuckle because our own Adult Services Directorate joined with the Housing Directorate, under a Director whose experience lies wholly in Housing Services. No excuse for people not to talk to each other, Mr Ireland? Oh, you should see how well Housing and Adult Services are bedding down together in my own council..

There is also an article looking back at the development of the independent living agenda through the experiences of John Evans, who was at the forefront of the process.

Evans makes a strong case although with some reservations

Evans is concerned that the personalisation drive has come at a downpoint in the economic cycle and, now, amid a spectacular banking crash. “The philosophy of the government is wonderful,” he says, “But with local authorities going to be so tightly restricted financially, unless more money does come somehow, it’s just not clear how it’s all going to go forward.”

Credit crunching is all-pervasive, it seems. Although to be honest, I suspect there was never really any ‘extra’ money available to fund the personalisation agenda and it was always intended to be a cost-neutral, if not cost-cutting programme.

Meanwhile, the role of informal carers is considered and the lack of recognition formally regarding the level of care that is being provided without any recompense.

As things stand, there is a paradox at the heart of our apparently “carer-blind” system: the more care you provide as a family, the less support you are likely to receive. And this appears to give the Treasury a win that’s best left well alone. Why provide expensive replacement care when a family could be doing it for free?

…By thinking about individuals, rather than whole families, we squander the country’s largest full-time care workforce.

So a system of direct payment for families to account for the work that is being provided informally? It’s an idea. The article goes on to elaborate on how it might look

But should we be thinking about going still further? With the social care budget deficit standing officially at £6bn, and rising, will we need to accept changes that move us towards the systems in France and Germany, where families are placed under legal obligations to care for, or pay for the care of, their elderly parents?

Well, it would be one way of providing services at a cost. Families are different though and one persons’ joy is another persons’ burden. While I think the system of carers allowance is nothing more than an embarrassment, our culture is not one that has encouraged mandatory support of elder relatives – in the same way that families are expected to care for dependent children, mandating that families care for dependent older adults might create a chasm of expectations.

It’s an interesting thought though. Isn’t it?

There are a few more articles over at the Guardian that provide some interesting perspectives. I may explore further after I actually leave the house and get a print version!

Training

It’s a fairly busy month in the Mental Health teams with the impeding (3rd November) changes in the Mental Health legislation in England and Wales.

Having attended my ASW (Approved Social Worker) to AMHP (Approved Mental Health Professional) conversion course, a mere 3 months after receiving my warrant, I have somehow (actually, I believe it’s related to the above!) become involved in the training of other members of our service in the changes that are coming in with the new legislation.

k.susuki at flickr

k.susuki at flickr

I ran (with a colleague) the first of the training sessions yesterday. It was a lot more positive than I had feared it would be. I was concerned that either there would be some ‘information overload’ or that I had pared too finely the ‘essential information’ needed. Too much reliance on PowerPoint too. That was a genuine worry

It was the first time I’d delivered training, as such. I have given presentations but they have tended to be much shorter – of up to an hour. I spent a couple of years teaching English as a Second Language, mostly overseas and to a wide variety of age groups and levels but again, those sessions were much shorter. At least it had given me a lot of experience with ‘interesting’ activities and the importance of some element of interaction and group work.

But this was training. This was different. This was new.

We had drummed together a few activities related to the subject matter including a quick quiz on current legislation (with one .. um..  deliberate mistake)  and a couple of case studies with lots of discussion points.

We have another couple of general sessions to run as well as some more specialised ones on request. I think there’s a little bit of fine-tuning to be done before the next session.. maybe the ‘deliberate’ error was a little too subtle!

We made significant use of the materials provided on the Care Services Improvement Partnership site, which comes highly recommended.

They even have a  very handy (and brief) summary of all the changes here.

As for the training, well, it isn’t over yet. I enjoyed it though. I definitely see it as an area that I would like to develop in my own work. My not-so-secret ambition has always been to move towards teaching when I do just get too tired to continue with the front line work. Management of a team doesn’t interest me and I’ve harboured the wish to move into a more pedagogical role for many years. All these experiences are good then in the long term planning.