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UK Blog Awards for Health & Social Care

The UK Blog Awards 2016 are now open for nominations, and we’re hugely pleased to announce that Hammersmith Health Books will be sponsoring the Health & Social Care category.

We love the variety and quality of blogs on all aspects of health and caring in the UK, and the UK Blog Awards are a fantastic opportunity to give much needed recognition to the blogs that mean the most to their readers. We’re so excited to be involved!

Nominated blogs pass a public vote round before the final awards are decided by specialist judging panels for each category. This year, our founder and director Georgina Bentliff will be on the Health & Social Care judging panel.

All short listed blogs will gain exposure and reach new audiences, as well as having the chance to connect with more brands.

The UK Blog Awards were created in 2014 to recognise true viral style and creative excellence across 16 UK industries, as well as awarding two sub-categories: Best Storyteller and Most Innovative award. The awards are more than an event, but a digital outreach platform that connects blogs with brands. There will also be Blog of the Year Award, sponsored by Odeon, giving winners from each category the chance to win extra prestige in the blogging community.

We’ve also teamed up with Action PR to co-host a blogger event in London where hopeful award winners can learn more about what the judges will be looking for, and network with brands and other bloggers. There’ll be a selection of our books available for bloggers to take away and read on health issues from chronic fatigue to irritable bowel syndrome, dementia care to vegan food, and everything in between.

If you’d like to follow some of our authors’ blogs check out:

Max Tuck, The Raw Food Scientist, author of Love Your Bones and The Whole Body Solution

Martyn Hooper, Chair of the Pernicious Anaemia Society, author of Pernicious Anaemia – The Forgotten Disease, Living with Pernicious Anaemia, and What You Need to Know About Pernicious Anaemia

Jenna Farmer, A Balanced Belly, book on IBS and IBD coming soon.

Dr Megan Arroll, psychologist and author of Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Navigating Your Way to Health

For more info on the awards and how to enter click here, and browse all our health and social care titles here.

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Caring for Loved Ones with Alzheimer’s and Dementia

When dementia takes hold you need outside support because, as people get worse, they cannot be left alone for any length of time and the carer needs to share the burden with others.

When it comes to dementia you cannot ‘go it alone’. It doesn’t matter whether you are independent and used to managing your own affairs, that you’re ‘not a sociable person’ or are used to ‘keeping yourselves to yourselves’. You as a couple (carer and person with dementia) may pride yourselves on one, any, or all of these virtues, but it is important once dementia strikes that you re-think your attitudes.

Why do you need a support team?

A person who has dementia can NOT live alone successfully, and in a perfect world we would never expect them to do so. ‘Care packages’ that involve carers calling in once, twice or even three times a day to help someone living alone are only a stop-gap measure. Very good carers who take pride in their work and genuinely care about their clients can make a difference, but they cannot replace the constant watchful presence that is required in all cases except the very early stages of dementia. Sometimes, however, this kind of care is the only and right option at the time and in this case it is important to get the very best care package that you can as long as it is possible to manage this way.

On the other hand, spouses and partners who live with someone who has dementia are put under constant stress as they try to look after them. Living with another person – even when they are in good health – requires constant compromise as we adjust our habits, actions and conversation in the interests of ‘rubbing along together’. Over many years these actions and adjustments become habitual, but they still remain. The most important thing to remember and take note of is that in any social situation all persons are involved in this constant compromise. Of course we can recognise that most partnerships are unequal and that one partner may take more adjustments than the other.

Usually the person who makes more adjustments to the will of another does this willingly. Nevertheless, living with someone involves a constant daily compromise between pleasing ourselves and pleasing another. But people who have dementia gradually lose their ability to see another person’s point of view – they lose their ability to empathise, to understand the everyday compromises that kept the partnership going. The partner who is the carer is left making all the compromises – possibly without even the satisfaction of a shared sense of humour or of togetherness – and certainly without the feelings of support they may have once had from their partner.

This is a burden no one, however loving and dedicated, should carry alone.

If you are a carer in this situation you can build a team to help you.

Who will be on your team?

Your support team can consist of anyone who is prepared to give time and help to you and the person you are caring for: family, friends, neighbours, professional carers, staff in a day centre and support workers from organizations such as the Alzheimer’s Society can all be included.

For more support and guidance on building your team read The Essential Carer’s Guide to Dementia by Mary Jordan, available as paperback and ebook.

This blog was published for World Alzheimer’s Month #RememberMe

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Longer GP visits will save the NHS money

Both the British Medical Association and Glasgow researchers have reinforced the Society of Medical NLP’s claims that longer sessions for patients visiting a GP will save the NHS money.

In Magic in Practice (London:Hammersmith), the authors, Garner Thomson and Khalid Khan, point out that patients who were allowed to express their “uninterrupted story” to a doctor who was trained to address the context of the complaint as well as the content would dramatically reduce the number of visits required to resolve the issue.

Four GP practices in Glasgow offered  patients with complex chronic conditions (of the kind specifically addressed by Medical NLP) consultations lasting 30 minutes or more. Not only was the condition diagnosed, but personal problems were dealt with and care plan devised and suitable goals negotiated with the patient – similar to the “Ko Mei” format of Medical NLP.

The result was a measurable drop in “negative wellbeing” and a significant increase in quality of life.

The results are published here in the journal BMC Medicine.

The BMA has also called for the rigid 10-minute timetables to be replaced with a more a flexible system enabling doctors to spend more time with patients with more complex needs.

To learn more about Medical NLP read Magic In Practice: Introducing Medical NLP by Garner Thomson with Dr Khalid Khan, and let us know what you think about saving the NHS @HHealthBooks on twitter.

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Caring for the carer

Being a carer is very stressful and very tiring. It can also be very fulfilling and many of us are glad to be ‘giving something back’, especially if it is to a parent who once cared for us. But there is no denying that it can sometimes feel as though we are labouring under an intolerable burden.

In an ideal world, as our relatives or close friends grow steadily more frail, plans would be made for the future, money saved for contingencies, moves made to more manageable accommodation, and help enlisted in advance. In the real world, people fall ill suddenly, accidents happen and the role of carer is suddenly ours without planning or forethought. If at all possible, time should be made after the initial ‘emergency’ to take a step back, draw breath and consider a ‘care plan’. It is very worthwhile at this stage to get the whole family together and agree co-operation with everyone involved.

Care together and cooperate

Lack of communication and co-operation may turn out to be the biggest underlying problem. Group meetings early on will help avoid resentment or guilt developing. Make use of personal strengths here. For example, someone who is not good at practical personal care may instead be able to manage the financial affairs. Someone who enjoys cooking may agree to keep the freezer stocked with ready meals whilst someone who is only free once a week might organise the shopping.

What if you are the only family member? You should not try to take on everything alone. There may well be neighbours or friends of your relative who will help in the same way that family do. Otherwise you will have to turn to professional help. There is no need to feel guilt over this.

Do not neglect to ask for help from the person you care for’s friends and neighbours if you need it. A neighbour will often promise to ‘keep an eye on things’ but it would be much more useful if you asked them to do something specific – say, ‘Can you call round each morning just to check all is well?’ Of course, people may sometimes be unable to help, but unless and until you ask you will never know. Also investigate local clubs and organisations to which the person you care for belongs. For example, their local church, The British Legion, ex-servicemen and women’s organisations, local branches of organisations set up to benefit ex-members of professions or trades. Local and national charities can also be sources of help.

Care for yourself and get the support you need as a carer

Caring for a member of the family is an unpaid ‘occupation’ but you or the person you care for may be able to claim certain grants and allowances and if you are entitled to them you should certainly claim them. You may not realise that, if you are a carer, you can ask the local authority for an assessment of your own needs. The kind of help and support you can get as a carer includes: respite care to give you a break if you are caring constantly for your relative; emotional support from other carers, usually through a local support group; help with caring; and help with household tasks and activities for the person you care for.

As a carer, it is very important that you look after your own physical and mental health. You should never neglect your own health issues because if you are ill the person you are caring for will suffer as well since you will be unable to give the level of care you would wish to. You should take care of yourself physically by eating properly and taking exercise, but you should also build in some sensible respite. For example, pay for a professional carer once or twice a week. A friend, neighbour or other family member could do this, or even some local charities may provide this service.

There are several organisations aimed at supporting carers. Some of these offer information, some offer practical support and some offer ‘moral support’ in the form of local support groups where carers can meet to talk about their problems or concerns with people who are in a similar situation to them. Many support organisations have carers’ support chatrooms and forums accessed via their website and you may find this kind of ‘virtual’ support most helpful.

Make use of all the resources you can to help you and the person you care for. Read books, check magazine articles, ask at the library, search the internet. Buy or arrange provision of any equipment that will make life easier. Above all, ask what is available. Especially ask your district nursing team. They have access to a lot of information and contacts.

It can be difficult, but try not to allow yourself to feel constantly guilty. Those who we care for do not always show their appreciation, and indeed in some cases, they may be unable to do so. Try always to assure yourself that you are doing the best you can.

At this point it occurs to many carers to think about their own future. It is a very good time to make plans whilst you are caring for another because the difficulties and limitations of frail old age will be clearly before you (as well, perhaps, as the compensations). So, this could be an ideal time to think about your pension and will. You can feel secure in that you have made all the plans you possibly can.

Share this blog for Carer’s Week next week (6-12 June) and help highlight the challenges carers face and recognise the contribution they make to families and communities throughout the UK.

Read more advice and guidance for carer’s from Mary Jordan’s book The Essential Carer’s Guide out now as ebook and paperback.