A New Holistic Approach to Pain Management in Older People

Nan Ma is specialist registrar in clinical Gerontology and Aza Abdulla is a consultant geriatrician and general physician at the Princess Royal University Hospital, Kings College NHS Foundation Trust. He is co-founder of the Special Interest Group on Pain in Older People in the British Geriatrics Society (BGS) and participated in producing the first National Guidelines on Management of Pain in Older People. He is also the immediate past president of the Geriatrics & Gerontology Section at the Royal Society of Medicine.

painPain in older people is under-reported and often poorly appreciated. For many, it is seen as part of normal ageing and has to be accepted. It is also a subjective feeling (different people have different pain thresholds) making it difficult for the clinician to quantify its impact in an individual patient. Consequently, it may be overlooked as an important factor that can affect older people’s wellbeing. In fact, chronic pain has a huge influence on quality of life (QoL) through its effects on the physical and mental state, which in turn adversely impacts on the older individual’s economic and social status (effects on carers, friends and family). Inadequately controlled pain perpetuates disability, anxiety, and depression all interfering with the overall QoL. It follows that effective management of pain is crucial in optimising welfare in the older person. Continue reading

Global Summit on Aging and Health- personal reflections on a conference and a cultural exchange

Dr Eileen Burns has been a geriatrician in Leeds since 1992 and is President of the BGS. She is currently Clinical Lead for integration in Leeds and Chairman of the BGS Community Geriatrics Special Interest Group. She tweets @EileenBurns13

chinaI was fortunate enough to attend and speak at a Global Summit on Aging held in Shanghai recently. It was a fascinating event, with speakers from an enormous variety of backgrounds- from the US Embassy in Beijing, the World Health Organisation, and the United Nations Population Fund, as well as numerous Chinese Government office holders.

The summit was jointly organised by Columbia University, USA (under the auspices of the wonderful Professor Linda Fried) and Fudan University in China. Continue reading

NHS – A giant Diogenes syndrome

Adhi (V Adhiyaman), geriatrician and Chair of Welsh council of the BGS. Tweets at @adhiyamanv

220px-giovanni_battista_langetti_-_diogenesDiogenes was a controversial Greek philosopher who lived in the fourth century BC. He was a cynic and rejected many conventional ideas and lived in a large clay jar in the city of Athens. He lived in a squalor and rejected ideas of normal human decency.

Diogenes syndrome is a disorder characterized by self-neglect, domestic squalor, apathy, compulsive hoarding of garbage and more importantly lack of shame. The syndrome does not refer to the intelligence or the philosophies of Diogenes but rather refers to the way Diogenes lived. A person with primary Diogenes syndrome is intelligent but aggressive, stubborn, suspicious, emotionally labile and has an unreal perception of life. Continue reading

An overview of the Policy Forum for Wales event

Hospital in Bridgend, Wales. He is a care of the elderly physician with an interest in Parkinson’s Disease and movement disorders.
flag_of_wales_2-svgOrganised by the Policy Forum for Wales, this event which was held on 19 October, provided the Welsh Government, and other agencies, the opportunity to engage with key stakeholders and discuss public health policy issues that particularly affect Wales. This seminar was about involving health and social care senior policy makers in developing a vision for Wales and bringing together multiple organisations (public sector, voluntary and third sector) to have a dialogue about how best to influence the Welsh Government’s health and social care policies.

The day was kicked off by chair Mr Huw Irranca – Davies AM, with a cross party group on cancer introducing the theme of the day. This was followed by brief from Professor Siobhan McClelland on current trends in health care in Wales including a £700 million gap in the budget for health and social care (10% of the total health budget). She emphasised that service configurations should be decided according to local need rather than by committee or Government mandate. Continue reading

Esther Clift’s African Blog Series; Part 4 ‘Healthy ageing’

Esther Clift is a Consultant Practitioner Trainee in Frailty with Health Education Wessex. This is the final part of a four part BGS blog series about her time in Africa. She tweets @EstherClift

healthy-ageing“Healthy ageing” is defined by the World report on ageing and health as the process of developing and maintaining the functional ability that enables well-being in older age.

What does that look like in developing countries?

I have had the privilege of travelling through some of Kenya and Uganda and I asked how people view their prospects, as they grow older. Some like Nathani in rural Jinja, Uganda, a retired academic and researcher with a PhD from Strathclyde University felt that his future was tied up in his land, and his children. He had both, and at 74 was fit and well, and held in high esteem by his community. He described his children as his wealth. Continue reading

Esther Clift’s African Blog Series; Part 2 ‘The concept of Mzee and Heshima’

Esther Clift is a Consultant Practitioner Trainee in Frailty with Health Education Wessex. This is the second part of a four part BGS blog series about her time in Africa. She tweets @EstherClift

estherIt is well recognised that in much of East Africa the concept of ‘Heshima’ or respect for ‘Wazee’ is still widely practised. The term “Mzee” describes an older person, often with greying hair, but has a tone of respect and deference to it. I heard the term used widely, from young white men joshing their father, to students upholding a faithful teacher, but always with a tone of love and respect. There is no direct translation into English were our language for ageing is often loaded with a derogatory tone and disliked by one group or another. Phenomenology is a challenge we are all too familiar with in Medicine for Older People! We often refer to such expression as an example of how Western cultures need to learn from those of the global South. Continue reading

Which one is a better deal – home visits or phone calls?

Frances Wong is a professor at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University. telemed

Our recent research has revealed very interesting findings about the power of a telephone call as compared to home visits for post-discharged patients. Patients are discharged from the hospital as soon as the immediate problems are resolved. Some care issues only emerge when the patients return home. The issues usually involve patients’ confidence and ability for self-care, symptom management, adherence to medication regimen and so on. If these concerns are not addressed properly, the patients will present themselves to the hospitals again. Like a revolving door syndrome, patients returning to the community come back to the hospital within a short time. The mean readmission rate within 28 days after discharge is 15% and the rate can escalate to 35% for the chronically ill patients.  Continue reading

You can save lives and money

Paul Harriman has recently published his paper Timely care for frail older people referred to hospital improves efficiency and improves mortality without the need for extra resources in Age and Ageing journal. Today he describes his findings on the OUP blog:oupblog

There is a truism in the world that quality costs, financially. There is a grain of truth in this statement especially if you think in a linear way. In healthcare this has become embedded thinking and any request for increasing quality is met with a counter-request for more money. In a cash-strapped system the lack of available money then results in behaviour that limits improvement. However, as an ex-colleague once said “we have plenty of money, we just choose to spend it in the wrong places”. This implies that if we were to un-spend it in the wrong place we would have plenty of spare cash. Continue reading

A Long and Fortunate Life

Chris Roseveare is a Consultant Physician in Acute Medicine at University Hospitals Southamption, and is Editor of Acute Medicine Journal. He tweets at @CRoseveareshutterstock_958782

Shortly before my grandmother died, at the age of 90, she told me that she felt fortunate: fortunate to have maintained her health for so many years – and fortunate that the NHS had been there for her when she needed it. Not that she had ever been a great user of the Health Service – a thyroidectomy and essential thrombocythaemia required a few tablets, periodic blood tests and infrequent visits to the haematology clinic – but overall Peggy was right to feel lucky.

She was, of course from a generation which had lived through challenging times – she brought up two children, while her husband fought Rommel in North Africa, and endured the subsequent rationing that is hard to imagine in today’s society; she was a tireless fundraiser for the Royal British Legion and Women’s Royal Voluntary Service, for which she was awarded a well-deserved MBE; until her mid-80s she delivered Meals on Wheels, in her Morris Minor, to those Sussex residents for whom time had been less kind. After her own mother had died young, she had to endure the death of her own daughter from ovarian cancer; when her husband suffered a dense left middle cerebral artery stroke she drove daily to his nursing home for 2 years, to sit with him, help with his meals and provide personal care. She would never admit how these events must have affected her: a true exponent of the British ‘stiff upper lip’. Continue reading

The government and the “societal benefits” of care

Zoe Wyrko is a Consultant Geriatrician at Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham and is the workforce planning lead for the BGS. She tweets at @geri_babyshutterstock_147407087

I like to think that as a jobbing geriatrician I have a fairly pragmatic attitude towards guidelines. I know that they exist, but I also know that they are not always directly applicable to a frail older person with multiple morbidities, so I’ll look at what they say with a hint of scepticism, and use them when they help me to provide the best care. Extrapolating from this, I tend to see NICE as an organisation that is more for other people than me. I know that the work they do is vital in standardizing care, bringing together groups of experts to decide on treatment pathways and helping to make decisions on which drugs to give when. I have even attended a stakeholder group for the preliminary stages of the guidance they are planning to issue for social care.

This week however, a statement made by Sir Andrew Dillon, head of NICE, has made me sit up and pay attention. It seems we should be afraid… very afraid. Continue reading