Latest stories from Pilgrim’s Friend Society
Latest stories from Pilgrim’s Friend Society
97 people with dementia have died at the hands of their doctors, in Holland, new figures show. Deaths by euthanasia have increased by 151 per cent in just seven years in Holland. The Dutch Regular, Professor Boer, says the Dutch experiment is out of control.
Most cases – some 3,600 people – involved cancer sufferers but there were also 97 people who died at the hands of their doctors because they were suffering from dementia, the figures show. It has also emerged that a Dutch woman in her 80s was killed by her doctors just because she did not want to live in a care home. The case is the first to be referred to Dutch prosecutors by regulators since euthanasia was legalised in Holland 12 years ago.
The figures, however, don’t include death by terminal sedation, where patients are given a cocktail of sedatives and narcotics before food and fluids are withdrawn.
Studies suggest that if such deaths were added to the figure then euthanasia would account for one in eight – about 12.3 per cent – of all deaths in the Netherlands.
Earlier this year, Dutch Regulator, Professor Boer, who has reviewed 4,000 cases of euthanasia in his role as a regulator, advised the British Parliament not to adopt it. Once a firm advocate of euthanasia, he said that he now the Dutch were ‘terribly wrong’ to think they could control it.
Writing in the Daily Mail, Professor Boer said his country has witnessed an ‘explosive increase’ in the numbers of euthanasia deaths since 2007 and that he expected the number of such deaths this year to hit 6,000.
Doctors in neighbouring Belgium, which this year legalised euthanasia for children, are now killing an average of five people every day by euthanasia, according to latest figures, with a 27 per cent surge in the number of euthanasia deaths in the last year alone.
In one of the most shocking cases, a Brussels man last week described how he arranged the double euthanasia of his octogenarian parents who wanted to die because they were afraid of loneliness.
Dr Peter Saunders of the Christian Medical Fellowship said the Dutch experiment proved that doctor-assisted death was impossible to regulate effectively.
‘Euthanasia in the Netherlands is way out of control,’ he said. ‘The House of Lords calculated in 2005 that with a Dutch-type law in Britain we would be seeing over 13,000 cases of euthanasia per year.’
‘On the basis of how Dutch euthanasia deaths have risen since this may prove to be a gross underestimate. ‘What we are seeing in the Netherlands is “incremental extension”, the steady intentional escalation of numbers with a gradual widening of the categories of patients to be included.’
He said there was a similar pattern of increasing numbers of assisted suicide and euthanasia in the US state of Oregon, Switzerland, and Belgium.
Dr Saunders said: ‘The lessons are clear. Once you relax the law on euthanasia or assisted suicide steady extension will follow as night follows day.’ He added: ‘Britain needs to take warning as debate on the Falconer bill continues.’
Lord Falconer’s Assisted Dying Bill received its Second Reading in July and it will reach committee stage in November after Parliament reconvenes.
Some of our faculties get better as we get older. I know this from observing my friend Frances, who can spot a bargain on a high street at an ever increasing distance with each passing year. But seriously, it’s true. Older people develop something called ‘crystallised intelligence’, which refers to skills that aren’t affected by age and may even improve with time. This crystallised intelligence is the accumulation of a person’s knowledge and abilities throughout a lifetime. Older people can particularly excel in general knowledge and their vocabulary – and in fact, psychologists say these generally increase until we enter our 80s.
Why stop there, I wonder? I know a 94 year old paediatric cardiologist who attracted accolades following a lecture he gave in Berlin several months ago. Just recently I noted the 99 year old author who has just begun writing another book. There are plenty of other sparking eighties and nineties (but I’m too busy to look them up right now).
There’s an old culture (is it American Indian?) that says Rulers don’t worry until the greybeards begin to mutter. In the Financial Times in 2007, just before the big crash, a pundit wrote about the state of the market, saying that what worried him was that apart from one or two sages, like Warren Buffet, there were no experienced old heads. It was being driven by young to middle aged males. And we know what happened then. So, heads up, wise and older ones! We can look forward to old age knowing that our crystallised intelligence is superior.
It’s the ‘fluid’ intelligence that we have to watch. These are functions such as working memory and speed of processing, which are vulnerable to ageing. But once again, according to Professor of Cognitive Neuropsychiatry, Andre Aleman, there are reasons to be optimistic. Studies suggest that the brain itself adapts to compensate for failing skills.
Some experiments with older subjects indicate that our neural networks pull together and draw on all the brain’s available resources to compensate for weakness in particular areas. I mentioned it in an earlier blog – scroll down…. The article, in today’s Daily Mail, gives some ‘Brain Boosters’ tips to help you remember.
Here’s the link to the website, http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-2780141/How-anti-age-memory-Worried-forgetting-things-names-words-left-keys-This-major-series-reveals-memory-fighting-fit-age.html but before you click on it, read the fascinating bit of information below:
Brain Boosting works! ‘Brain Boosting’ is the title of a series of sessions we ran in one of our housing complexes, where people live independently in their own apartments. Around 10 people came once a week for the sessions, which were underpinned by cognitive behavioural principles to stimulate memory, to reinforce a sense of identity, to encourage social interaction and most importantly of all – to give sound, spiritual support. They were all in the early stages of dementia. The results were far more than we’d expected. Participants formed a friendship group, helping one another way beyond the sessions. They were more relaxed and confident, their memories improved and their wellbeing was so evident that other people living in the complex felt freer to help and become involved. The complex is now a truly dementia friendly community. We’re planning to make the session and training notes available next year, funds allowing.
As part of a project to make our towns and cities less stressful for older people, some older residents in parts of East London and Leith in Scotland have been wired with equipment that records brain activity to measure their emotional responses.
The aim is to help researchers find ‘hot spots’ that may, or may not be good. The project (reported by the Daily Telegraph, 2nd October) is being run by Edinburgh University.
‘Mood and emotional state affects people’s judgements and actions. Well-designed places with good ambience are more likely to engage us.’ Said Professor Catharine Ward Thompson, Director of Openspace at the University of Edinburgh.
Researchers are hoping that at the end of the three-year project they will be able to make recommendations to urban planners.
Their findings may be interesting for people involved in creating ‘Dementia Friendly Communities’. People with Alzheimer’s can have impaired perceptions, and ‘fear free’ zones might be helpful for them.
I don’t know about East London and Leith, but some of our Welsh valleys might provide interesting results.
Everyone at our home in Brighton was delighted when a group of college students came over as part of their ‘Make a Difference Day’ for care in the community.
Administrator Sandy said, ‘They spent the morning weeding and tidying the front and they also planted some lovely bedding plants.
‘In the afternoon they set to work on the garden in the back, finishing at 3.00 o’clock. It was just the right time to give out chocolate ices and talk to some of the residents who were able to sit in the garden enjoying the glorious weather. ‘
The students were from Brighton College.
There’s an affinity between the young and the old, and residents in our homes are always delighted when children come from local schools or, as in this case, students from colleges.
Send us more, Lord…
Under plans put forward by the Royal College of Physicians (RCP), there will be no hospital appointments for pensioners, only a video link with a consultant.
Dr Spock will see you now, Mr Smith.
If you’re a pensioner and your family doctor thinks you need to see a specialist consultant, forget about a hospital appointment. Think, instead, of talking to the consultant via a video screen at your doctor’s surgery.
No–one, especially the elderly, likes having to travel long a distance to hospital, finding a place to park and then spending hours in a cheerless waiting room, waiting to be called.
But, unless the video consultation includes technology of the Star ship kind, how is the consultant going to examine the patient? Is it going to be like, ‘Could you hold up your knee to the camera, Mr Smith?’
Simply seeing and talking to the patient has never been the point of a specialist examination. It’s known that many older people, especially men, have difficulty describing their symptoms.
It’s part of plan proposed by the Royal College of Physicians (RCP) in its Future Hospitals Programme. And if successful, could be extended into people’s homes.
It’s being trialled in four parts of the country – in Wales, at the Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board; Mid Yorkshire Hospitals, Royal Blackburn Hospital, Worthing Hospital.
The Wales’ trial will be the first. The lessons learned in north Wales and the four other areas will be collated and shared to try and improve patient care across the UK.
I hope it works. But it feels like a further distancing of older people from NHS services despite their having paid into it all their working lives.
Already in England older people are being visited by District Nurses armed with questionnaires, looking for answers such as, ‘Where would you like to die?’ and ‘Would you want to be resuscitated?’
You can read what the RCP report will mean to patients here: https://www.rcplondon.ac.uk/projects/future-hospital-commission
Simply going to church may be putting off your chance of developing Alzheimer’s. We already know that research shows that ‘people with a faith, who regularly attend a place of worship’ tend to live longer. Commenting on the research, a professor commented that the evidence was so clear that although he wasn’t a believer, he thought he might go for his health’s sake!
Now there’s confirmation of old research showing that feelings of loneliness can be a risk factor for dementia – which makes me ask, can being part of a lively church fellowship reduce loneliness?
Robert S. Wilson, PhD, and his colleagues at the Center for Aging, Rush University, Chicago, analyzed the association between loneliness and Alzheimer’s disease in 823 older adults over a four-year period. Loneliness was measured on a scale of one to five, with higher scores indicating more loneliness.
At the first examination, participants’ average loneliness score was 2.3. During the study period, 76 individuals developed dementia that met criteria for Alzheimer’s disease. Risk for developing Alzheimer’s disease increased approximately 51 percent for each point on the loneliness score, so that a person with a high loneliness score (3.2) had about 2.1 times greater risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease than a person with a low score (1.4). The findings did not change significantly when the researchers factored in markers of social isolations, such as a small network and infrequent social activities.
“Humans are very social creatures,’ said Dr Wilson, ‘We need healthy interactions with others to maintain our health. The results of our study suggest that people who are persistently lonely may be more vulnerable to the deleterious effects of age-related neuropathology.”
He encourages more study to look at how negative emotions cause changes in the brain, something that Professor Kitwood, of Bradford University advocated years ago. In his book, ‘Dementia Reconsidered’ (Open University Press) Professor Kitwood suggested that a ‘malign social pathology’ could very likely create a harmful biochemical environment in the brain that is damaging to neurones.
Isn’t it fascinating to see how science and research echo what was written in the Scriptures thousands of years ago? From cover to cover there are instructions about caring for one another in community, in neighbourhoods, in families, in the national as a whole – and most importantly, in church. ‘Not forsaking the assembling of yourselves together,’ as the Old King James Version puts it (Hebrews 10:25).
I was reminded of Ecclesiastes 4:12 in church this morning. William is a young man born with serious cerebral defects, and has spent all his life in a wheelchair.
He has a sparky, independent spirit and manages to get about well on his own. He comes to church with an older friend. Every time there is prayer for healing, William is there. He isn’t put off by the fact that he’s still in his wheelchair. He believes God can do it and will do it, one day.
This morning there was a particularly fiery sermon from a silver haired, fiery old Welsh preacher . One of the key points was how much do we really believe what God says. Do we believe He will answer prayer, for example? He reminded us of how, after being released from prison by an angel (woken out of sleep, chains struck off, doors opening on their own) Peter knocked on the door of the house where the church was praying for his release. The girl who answered the knock, Rhoda, couldn’t believe her eyes, and the people praying didn’t inside didn’t either! (Acts 12:13). These were seasoned Christians, too.
There are times, said the Pastor, when we need to recognise our unbelief and ask the Lord for more of His Spirit, for more of Him. Those who wanted more of Him were invited to stand in prayer.
William struggled to stand in his wheelchair and in a flash the older man was by his side lifting him to his feet and holding him up. They stayed like that for quite a few minutes. Ecclesiastes 4:12 in action.
After the service there’s the usual milling around ; the coffee shop, the book shop, and people just pausing to chat.
I wish I could say that being part of an active, caring church meant you would never develop dementia. But in diminishing the risk of loneliness, it could ameliorate an important risk factor.
The findings of a study at the University of California (Berkeley) seem to show that the human brain can adapt and find a way around damage caused by the plaques of Alzheimer’s disease. And the longer and harder you’ve worked your brain in your lifetime, the better able it is to adapt.
The Berkley study involved 71 adults with no signs of mental decline. Their brain scans showed 16 of the older subjects had amyloid deposits – tangles of protein that are considered a hallmark of Alzheimer’s disease.
All participants took part in a memory test while their brains were scanned to track activity. They were then tested on what they remembered, first in broad outline then in detail.
The scans revealed more activity in the brains of people with amyloid deposits than in the others, when recalling the details. Researchers suggest that their brains have an ability to adapt to and compensate for any early damage caused by the protein.
Dr William Jagust, a researcher on the study, said: ‘I think it is very possible that people who spend a lifetime involved in cognitively stimulating activity have brains that are better able to adapt to potential damage.’
The study echoes the findings of ‘the Nuns study’; a longitudinal study of people in religious orders by the Centre of Ageing at Rush University, Washington. Autopsies showed that some participants had Amyloid B plaques and tangles in their brains, although they had exhibited no sign of having dementia while they were alive.
Dr Jennifer Bute, a general practitioner who retired when she was diagnosed with dementia at the age of 63 mentioned the brain ‘rewiring’ at the Enabling Church Conference in Birmingham, earlier this year. See her website, www.gloriousopportunity.org
Perhaps one of the most striking examples of an active brain rewiring could be Christine Bryden, the author I mentioned in an earlier post. Christine was a top executive with the Australian government when she was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. That was twenty years’ ago. In that time she has written two books, spoken at international conferences, and taken a degree in counselling.
When we met last November at the Celtic Manor here in Wales (the resort that became famous when it hosted NATO leaders early September) Christine told me that when he views her current brain scans, her consultant says she should not be functioning at the level she is. I asked what she thought contributed most, and she said, very directly, ‘The Holy Spirit.’
As far as I know, scientists don’t take the Holy Spirit into account when they do their research!
But are there little lights of hope here for Believers?
A ‘cognitively stimulating activity’ could include vigorous study of the Bible, which tells us to ‘be being filled’ with the Spirit (Ephesians 5:18).
Best to begin now. ‘Spend a lifetime …’ said Dr Jaqust.
The strongest hope of all for believers is surely the knowledge that there is life beyond Alzheimer’s, or any other form of dementia. Jesus is very definite about it. See John 11:26, and make a wider study of it from there!
When I read about the thousands of pounds that were sent to the Manchester Dogs Home after the devastating fire, my first thought was how kind and generous people can be.
Then I found myself thinking unworthy thoughts along the lines of – would this have happened if it had been a care home for old people?
But I didn’t like to say it because it might have sounded censorious. I’m glad that people care for dogs, but I honestly believe they should care for frail old people more.
Then a journalist said what I’d been thinking. ‘I can’t help wondering what the response would have been if it had been an old people’s home,’ wrote Peter Hill, in his column in the Daily Express. ‘Actually, I’m sure there would have been nothing like the outpouring of grief and sympathy.
‘Thousands of children and elderly suffer lives of quiet desperation and we shake our heads but dogs and cats, newts and toads and we’re dancing up and down with rage.’
Thank God there are wonderful exceptions. At a meeting of our West of England supporters last year, in his opening talk the chairman said, ‘What I see looking around here is commitment: commitment that has been handed down the generations.’
A large part of that commitment has been raising money in various ways for the work, and personal donations. Because of this for over 207 years this little charity has been able to care for hundreds of old people in housing and in care and nursing homes.
The amazing thing is that God is affected by everything we do for His people. Matthew 25:40 says, ‘And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’
It’s not only older people who are being visited at home and asked where they want to die and whether they want to be resuscitated in a health crisis.
Young people with a normal life expectancy who have a physical or cognitive impairment are being asked the same thing, though they are more likely to be visited by social workers and care managers than nurses.
Ros, an executive with the Through the Roof charity, says that her daughter is one of those affected.
She said, ‘They are made to feel that their lives are more disposable or less valuable than those of their non-disabled peers. I think it is an outrage.’
Ros started a petition in a private capacity as a mother. It is being promoted by Through the Roof in some of their literature.
This exercise has several worrying aspects. A very disturbing question is being asked of people who are sensitive to feeling a burden because their disabilities or frailty means that they need help with their daily acts of living.
Simply thinking about the answer can arouse all sorts of negative emotions, including guilt, fear, worthlessness and anxiety.It’s a question that should only be asked by someone who knows the person well, and in the appropriate circumstances.
The aim of the exercise is to keep vulnerable people out of hospital, and at some point the answers will be fed into a computer and analysed. There will inevitably be many who have said that they would not wish to be resuscitated. These could very well be fodder for the euthanasia lobby who can produce the data as marginal evidence to government that tens of thousands of people are in broad agreement with them.
To register an objection to older people being asked by District Nurses, email your local Member of Parliament.
The lives of disabled young people and frail older people have been planned by God. No-one is here by accident – we’re all part of His plan, and each individual is precious to Him.
Looking at the state of social care for the elderly in the UK today is like watching Monty Python’s Dead Parrot Sketch. There’s the same kind of cognitive dissonance – ‘he’s dead mate!’ ‘No he’s not, he’s just resting!’ Only this situation is not funny. If what we read is true, social care for the elderly is at the point of collapse and the government is in denial.
At a national conference recently health minister Jeremy Hunt, called for better help and support (i.e., social care) for people with dementia, and for more early diagnoses. GP’s are being told to stop being ‘fatalistic’ about dementia and are being sent guidance which includes the statement that people with dementia have a ‘basic human right’ to receive a diagnosis. GPs are not normally the clinicians who diagnose dementia, as I understand it; they make referrals to consultant specialists. Many are said to be reluctant because there is no cure, and very little effective treatment for the condition. Conversely, people have a basic human right to choose what they want to know. And in the light of what is known about the care available after diagnosis, who could blame them?
Take the case of Mrs Gloria Foster, who died last year at the age of 81. She spent her last nine days alone, thirsty, starving, confused and probably terrified. The Care Agency looking after her had been closed down, and Social Workers at the Council didn’t check how she was. She was discovered by a District Nurse lying in bed, her eyes stuck together, soaked in ‘waves of urine.’ She died a day later in hospital.
After the Inquest, her brother in law, Tony De-Keyzer said, ‘what lay behind it was the fact that the care services are under financial pressure. It seemed obvious from the evidence that was read that they [county council workers] were struggling to cope.’
Mrs Foster’s story comes to life when you see photographs of her before dementia, happy with her family and husband. It makes you realise that it could happen to any of us; which is why we need to make sure that proper funding and care for vulnerable older people, including those with dementia is put in place now. If it continues on this trajectory the situation in a few years’ time is unthinkable.
You can read Mrs Foster’s story here:
If a combination of financial pressure on Social Services and the increase in case load meant that even self-funding Mrs Foster suffered badly, what hope then, for others who need Council funding for their care? Millions are currently relying on families and friends.
There are 6.5 million family caregivers in Britain, who save the economy £119billion a year, according to a recent report from leading charity Carers UK. A fifth are receiving no practical help at all – leaving them unable to take a break from caring or even get a good night’s sleep.’ 84 percent care for 35 hours a week or more: 63 percent suffer from depression, and 79 percent have high levels of anxiety. Despite being ill, 46 percent had no choice but to carry on, as they were unable to access additional help from social care services or the NHS. When a caregiver suffered a breakdown (one in nine), emergency social care was put in place or the person being cared for had to be admitted to hospital or while their relative recovered.
Carers UK reports warns that it will get even worse. At a time when needs are rising, the social care services budget is being cut by £3.5billion, and carers’ benefits by £1billion. Many carers have had to give up their jobs and their income.
Journalist Virginia Blackburn asks, ‘Why is no one making a song and dance about this? Compare the amount of attention it receives to AIDS. The number of people suffering from AIDS is tiny compared with those with dementia, but it’s fashionable, so money gets thrown at it.’ (Daily Express, Thursday September 11 2014).
Here’s the Monty Python bit: the government is whipping GPs into getting more dementia diagnoses and calling for ‘a revolution in out of hospital care” to give more help and support to sufferers, but at the same time cutting Social Services’ budget by £billions. And it isn’t as if they haven’t been warned. David Pearson, president of the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services warned some months ago that the situation had reached saturation point.
There’s talk of removing the divide between the NHS budget, which is for medical intervention and nursing and hospital care, and the Social Services’ budget, which is for personal care, which is for help with washing, dressing, toileting and eating, which most frail elderly people need, and creating a ‘Better Care Fund.’ But this ignores the fact that the NHS is severely under financed, also.
Richard Humphries, assistant director of policy at the King’s Fund think-tank said, ‘What we are seeing now is a double whammy with both the NHS and social care simultaneously facing a crunch year next year. Most people cannot see how to get beyond this without extra money – not just money for more of the same, but for transformation of services. The Better Care Fund is OK, but it’s a very small step towards much bigger measures that are needed.’
Following a survey, the president of the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services, David Pearson, has warned that the social care system is on the brink of becoming unsustainable. He has called on wider society – that’s us, you and me, to say how far it is prepared to protect ‘countless vulnerable people who will fail to receive, or not be able to afford, the social care services they need and deserve.’
Mrs Foster’s case shows that every vyulnerable older person needing care will be affected whether or not they can afford it. Inevitably, we may all be old one day, and may be frail enough to need care. If we don’t speak out now, there will be no point in complaining then.
But not to end on a depressing note, let’s remember how God has the answer to everything. For over 207 years He’s enabled this small charity, the Pilgrims’ Friend Society, to care for frail, old folk. You can see how, despite changes and pressures over the decades, the care remains.
Watch it here, and be blessed: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zufZ0AryBNg
Christian providers of respite, residential, nursing and dementia care. Also retirement apartments for assisted living and for extra care housing, and fully equipped houses for missionaries' home leave.
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