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Archive for the ‘Health’ Category

Yesterday, I visited mum and dad to be with them when the Locala lady, Yasmin, came to assess their bathroom needs.  She, Yasmin was lovely and very helpful.Cold-call-flickr:markhillary:964441032-2

While they were all talking in the bathroom, I took a call on my parent’s landline.  It started with “hello, Mr Sugden??” [a short breath], “is that Mr. Sugden??” I said that it was (well it was! – not the one she wanted but …) and she started again “hello Mr Sugden, please don’t worry, this is not a nuisance call but we’re an energy saving company, working in the area and can save you £400 per year”.  Well, much of that is paraphrased, but it WAS an unsolicited call aimed at tricking old folks out of their money.  The manner in which the words were addressed at me was soothing, confident and understanding and in no way the sort of sales call that I might get on my own landline.  She went on to say “I just have a few questions to ask you – none of them personal so …” – I interrupted at this point to ask where she got ‘my’ details from; she said “I have them here, on my list”. I asked her to remove ‘my’ details from her list and never to ring this number again.

I didn’t get her company name. My parents are listed on the national TPS

“elderly people receiving an average of 39 nuisance calls a month – 50% more than the general population” – (https://www.theguardian.com/money/2016/aug/06/phone-service-protect-elderly-fraudsters-nuisance-calls )

All of that would have been ok but later, when my parents and Yasmin were talking in the kitchen, I answered a knock on the door.  A guy, probably in his late fifties, looked visible shocked to see me answer it [I don’t think that I look like Mr. Gullible – yet] and asked “Mrs? sorry Mr Sugden??” I said yes, I’m one of them!  At which point I guess he knew the game was up.  He told me he’s come about the mattress they had discussed with my mother on the phone the previous day.  I told him that my mother has Alzheimer’s disease and that he/they shouldn’t be cold calling old folks like that.

I only managed to get the name on his van – Mobility Care – and the telephone code 0115 so that could be http://www.mobilitycareproducts.co.uk/ in Derbyshire.  If I’m wrong, I apologise unreservedly – but if Mobility Care is the company who are cold calling old folks – then shame on you.

Resourses:

Photo Credit
Mark Hillary: https://www.flickr.com/photos/markhillary/964441032 – with thanks for using Creative Commons

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Alzheimers

My mum’s deterioration continues.

Whereas just a few months ago she would argue that there was nothing wrong with her memory and try to help with the cooking (she actually thought she WAS doing ALL the cooking), she now seems to accept that she is no longer capable of either remembering, or cooking.

19444505382_becce11e53_z

During the second visit to the memory clinic, the consultant prescribed a pill for mum. This is designed to slow down her memory deterioration. The doctor told us that there was a choice of two pills that would help mum. Because mum’s kidney function does not look great, but her pulse rate was ok, she had to prescribe Donepezil.

“All three cholinesterase inhibitors (of which Donepezil is one) work in a similar way, but one might suit a certain individual better than another, particularly in terms of side effects experienced.” **

I had to ask then, given that the pulse rate suggested mum’s heart function was ok, what the cardiology appointment was for at the end of July (which, by the way has now been cancelled and is causing no end of phone calls to be made to find out why and/or re-book).

Readers of the previous post will know that as the consultant was not aware of that appointment (which came following an ECG mum had had as part of this memory clinic process), we had to hold off on the prescription, and she said would get back to me as soon as possible.

Three weeks on an I am still waiting to present the prescription at the chemist.

Since our first visit to the memory clinic at the beginning of May, we have become aware of many previously unknown support organisations. These however, seem to be seriously undermanned and overworked.

  • An Admiral Nurse phoned me to ask what they could do to help – but as we were at this stage, I could not say. She did however, give me lots of information that I have yet to fully digest. Most of it seems to involve the council and lots of waiting.
  • The lady from Making Space said that she would send off for, and then help us fill in, Attendance Allowance forms – as these were reputed to be horrendous. This she did and the forms arrived two weeks ago. However, getting in touch with the same lady on a day that she is working has been impossible. I eventually presented myself at their office and sought the help of someone else – who will meet us tomorrow.  Even if the help isn’t as urgent as it may seem for my mum, the forms are official forms with a date stamped return date, which is fast approaching.
  • At the memory services clinic itself, I never seem to get the same person twice. When I first became worried about mum’s prescription, I phoned and was told that they (the consultant’s office) were waiting for a reply from mum’s G.P.  So – I visited the G.P. surgery and found that the reply had been sent by FAX the previous week. When I phoned the clinic again and told them that the G.P.’s answer should have been received, I was told that the consultant was on holiday, but that mum’s case would be one of the first dealt with on the Monday (this week).

I phoned again on Monday and left a message with whoever answered the phone.  I called in at the clinic on Tuesday and left a message with whoever answered the phone that was handed to me on reception. It is now Wednesday and I was told yet again that a note had been left for the consultant/doctor to call me to say “yes” or ‘no” to the prescription.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned from all of this so far, it is to begin early (i.e. when you are much younger and more capable of pushing hard for the services you deserve) and to try and avoid June – August, when everyone goes on holiday.

** From: https://www.alzheimers.org.uk/info/20162/drugs/105/drug_treatments_for_alzheimers_disease/3

Photo credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/118316968@N08/19444505382 – with thanks for using Creative Commons.

Future posts on this subject can be seen here: https://failingtoremember.wordpress.com/

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I took my mum for a memory test yesterday.

She’s eighty-seven.

Sadly, my mum has been slowly losing her ability to remember certain things, over an extended period of time – probably for about three years. She copes with most things on a daily basis, with help! Without my dad, I suspect that she would have tremendous difficulty coping with day to day things like cooking and eating. This isn’t to say that she isn’t ‘all there’, she is: she takes part in discussions (when she can hear – her hearing aid is not always fully loaded and ‘on’) and retains a wicked sense of humour.

Memory_Process

However, despite not wanting outside help (“David, whilesoever as I can manage, I want no one else coming in here to help**) my dad has been asking the doctor if there’s anything they can do to help my mum. [I have to say right here that I have THE very lowest opinion of my parents’ doctor, both historically and presently]. The result, after a fair amount of nagging is this memory test.

Dad didn’t want to go with my mum as he felt that he would get too upset, which I suppose, after sixty-six years of marriage, is understandable. Also see ** above. So, the original appointment having been when we flew to Spain in March, I visited the centre, rearranged the date, and off we popped yesterday.

Word Art

Mum hated the idea of going (I hesitate to say that she was terrified); she accused my dad of going behind her back and of being sneaky (by asking me to go with her instead of him).  Also: “no one told me about this! I’m not losing my memory, I’m ok!” etc. Yet, once there, having been assured for the umptieth time that I would go ‘in’ with her, she was lovely.  She was calm and had no worries. Once the young (very pregnant) nurse had introduced herself and directed us up to her room, mum was the personification of ‘nice old lady’.

elephant-1090828_1280She answered all of the questions as honestly as she knew how and seemed to feel no pressure at all throughout the full hour of questioning. On the standard test, she got 59% (the standard being 85% ish) and for me it was easy to see exactly where she was losing ‘it’. Mental sums and short term memory tasks were very poor, but at longer term knowledge (that is a penguin, that is a kangaroo etc.) she was much better.

She still thinks that she has no problem remembering things (I haven’t had sugar in my tea for forty-five years – yet I’m asked every time we visit) and insists she’s ok with money; but she’s not.

However, she wasn’t fazed by having to go, soon, for a brain scan and then, afterwards, to see a specialist doctor. But those are hurdles to cross further down the line.

What do we hope to get from this?

I’m not sure.

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Truck loads of Marmite

Marmite – I love it.

I’m led to believe that there are people who hate Marmite: it’s hard to believe I know, but there’s no answering for taste.

I take mine any way it comes, but preferably thickly layered on toast (buttered toast at that!).  Steppy* says that I’m weird because I keep my jar of Marmite in the fridge, but then I do tend to keep everything that’s open but not finished in the fridge.

What’s not to like?

Marmite is packed with flavour and B vitamins (I nearly wrote jam-packed, but that could possibly mislead Marmite virgins to misapprehend the flavour) so intense it makes your teeth itch. It flows under the knife like a luscious black butter, creating a glossy sheen to my toast.

Some years ago Marmite was banned in Denmark** (well, it can only be supplied under licence) but over here it is synonymous with good taste, health and flavour. I’ve tried ‘own brand’ versions (they’re ok – some spread better from the fridge and they’re cheaper) and I’ve tried Vegemite, the antipodean  version – but I still come back to the original and best.

Just saying 😉

*Step daughter – Betony 🙂
** http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-13541148

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Today’s news that Elaine McDonald has had her care package altered by the local council (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-14042703) comes as no shock, but it should be a warning to us all. Cash strapped councils are looking for any way they can to save money as their resources dwindle – and the easiest targets are those who need any kind of social care, no matter what cost to that person’s dignity or what contribution that person has made to society itself.

Just last week, the best part of a million public service workers went on strike to protest about the way in which hard earned pension contributions are becoming ever worthless and mismanaged. Remember that although teachers took part in this strike, it was NOT a teacher’s strike, it was a strike to raise awareness of the pension plight of anyone working today. Even those in the private sector.

But let us remember why these occurrences are necessary. It is not generally through any mismanagment by the councils themselves, who have become more and more accountable for the way in which they spend our money and it is not that the government have only just realised that we are getting older and healthier; they have known for forty years that I know of – they might just have got over the hump had it not been for the downright, criminal recklessness of banks and that fear that if they (the government) didn’t give our money to the banking system, the world as we know it would collapse.

Well, when the supreme court rules that a non-incontinent stroke victim has to have incontinence pads instead of someone to help her to the toilet – it has collapsed and we’re all lost. Blame the banks for that.

Lest we forget.

Picture Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/arimoore/408920461/in/photostream/

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This second post concludes that posted on January 9th [link]. WARNING – this post is much longer!

Following my consultation I began the usual wait for things to happen at my local healthcare authority. During the waiting time, Nexium seemed to have worked, lower-bowel discomfort was reduced and I’d begun to forget all about the procedure discussed. Then just before Christmas (which I survived without any digestive distress) the appointment dropped on the mat for January 6th 2011.

The preparation
Instructions provided by the hospital are full and sufficient. They required me to eat a particular diet on day one, a mainly liquid diet on day two and to undertake the procedure on day three. The instructions comprehensively explain how the procedure will work and what to expect before, during and after the x-ray. So a rare well done to Calderdale and Huddersfield NHS Healthcare Trust.

Basically, the bowel has to be as clean as possible for the procedure to work. For whatever reason, I had to have 2 slices of white bread toast for breakfast ‘with a scrape of butter’ on both days one and two. I could have had egg instead, but the toast wasn’t far off of my normal routine. However, I usually have a dark, rich artisan-baked bread – and rarely eat the sticks-to-the-roof-of-your-mouth soft and pappy stuff.

Day one
For lunch on day one I could have any lean meat and mashed potatoes (there was a slightly wider choice, but given the fact the my evening meal could only be a lean meat, white pappy bread sandwich I opted to pop out to the local butcher and buy some calves’ liver). As I was forbidden to drink anything other than ‘clear’ drinks now, I had a cup of oxo with my dinner, which also became the gravy for my calves’ liver and mashed potatoes. Actually? Lovely!

The clear drinks included orange juice without bits, tea without milk – although ‘a dash of milk’ was allowed with breakfast on days one and two; marmite, oxo, Bovril or water. I also had to drink approximately half a pint (250ml) of such liquid every hour. EVERY HOUR! I know that we should all drink about 2ltrs of water per day but who does that? Who can? Most of my daily liquid intake is tea and I couldn’t drink much of that as I like milk in my tea (I did get a taste for Rooibos with honey though). So the odd cup of oxo and Rooibos had to suffice as hot drinks.

Coffee might also have been on the list but as coffee is a major contributor to Gastro-oesophageal reflux disease (GORD), I thought it best to avoid. I do enjoy coffee though and am usually prepared to put up with any resulting discomfort provided it’s a good brew – see: http://eduvel.wordpress.com/2010/06/04/good-coffee/. But not at this time.

The sheer quantity of liquid I had to drink affected my voice for a few days and although my throat wasn’t sore, it was distinctly ‘unusual’. However, I dared not drink less than advised, as I knew what was to come on day two.

Day two
On day two there are two very important drinks to have: the first at 8.00am and the second at 2.00pm. The packet says that the drinks are ‘powerful laxatives’ and well, they are POWERFUL LAXATIVES! By now the reduced diet on day one and liquid-only diet of day two made so much sense. The frequency of toilet visits was not unlike having severe bouts of diarrhea but without the pain and discomfort. Also, because this was enforced evacuation, rather than the result of any illness, my urinary system continued to work too. So although I’d dreaded this middle day, it wasn’t half as bad as I’d imagined. By bedtime I felt that I had enough control of my bodily functions to sleep soundly – which I did.

Day three
Come the day, I had what I could manage of drinks and still contrived to be the first in line at the hospital’s x-ray department. I changed into a hospital gown and was taken into the x-ray room. Here, I met three people. The lady in charge, a young male radiographer and a young female nurse training I think to be a radiographer. They were as polite and respectful as you would hope to expect when faced with a patient about to undergo a series of indignities.

The first indignity is the gown itself. I know why there’s no backside in it, but it doesn’t help you to stand up straight and proud.

The next indignity comes when the senior radiographer (the lady in charge – SR) asks the others, just after you have laid on the x-ray bed and bared your backside “has anyone seen the KY Jelly?” (That made me giggle). The whole procedure was actually made more relaxing by SR’s comments: “I’m just going to apply a little gel, it might be cold” and “I’m just going to insert the tube, it might be a little uncomfortable” etc. In fact none of that was too traumatic at all, certainly much easier than a doctor’s probings! Neither was it uncomfortable as the liquid was run into my bowel. At each stage, I was told what was going to happen and what it might feel like. So far, nothing was disturbing at all.

She then said that she would start to add the air and that this “might give me tummy ache, but it was unavoidable and it wouldn’t last long” – which was reassuring. The first injections of air were no trouble at all but as the procedure went along it did get a little uncomfortable. Despite having a tube up my bum (“I’m just going to tape this in place”) I was asked to turn this way and that for about ten to fifteen minutes as SR took the various x-rays of my bowel. At one point, the table I was laid on was tilted upright and I was hanging on to the bed in much the same way as I used to hang on to roller coaster cars! At each turn more air is pumped in and only when I thought that I couldn’t possibly take any more did the procedure finish. The most uncomfortable time on the table was at that point, as the procedure finished – because of the amount of air that I was holding inside me.

Nevertheless, nothing had been half as bad as I had thought it might be.

I was escorted out of the room now for the final indignity of being shown to the toilet and being told to spend 5-10 minutes getting rid of as much liquid and air as I could. The first flush (sorry – not intended as a pun) is a big one, but there is still plenty of barium liquid and air trapped around folds and bends of the bowel. As the bowel wall begins to work again (I had been given an injection of Buscopan – http://www.patient.co.uk/medicine/Hyoscine-butylbromide.htm – to relax the bowel wall as the air was added to it) the air’s journey is inexorable as it attempts to find a way out. This led to the only real discomfort I experienced during the entire day.

I was now allowed to eat and drink normally, so my starved stomach was able to pass the omelette through to my small intestine pretty quickly. I left the hospital about 11.20am and by 2.00pm I was in agony. The air was now being compressed between my lunchtime food as peristalsis pushed it down into the bends and folds which were preventing any urgent or worthwhile exit strategy (although there were one or two occasions). Basically, I had to go to bed and lie down for almost four hours to allow the discomfort (gurgling etc.) to pass. And it did pass. By 6.00pm I was fine – and have been since.

So that’s it. Don’t worry about the procedure, lie back and think of England – but don’t plan on going back to work afterwards, you’ll need to relax your tummy! 🙂

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I’ve written this post in the hope that its content can help others. This piece and the next (part 2) refer to my personal experience of the title procedure. Anyone not interested in understanding the process should back off now. It is fairly graphic (in as polite a way as the subject allows)!

First of all, this was not an urgent or emergency procedure for me.

Background
Once you get past fifty, your body begins to play tricks on you. Bits you’ve always sworn by, relied upon and learned to trust, begin to let you down. It’s a very slow process, which even though expected (and remorseless) tends to creep up on you. It could start with your eyesight – just small changes reported at each visit to the optician or it could be your memory. You don’t worry too much about this because your friends and peers say that they are just the same: Things like ‘I’d forget my own head if it wasn’t screwed on’! But these things don’t come in series, the come in parallel (old school physics!).

I still consider myself to be reasonably fit, maybe not as fit as some contemporaries, but far fitter than many others. Nevertheless, one of the things to change over time has been the way in which my digestive system has worked. Whereas at one time I could and would eat anything, I now have to be quite careful about many foodstuffs. For example, raw onions at an Indian restaurant used to be a delight, as were the many curry flavours – but now raw onions are ‘out’ along with all take-aways and most Indian restaurants. Some restaurants seem to be ok and all home-cooked curries are ok but there has to be a little thought about what I eat these days.

The problem
It seems that I’ve suffered from acid reflux for a number of years. Initially, I’d thought it was a persistent sore throat and I have had all the tests (just the beginning of a long series of indignities that await folks who have gone fifty). But I’d resisted that label because my symptoms didn’t fit the norm. Basic Message here: beware of ‘the norm’. The doctor eventually put me on Lansoprazole http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lansoprazole and told me I’d have to take those for the rest of my life. I’ve therefore tried hard to find ways NOT to take those for the rest of my life! As time went by I began to develop what I thought was IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Irritable_bowel_syndrome) – this remains unconfirmed, currently. I eventually visited a (second) consultant who suggested that I was both blessed and beggared. Blessed, because I understood the workings of my body (I’d enjoyed all of my school biology lessons and taught Digestion for many years) and beggared because I was more aware of my body than most. He also said that the Lansoprazole could be partly responsible for the discomfort and therefore prescribed Nexium http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Esomeprazole.

After a long consultation he suggested that there was noting seriously wrong with me but if he were to offer more in-depth investigation of either the top half of my digestive system or the bottom (pun not intended) – which would I have. I elected to have further investigation of my bowel for two reasons: 1) it was a relatively new complaint for me and 2) everyone over fifty should have their colon inspected as a preventative measure. I’d previously avoided it and decided now to take up the offer.

The next post will look at the procedure itself.

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