New Year resolutions

How many of these have you made over the years? I lost count in my twenties… so there is no chance now!

Why do we make them? Is it to try to fix the errors of the past year? Guilt for not having taken advantage of the opportunities?

Either way I will not be making them this year, or should I? There are so many thoughts on the subject amongst my friends that I am as scared to not do them as to do them. So I have decided to make them more general this year, that might help, and share them with you.

In 2011 I did so many wonderful things and I feel I took opportunities that presented them selves. Traveling to the US again so that I could visit Monument Valley, then white water rafting in Colorado – these were all dreams I seized. How do I better them in 2012?

The resolutions I have come up with are to embrace each opportunity that presents itself, I will not be accused of being a ‘wall flower’. To make sure that at the end of 2012 I have learnt many things and experienced life, let it touch me.

How do you feel about resolutions? Do they fill you with dread?

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Organising the family at Christmas

Over Christmas, how many families morph into three generational families. For some that means that Grandmother cooks the dinner with adult children to help with the vegetables and sauces and the young children play around the tree or help lay the table.

But for how many did this not happen. There are many reasons but for this post I will delve into how to distribute the work for next year.

So how do we survive a three generational get-together so that everyone has a memorable Christmas for all the right reasons.

  • It’s best not to presume that you will get the help that you need so do not be afraid to ask. Be clear with the delegation and give all attending a list of what you need – they can work out who will do what.
  • Have the phone numbers of the GP walk in centre handy and work out where the 24hour emergency pharmacy is and how to get there. This might sound paranoid but we have certainly had to talk to the out of hours service and visit the emergency pharmacy over Christmas and the New Year.
  • If you are attending church allow for ample time to get back to start preparing the food or so you can settle before the guests start arriving. Parishioners are always more chatty this time of year – Do not feel rushed!
  • Make sure that everyone is able to be there to open the presents. You or one of your helpers should not be pinned in the kitchen while all the fun is happening around the Christmas tree.
  • Find activities suitable for everyone. This is not always easy but board games and old photographs are a possibility.
  • If you need to, ask your children to take the young ones for a walk after the main meal. You may want the peace and quiet to just sit and

Finally, when everyone has headed home it is very easy to feel sorry for yourself-I know, I have been there. Try to have a plan for Boxing day or something to look forward to so that you do not dwell in the emptiness directly after Christmas.

I would like to take this opportunity to wish you all a wonderful New Year!

The Equality and Human Rights Commission Report and the UK Homecare Association

I am sure you have all heard recently in the news about the Equality and Human Rights Commission’s report “ Close to home: older people and human rights in home care”. The EHRC’s report highlights a number of frightening examples of homecare in practice. They are frightening because it could be me in that position tomorrow should I have a sudden turn for the worse.

None of us like to think about it but it is a factor that, as we get older, we cannot brush under the proverbial rug. How will we handle it? Who will we turn to?

In this day and age our children are probably not living in the same suburb never mind the same city so we will be relying on a government organization or a Home Care company to look after us. Being at the mercy of strangers does make me nervous especially if I am unable to let anyone know what is wrong.

The UKHCA stands for the United Kingdom Homecare Association and is the national professional association and representative association for organisations who provide care, including nursing care, to people in their own homes. This organization is set to give guidance to independent organisations who could be looking after us. It was set up in 1989 to respond to the many issues arising from the changes in health and social care legislation, which were shaping the future of the sector.

In response to the EHRC’s report they have set up 20 action points to help home care workers promote human rights.  These seem to be quite inclusive referring to the main categories of :

–       Communication and respect

–       Dignity, choice and control

–       Safety and well- being

–       Social inclusion

–       Eating and drinking

It does scare me that these basic points have to be set out in a document to remind a Care worker what human rights are, but I suppose it is better to keep each of these points top of mind.

There are so many wonderful Care workers out there who genuinely want to make an improvement in the lives of their clients. We need to make sure that they are recognized and rewarded for their efforts because the people that it truly impacts are not always able to say ‘Thank you’.

Top 20 stereotypes of older people

How do you feel about stereotypes? Damaging? Helpful?

Stereotypes are defined as oversimplified, exaggerated beliefs about a group or category of people. Stereotypes may be positive or negative, but they are nearly always distortions of fact.

For example, we generalise when we say that the English are snobbish and reserved, the Irish are witty and pugnacious, intelligent children have high foreheads, and redheads are quick-tempered. These generalisations are erroneous because they do not take into account the many variations within a group and because they indiscriminately attribute the same characteristics to all the members.

Many stereotypes or “myth-conceptions” surround older people and the aging process.

The following list includes some of the more common myths that we encounter every day:

  1. Most older people live in institutions
  2.  Retirement is less difficult for women than it is for men
  3.  Alzheimer’s disease is to be expected with old age
  4.  Older workers are less productive than younger workers
  5.  Sickness and disability come with old age
  6.  Older people cannot learn
  7.  Older people are more fearful of death than are younger people
  8. Old people are sweet and kind and at peace with the world
  9. Old people are weak and helpless
  10. Old people have no interest in or capacity for sexual activity.
  11. Old people are boring and forgetful
  12. Old people are unproductive
  13. Old people are grouchy and cantankerous
  14. Old women are a burden on everyone
  15. Old age begins at 60
  16. Old people do not have feelings
  17. Old people are past being consulted about anything – even their own lives. 
  18. The majority of older people are set in their ways, unable to change
  19. The majority of older people view themselves as being in poor health
  20. The majority of older people are lonely and are isolated from their families

How do you feel about these?

Do you find that you re enforced these stereotypes or perhaps give way to other peoples perception as it is easier.

We obviously cannot fight all perceptions, that would be exhausting! But can we, simply through our actions, ensure that we educate all we come into contact with. For example, although we can only control certain aspects of our health we can make sure that our attitude towards it is more positive.

Sharing a smile, a laugh and an interesting story will not only make anyone we are in contact with feel better but also share the wonderful person we are inside.

Over time I hope to work on breaking down these stereotypes in my own environment, what can you do?

How To Find A Date After 60

For all of us in the latter stages of life, finding love again can be a daunting task and you may think that it is impossible. However, the reality is that although dating is slightly different from when we were younger, it is still a realistic goal. I have been thinking about a few useful tips on how to find a date above 50.

Let’s look at some of the options available to us.

It may sound frightening at first, but online dating is an excellent starting point. You can protect your privacy as much as you like, revealing only information that you choose, when you choose to. The main benefit of this is that there is no early pressure on a relationship as time can be taken conversing and getting to know each other before building up to a face to face meeting. But remember that a face to face meeting is the only way to truly know if someone is who they say they are as well as know if the feelings over mail are real or should remain in cyber space.

Perhaps you prefer face to face contact from the start, senior centers are a good place to find like minded people and develop friendships. Interest clubs are also a great ice breaker as you already share a common interest such as art, history, philosophy – Some universities offer courses for the mature student.

Singles events are plentiful and you could join a few of the many clubs and societies in your area. These make me nervous as I feel a bit like being at a ‘meat market’, I prefer a distraction of another ‘reason’ for being there.

When actually on a date you really should remember to go back to the advice when were younger and just be yourself. Pretending to be something or someone else will do you no favours whatsoever. In any case, your date is likely to feel exactly the same as you do and will be equally keen to make a good impression. Being open and honest from the beginning is always the best policy.

Another key thing to bear in mind is to remain positive and up beat. You want to come across as someone who lives life to the full in the present time and who still has future hopes and dreams. Reminiscing about the good old days and moaning about how much better things used to be will not impress anybody. Keep health issues out of the conversation, you do not want a prospective partner thinking they are applying to be your nurse.

Although finding dating over 50 may seem problematic initially, it really is no different from at any other age. Remain active and optimistic, and you never know when the love bug will bite!

Christmas presents for grandchildren

It has come to that time of the year again and, if you are as unprepared as me, you will be hitting the shops for ideas.

Grandparents have a well-deserved reputation for spoiling their grandchildren. As a group, we spend very generously on gifts for them. Of course, we have to stay within our budgets. That can be tough when we would love to give our grandchildren just about everything they want! Often the most difficult task is deciding what gift to give. The choices available are overwhelming so here are my top tips to help with narrowing down the overwhelming selection.

Start with Mom and Dad
They probably have more day-to-day interaction with what is needed and can eliminate what is ‘fashionable’. They are likely to have great suggestions. They may have safety concerns about particular gifts or wish to give certain presents themselves. They also know what your grandkids’ current interests are. If the parents are on a tight budget, you could help them by buying gifts such as clothing or other essential items like school supplies or help with a days activity should they may not be able to take the time off work or simply cannot afford.

Suitability for the Child
Skill and age levels are important when choosing gifts that suit your grandchildren’s interests. They will probably not use a gift that is too advanced – or too simple. Grandchildren cherish gifts chosen with thought and care. Even young children have very distinct interests and desires. It is most important to match the gift to the grandchild. Some boys are just not in to football, some girls dislike fairies and butterflies. If you buy a certain gift to encourage a particular hobby or to help develop an academic or athletic skill, let your grandchild know that you have noticed their interest or ability and that you would like to share it with them. Here is an opportunity to share in their world.

Present Traditions
Perhaps you could start a tradition that helps you to narrow your range of choices. For example, a friend’s grandmother always gave a beautiful stone egg at Easter instead of just chocolates, which were gone in 60 seconds. This made a wonderful collection when they were older. These could be books for a collection, a craft that you can do together or perhaps you are creative and can make a bedspread or a cooking course you could do together.

Children are always intrigued as to what their parents were like as children. You could pass on a special family keepsake – handing down a book or toy that belonged to your grandchildren’s parent.

Monetary gifts – Investment in their future
Some youngsters seem to have everything. The last thing they need is another toy. If this is the case find out if the parents have set up a university fund that you could contribute towards. A deposit can be made towards it each birthday and or Christmas. This gift can take pressure off the parents in planning for their education and financial security of their children when they are older.

Then all you have to do is give a small, fun gift on the day to let the child have something in their hand and then explain what you have done in contributing towards their future.

The most special gift – A Gift of You
Special time spent with grandchildren can be the most prized of gifts. All depending on the age of the child, you can plan an outing for brunch, the science museum or to see their favourite team. If you wanted to give them a gift certificate you could then go with them to the store and pick something out together.

All of these encourage time together which they will treasure.

Always remember to stay in your budget, the last thing your children/ grandchildren want to see is you struggling. Although they may really, really, really want a certain item what they actually need is you and the love you have to give.

With your talents, the sky’s the limit! Enjoy this season and the special moments it brings.

Sandringham Estate – a great day out

Ever get stuck with what to do on a weekend? Bank Holiday weekend? Or simply want to escape to somewhere different. Sandringham Estate is a lovely idea for all ages and mobility. The Queen of course loves it!

The Estate is made up of tidal mudflats of the Wash, wetland, woodland, livestock and fruit farms. Her Majesty The Queen treasures Sandringham Estate as her main Christmas retreat and we often see her and the rest of the Royal Family walking up to the church on Christmas day. This is also from where she broadcasts her Christmas message.

The house itself consists of 24 hectares of perfectly managed gardens nestled in the heart of 8,000 hectare Sandringham Estate. The woodland and heath of the Country Park make up 240 hectares.

The Visitor Centre is positioned across the road from the main entrance and has ample free parking, café, restaurant and well-stocked gift shop. Here you will find local delicacies and great gifts for those that could not make it along for this visit.

There are also tractor and trailer rides available for a small charge that take those not up for the 1 mile and 2 mile walks, around the Country Park and provide excellent commentary. These have access for those who need assistance as well as well-chairs.

Once across the road at the main entrance to the estate you can choose to take a short walk up to the house or have a short wait (approximately 20 min) for the shuttle ( golf cart) to take you through the gardens to the house. The rooms available for view are limited to the downstairs area and ballroom opposite but the most interesting is chatting to the guides. Many of who have indeed worked for the Queen and have wonderful bits of information about the activities enjoyed by the Royal Family (not breaking their trust of course), the history of the furniture and all the trinkets.

There is a short walk from here to the Museum that houses many of the Royal Families’ cars as well as the historic Fire Engines and an opportunity to have a reviving cup of tea at the Stables Tea Room.

If you feel like walking back through the gardens, there are many benches scattered along the path should you need a rest and want to take in the vistas. The North Garden, West Terrace and especially the Lake are beautiful. Queen Alexandra’s summerhouse, the “Nest”, overlooking the lake will definitely allow for some daydreaming. From the delightful Stream Walk at the eastern end of the gardens you will get a view of York Cottage, once the bachelor quarters for King Edward’s guests, later the much-loved home of King George V, and currently the Estate Office.

When you are heading back to the main entrance try not to miss out on the parish church of St Mary Magdalene. This is a country church of outstanding historic interest, with memorials to many relations of the Royal Family from Queen Victoria onwards.

Sandringham Church is considered to be one of the finest carrstone buildings in existence, and dates back in its present form to the 16th century.

To enjoy all Sandringham Estate has to offer it is best to set aside 4 hours. A place with this much history and beauty deserves to be enjoyed at a country pace.

For more information it is best to go the Sandringham Estate website.

Banana Bread

Now I am sure you are like me and have tried a few dozen banana bread recipes! Well here is one more that I find a winner. Perhaps use it as a Christmas gift with a difference, it will definitely be gobbled down on Boxing Day.

Ingredients:

3 large ripe bananas, mashed
2 cups self-rising flour

½ cup vegetable oli
1 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
½ cup chopped nuts


– Mix the flour and sugar together in a bowl.

–  Lightly beat eggs and add the mashed bananas and oil.

– Mix in the flour/sugar mixture.

– Then add the nuts.

– Pour batter into a greased loaf tin.

– Bake for 1 hour at 160 C or until cooked through ( this can be affected by the moisture from the bananas, so check before removing)

– Remove and cool in the pan on wire rack.

Emergency Blueberry muffins

Delicious Blueberry Muffins

We all have that moment… the phone rings and the family want to ‘pop-in’ for a quick visit and there is nothing ready for them to snack on. Armed with this recipe you will welcome them with a lovely aroma wafting from the kitchen and more importantly you will not be exhausted from the preparation!

Ingredients

1 ½ cups all-purpose four

¾ cup white sugar

½ teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/3 cup vegetable oil

1 egg

1/3 cup milk

1 cup fresh blueberries

½ cup white sugar

–        Preheat the oven to 200 degrees C ( 400 degrees Fahrenheit). Grease the muffin tin.

–        Combine flour, sugar, salt and baking powder. Measure the oil into a  measuring cup          then add the egg and beat. Fill the cup right to the top with the milk and mix.

–        Add this to the flour mixture.

–        Fold in the blueberries.

–        Fill the muffin cups right to the top.

Bake for 20 – 25min in the preheated oven or until done ( a light brown tinge is a good indicator). Serve and enjoy!

Depression – What is it and how does it work

Admittedly everyone feels down sometimes, but depression is more than feeling unhappy.

Sometimes all we need to do when we are feeling down is get ourselves up and go for a walk ( exercise raises the endorphin levels) or call a friend to meet for coffee. But if these simple actions do not make you feel any better and you are feeling irritable, tired unable to sleep, unable to eat and unable to make decisions, you may be depressed.

You may also feel dissatisfied, hopeless, helpless and you may want to cry all the time. And as much as you try, you can’t make yourself feel better.

Although everyone can have these feelings from time to time, if you have depression, they accumulate and do not go away. They can last for weeks or months. Some people with depression have symptoms that are not typical. You may be anxious or irritable possibly suddenly finding your memory or concentration is not what it was.

Understandably you can have depression at the same time as other illnesses, such as diabetes, cancer a heart attack or a stroke.

Unfortunately many people with depression don’t ask for help and about half of all depression is not properly treated.

Depression is not simply a state of mind or something you can will away with some effort. With depression, the most important thing is to recognise that you may have it and to see someone qualified to give you the right diagnosis and treatment. It is also important to remember that the hopelessness you may feel is a symptom of your depression, and it doesn’t mean that there really is no hope. It may help to confide in someone you trust, and to keep busy and meet up with people rather than stay at home on your own. Do not isolate yourself as this will only compound the overwhelming feelings.

So what happens in our bodies? No one knows for certain what causes depression. Doctors and researchers think that triggers can often play a role in the development of depression. For example, it can be set off by the death of a friend or partner even a beloved pet.

Depression has also been linked to changes in how the brain works. Thinking about this, it does makes sense, given that our emotions, thoughts, sleep, appetite and behaviour are regulated by our brain.

We know that the brain sends signals from nerve to nerve using neurotransmitters. But the levels of certain neurotransmitters in your brain called noradrenaline and serotonin are abnormal if you have depression, and they do not work properly

Some studies have found that family history can to play a part in depression., suggesting that it can be caused by genes.  But likewise there are studies proving that there is no correlation between family history of depression and its occurrence.

If you are in any way concerned that you may be depressed It is best to make an appointment with your local GP and have a good talk about how you are feeling as well as how your life is being affected.  Your GP will be able to direct you to the right resources to help you, sometimes you will need some medication to help you through this as well as dealing with any lifestyle pressures you are experiencing. The most important decision is to ask for help, you are not alone!

Please note: This is in no way medical advice. Always consult a medical professional.