IL Newsletter, 29th February


Hello and welcome to the latest Independent Living newsletter.

Contents:

1. Improving Dignity in Care
2. Renting Care Equipment
3. Blue Badge Shocks
4. Sensory Impairments
5. Backward Step for Twitter?
6. Last Word

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1. Improving Dignity in Care

I think I'm finally getting the hang of interpreting the real meaning of government utterances. It's taken a while, and I'm still not completely fluent, but I reckon that when they say that they will "look at the big challenge of implementing the recommendations" of the latest report from the Commission on Improving Dignity in Care for Older People, what they really mean is that they don't have a clue where to start.



Certainly, if you look at the statutory body charged with monitoring standards, the CQC, they clearly have a way to go sorting themselves out, before we can rely on them to hold anyone else to account. This week's blog was about the two alternative approaches; professional versus "trip advisor" – you can read my opinion here, and I'd love to know what you think. Whether you are a care professional, have a friend or relative in residential care in hospital, or you yourself are in that situation. Don't be shy about sharing your views: you can do it anonymously, if you need to!



That we are once again asking ourselves why some of the people charged with caring for older people not only fail to empathise, but even show contempt for them, demonstrates, if there was ever any doubt, that our society's values need recalibrating, if we are to give and receive the respect and compassion all of us want when we're feeling vulnerable. Making it as unacceptable to patronise older people, as it is to indulge in racist or sexist abuse might be a start, but I would adopt the John Lewis principle: only employ people you like, then teach them the skills they need to do the job. In other words, temperament is more important than qualifications, and anyone who doesn't have compassion shouldn't be working in a care environment.



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2. Renting Care Equipment


It is interesting to monitor the growth in both visitor numbers and enquiries for the care rental sections of Independent Living. A sign of the times, of course, as we all seek ways to limit expenditure, and certainly, renting a piece of equipment that is needed only for occasional use or for a fixed period of time, may be more cost-effective. A new development that could be of interest to wheelchair users is that you can now apply vouchers from the wheelchair service to hiring a chair, not just buying.



For anyone unfamiliar with the system, a quick roundup. When you need a wheelchair, it is the NHS Wheelchair Service that decides what you require. The service is run by the local health authority, and (why are we not surprised!) there are wide variations from district to district on what criteria they apply and what equipment they will fund. So, in one area, only people who are in a chair 24/7 will get any support, while in another there might be a more generous approach to mobility needs. The service will either provide you with a basic wheelchair that meets your needs, or with a voucher which you can use towards paying for any chair that you prefer, as long as it also meets your clinical requirements. The voucher will be for the cost of the chair the NHS would supply you with, together with the maintenance they calculate will be needed in its lifetime, generally five years.



If you opt for a voucher, the chair is your property (otherwise, it belongs to the NHS, and is yours on loan), and you are responsible for the costs of insurance, maintenance and repair, whether this amounts to more or less than was calculated in the voucher. By using the voucher to rent a chair on a long-term basis, the monthly payment covers all these extras, making sure you aren't confronted with a nasty surprise somewhere down the line.



National Mobility Rentals, who pioneered the application of wheelchair vouchers to chair rental have their new showcase page on Independent Living here. And you can browse the range of equipment available to hire or rent, in our Care Rental section



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3. Blue Badge Shocks

Cuts to local authority budgets are biting more deeply into services and support provided to people who need help with their daily living and mobility. We get emails on a regular basis from people who find that their care package is being reduced, or that facilities like day centres and respite care which they use regularly are being closed. Another rather petty example is Blue Badge parking permits. Earlier in the year, we covered the changes to the system, to cut down on fraud. People taking advantage of a parking permit to which they aren't entitled has had a lot of coverage in the news, and is a source of frustration for those who really do need those parking places.



Now, however, we are starting to hear about people who have extremely limited mobility, expecting their Blue Badge renewal to be something of a formality, who are having the permit withdrawn. Some users get a Blue Badge automatically: those in receipt of the higher rate mobility component of DLA, for example, but there are still thousands of people whose permit depends on an assessment of their mobility, who are getting a nasty shock at renewal time. These assessments now have to be carried out by an "independent mobility assessor", rather than using information provided by the GP who knows the individual concerned. I have no idea whether there is an incentive scheme for these assessors to reduce the number of Blue Badges, but there is a whiff of ATOS work capability assessment about the process.


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4. Sensory Impairments

Like everyone else with a fondness for one of our "national treasures", I was sorry to hear that Dame Judi Dench is suffering from AMD (age-related macular degeneration). It is a timely reminder that eye health needs regular checking, and isn't something you can count on indefinitely.



We have an area of Independent Living dedicated to sight impairment, where you can read about the most common eye conditions, including cataracts and glaucoma, as well as AMD. We also have information about various ingenious products to help make life easier when your vision is less than perfect.


Hearing impairment is also covered, with some of the latest aids to make listening easier. IL Visual Impairment and Hearing Problems.

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5. Backward Step for Twitter?

As you probably know, we have a Twitter feed, where we post short messages about what's going on at Independent Living. I noticed that the look of Twitter changed recently - personally, I quite like the aesthetics, now that I'm getting used to it, but a recent posting from prolific disability blogger, Same Difference, who is happily back online after a short absence, flags up that the new design is no longer accessible to people using a screen reader. It seems extraordinary that such a widely used platform should suddenly become less accessible, but that appears to be the case. Again, it would be good to hear of your experiences with accessing this or other popular web destinations.



You can comment at the bottom of this newsletter (online version), or on our Facebook page, or indeed by tweeting, if you want to keep it brief! #IndLiving is our moniker.



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6. Last Word

Coming up next time - the latest from our resident nutrition guru, Mary Farmer, who will be explaining everything you ever wanted to know about BMI (body mass index). And a deceptively simple aid to getting up and down stairs!



That's it for this time. I hope you've found our latest newsletter interesting. Don't forget you can access all the news as soon as it is uploaded in our News Centre

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Our Facebook page is regularly updated with the latest developments on the site, and is also somewhere that you can share your opinions with us. Or if you want to make it pithy, send us a tweet! @IndLiving

Until next time, all good wishes,

Frances

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