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Ambassador scheme empowers care home residents

One care home organisation is giving its residents more purpose during their stay thanks to a unique scheme.

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Moving into a care home can be a daunting prospect for anyone, particularly those affected by neurological conditions.

Exemplar Health Care, a provider of specialist nursing care for people living with a range of complex needs, offers a programme to make this process as easy as possible.

Through its Service User Ambassador initiative, residents at one of the group’s 34 nationwide homes are given an added purpose while living there.

Those involved are given the chance to represent their views and that of their peers during monthly Service User Council meetings.

Ambassadors work with the management to make the whole living experience as enjoyable as possible for its residents, giving them a direct say in the ongoings of each home.

This has allowed those involved to have a lot more purpose in the home according to the scheme’s founder Sophia Feurtado.

“They benefit from it a lot,” said the Service User Engagement Manager at Exemplar Health Care. “And it really supports them in a number of ways.

“It builds their confidence, it helps them to practice new things and it really gives them a purpose around the homes.

“The Service User Ambassadors are looked up to and recognised in the homes by both residents and staff.

“They actually have an ID badge and their photos up on the wall, so we’ve tried to make them feel part and parcel of the fabric of what we do.

“Listening to them it does all sorts of things for them, it really helps them and they just really enjoy it.”

The initiative also offers people the chance to get involved in a range of jobs around each home.

This can include things like blog writing for the company’s website, volunteering for duties in homes or organising activities for the other residents.

In recent years, Service User Ambassadors have helped run company-wide events such as the Exemplar Elite Games and Exemplar’s Got Talent.

Some users can also get involved in the recruitment process for each home, such as Chris at Thames House in Rochdale.

He is a long-time Parkinson’s patient having been diagnosed with the condition aged 30, but helped set up the scheme as the founding Service User Ambassador.

Chris now plays a crucial role in introducing new staff to his home, sitting in on interviews while also assisting with the induction process.

He sits down with new staff to make them feel welcome, while also explaining to them what life is like at Thames House and giving them tips on how to help its residents.

“We’ve been running the scheme for four years now,” Sophia said. “Chris was one of the first people that I recruited into the role.

“He tells our new staff how to relate to the service users, what sorts of things help him and what to avoid doing.

“It’s a really interesting discussion and dialogue and he effectively talks to all the new staff from the point of view of somebody who’s living in one of our homes.”

Residents have really embraced the scheme, with Sophia recalling one Service User Ambassador who is using it to rebuild his confidence which he hopes will eventually lead to paid employment.

The feedback from residents has been overwhelmingly positive, helping empower them and give them a sense of purpose.

Giving users a say in ongoing work in each home has been one of the biggest reasons for this, something Sophia set out to do from the start.

“Exemplar Health Care is a company that is supporting and looking after people, so they need to be an influential part of the discussions about their home, and they need to be influencing how things progress in our homes.

“Our care focuses on maximising independence, building everyday life skills for people and empowering them to live a fulfilled life.

“Some of the Ambassadors have said to me it helps them rediscover qualities and skills that they perhaps may have forgotten that they have.

“It also helps them to build new skills and continue to act as an integral part of our society.

“People come to our homes with a history, they’ve had a life, they’ve done a lot out in the community, so why not continue to do that while they’re living here?”

Sophia also said these opportunities are changing people’s perceptions of what it is like to live in a care home.

“You often hear about when people come into care homes they think that it’s the end, they don’t know what to think, but they’re not expecting any of these types of opportunities to be available to them.

“It’s important that they don’t feel like that as it’s about maximising the quality of life for them and giving them a purpose.”

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Osteoarthritis: breaking the cycle

Medical technology company Ottobock shares its expertise on approaches to the condition.

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Sponsored feature

Why is Cartilage Important?

Bones that come in contact with other bones are covered by cartilage at their contact points. Cartilage does not have blood vessels – it is supplied with nutrients through movement of the joint. That’s why regular exercise is so important!

Cartilage ensures that the joint surfaces move against each other in the most efficient way and with little friction. It absorbs shock, cushioning the joint, and distributes the forces acting on the joint.

If cartilage is damaged and its gliding properties are affected, it can no longer serve its purpose and the joints range of movement can become limited.

Typical Progression of Osteoarthritis

When osteoarthritis of the knee develops due to joint malalignment, an accident, advancing age, obesity or excessive strain, the damaged cartilage is no longer able to properly fulfil its function.

This results in pain and re­duced mobility. The affected patient instinctively assumes a relieving posture to reduce strain on the knee.

However, this often leads to new prob­lems in other places, such as the hip, and reduces the supply of nutrients to the cartilage, for which movement is required – sparking a vicious circle.

The cartilage develops cracks and begins to break down. At the same time, the bone thickens at the site of the damage.

When the cartilage layer is completely worn away, the affected bones come into direct contact and rub against each other causing joint pain and inflammation.

The thickest joint cartilage is located behind the kneecap (patella). This is an area of high stress. Osteoarthritis occurring in this area is known as patellafemoral osteoarthritis

Signs and Symptoms

There are several common symptoms that signal knee osteoarthritis. They can occur individually or together. However, with the initial onset, you may not notice any of these symptoms

When symptoms appear they usually occur in the following order:

  • Cracking in the joint
  • Pain during load bearing activities, such as carrying a heavy object
  • Pain during every day activities, such as climbing the stairs
  • Reduced mobility
  • Swelling and inflammation

Non-Invasive Treatments

Joint specific exercises: with regular exercise mobility can be maintained and muscle strengthened, ensuring the cartilage is supplied with the nutrients it needs.

Temperature: with acute inflammation, cold relieves pain and reduces swelling. Heat relaxes the muscles and tendons and increases the flow of nutrients. Heat may only be applied when the joint is not inflamed.

Creams: various over the counter products are available at your local pharmacy including gels and creams that can help relieve pain.

Orthopaedic devices (braces and supports): these are applied externally to the knee, reducing pain and improving mobility.

Lifestyle: living a healthy lifestyle can help to combat osteoarthritis. A healthy diet and an active lifestyle reduces the chance of obesity, putting less stress and strain through the knee joints.

Orthotic Options

An orthotic fitting is a key component in the treatment of osteoarthritis. It can provide the following:

  • Pain relief
  • Support daily activities
  • Support during activities that affect the joint, whether at work or during sports

Did you know?

An osteoarthritis patient takes an average of around 1,200 tablets a year to manage pain. But this can lead to damage to the stomach, bowel and liver.

An orthosis from the Agilium line is therefore a good alternative. It’s worth-while for anyone with knee osteoarthritis to test the effectiveness of the orthoses themselves.

The Agilium Line

The braces in our Agilium line are designed specifically to target the symptoms of osteoarthritis of the knee.

Each works in a different way to address the various characteristics of osteoarthritis of the knee. At the same time, we placed great emphasis on their comfort and suitability for daily use.

The Agilium Freestep, the Agilium Reactive and the Agilium Softfit are used to treat unicompartmental osteoarthritis of the knee.

The Agilium Patella is used for patients with patellofemoral arthritis.

The Agilium Freestep is used to treat OA, although it is not applied directly to the knee. Instead is worn on the foot, right inside the shoe! For targeted relieve, it alters the load-line of the knee – the point where the body weight impacts the cartilage.

The Agilium Softfit is a pull on knee brace with a textile base and single upright that stabilises and relieves the knee using a three point force system to offload the affected compartment (side) of the knee.

The Agilium Reactive also uses a three point force system to offload the affected compartment (side) of the knee. However, the innovative closure system in the upper calf provides comfort while sitting without compromising the stable position when standing.

The Agilium Patella combines a textile structure and stabilising component with a dynamic re-alignment mechanism enabling it to maintain the central alignment of the knee cap, reducing pressure behind the knee cap.

Find the appropriate brace with Agilium Select.

Visit our website or go to ottobock.com/agilium-select

If you would like to know more about any of these products please get in touch via orthoticsuk@ottobock.com or visit our website for more information: www.ottobock.co.uk

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News

Masturbation linked to stroke in medical case study

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Doctors in Japan have reported how masturbation sparked a bleed on the brain of a 51-year-old man; as published in the Journal of Stroke and Cerebrovascular Diseases.

Doctors at the Nagoya City University Graduate School of Medical Sciences in Japan explained that the man attended hospital after orgasming, with the sudden onset of a searing headache that lasted for around a minute. This was followed by an intense bout of vomiting.

A CT scan showed an acute subarachnoid hemorrhage in the left hemisphere.

The researchers note that masturbation causes an increase in heart rate, blood pressure, and noradrenaline plasma levels – which are likely to contribute to the risk of splitting a blood vessel in the brain and result in a hemorrhagic stroke.

The man was treated with stents and coiling, two techniques used to bolster the blood vessel and maintain blood flow to the brain, and he went on to make a full recovery.

The study authors say that they found just two other cases of masturbation-linked strokes in other scientific literature.

The Japanese man survived and was discharged after nearly two weeks in hospital in an “excellent” condition.

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Engineers develop ultrasound patch to monitor blood flow

Breakthrough could help to better predict stroke and other cardiovascular conditions earlier.

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Engineers at the University of California San Diego have developed an ultrasound patch that can be worn on the skin. It monitors the blood flow through major arteries and veins deep within the body.

It is hoped that it could help clinicians diagnose cardiovascular conditions faster. It could also help to diagnose blockages in the arteries which could lead to strokes or heart attacks.

The ultrasound patch continuously monitors blood flow as well as blood pressure and heart function in real-time. Assessing how much blood flows through a patient’s blood vessels could help diagnose blood clots, heart valve problems and poor circulation in the limbs.

For many patients, blood flow is not measured during a regular visit to their doctors. It is usually assessed after a patient shows signs of cardiovascular problems.

The patch can be worn on the neck or chest and can measure cardiovascular signals up to 14 centimetres inside the body non invasively with high accuracy.

How the patch works

The patch is made of a thin, flexible polymer that sticks to the skin.

There is an array of millimetre-sized ultrasound transducers on the patch known as an ultrasound phased array.

These are individually controlled by a computer. Another feature is that the ultrasound beam can be tilted at different angles to areas in the body that are not directly below the patch.

It can operate in two modes. In one, all of the transducers can be synched together to transmit ultrasound waves which produce a high-intensity beam that focuses on one spot.

This can be up to 14cm deep in the body.

A wearable ultrasound patch on the skin

The other mode allows the transducers to be programmed to transmit out of sync producing beams at different angles.

In being able to manipulate the beams, it gives the device multiple capacities for monitoring central organs as well as blood flow with high resolution.

When the electricity flows through the transducers, they vibrate while emitting ultrasound waves that travel through the skin into the body.

When they penetrate a blood vessel, they encounter the movement of red blood cells flowing inside. The cell movement changes how the waves are transmitted back to the patch.

This change is recorded by the patch and creates a visual recording of the blood flow. It can also be used to create moving images of the heart’s walls.

The benefits:

Sheng Xu, professor of nanoengineering at the UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering said:

“This type of wearable device can give you a more comprehensive, more accurate picture of what’s going on in deep tissues and critical organs like the heart and the brain, all from the surface of the skin.”

Xu added: “This is a first in the field of wearables because existing wearable sensors typically only monitor areas right below them.

“If you want to sense signals at a different position, you have to move the sensor to that location. With this patch, we can probe areas that are wider than the device’s footprint. This can open up a lot of opportunities.”

The researchers say that the easy to use patch could allow patients to wear the patch and monitor the results themselves. It doesn’t depend on a technician to read the results

The next stage

The patch is not yet ready for clinical use. The researchers are currently working on a way to make the electronics wireless as it currently needs a power source and benchtop machine.

Image credit: Nature Biomedical Engineering

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