A future proofed home

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As we get older, our housing needs change. The family house can suddenly seem too big and expensive to manage, the stairs that bit trickier, and the efforts we have to go to maintain it all leave us little time or energy to do the things we want to spend time doing.

Downsizing for a better quality of life makes sense but bungalows are scarce and command such premium prices you’re unlikely to free up enough money to enjoy that dream retirement. Then there’s stamp duty, fees, the likelihood you’ll have to spend more money on whatever you buy to make it suitable to grow old in – all this means many end-up staying put.

The specialist developer of contemporary retirement properties, Birchgrove, offers modern and spacious apartments in Kent and Surrey. Each apartment is individually designed to maximise space and light and has the Birchgrove trademark of high-quality finishes so that the apartments are distinctly elegant.

All apartments are specifically designed for people in later life, featuring waist height appliances in the fully fitted kitchens for easy access and en-suite showers. All doors and corridors are wheelchair accessible for freedom of movement.

Residents have access to exclusive onsite amenities such as a restaurant, bar, club room, a communal terrace, exercise studio, landscaped gardens and greenhouse. Regular events and activities programme also contribute to the friendly community lifestyle, and for added peace of mind there is a concierge and 24 hour staff presence.

One thing that will strike you when you visit a Birchgrove retirement community, is how friendly the team are. Because the apartments are not for sale, you’ll find that the Advisors are not trying to sell you anything, rather they are there to help you consider your options and act as a guide for you whilst you make your own choices about how and where you want to live.

If you find yourself needing a little extra assistance, our tailored care support is offered through our homecare specialist partners who can personalise a care package for your individual requirements.

In addition, all apartments are fitted with a digital telecare console to offer residents assistance at the touch of a button. Residents can use the console to contact the concierge desk, look up what they want for dinner, book appointments and connect with their family and friends: as well as a discreet 24/7 emergency call service that can call for immediate assistance if needed.

If you would like to find out more about living at a Birchgrove retirement community, contact the team who will happily talk through the options and tailor something that works to support your individual needs. Call 020 3929 5599 or visit www.birchgrove.life

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Valerian Court: A home from home

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Valerian Court is a brand-new purpose-built luxury care home set to open its doors to welcome new residents in summer 2022

Offering the very best in person-centred care, Valerian Court will be offering all-inclusive residential, nursing, dementia and respite care, providing support and companionship when needed around the clock.

The care of the residents is of paramount importance and the dedicated and caring team ensure privacy, dignity and respect whilst fostering independence, confidence and wellness of each of the residents.

This elegant home has been designed with the residents in mind with no attention to detail being missed. From luxury en-suite bedrooms that are beautifully decorated to a café and an array of dining rooms where you can enjoy quality home-cooked nutritious food lovingly prepared by the team of resident chefs.

There are lounges available on every floor of the home that provide a perfect haven for some R&R or why not pop into the library or one of the quiet rooms to catch up on the newspaper or to read your favourite book.

Moving into a care home really does not mean that you have to miss out on all of your favourite things and with a hairdresser on site you never need to miss an appointment. There’s a café to enjoy a cup of tea and slice of homemade cake and we provide a warm welcome for your family and friends to come in and join you and to be a part of the Valerian Court community.

If watching movies is your thing then relax with some popcorn in the cinema room or why not join in with the extensive activities programme that offers arts and crafts sessions, exercise classes, music and entertainment to name just a few of the activities.

With balconies and a rooftop garden you can enjoy the summer whilst doing some gardening or why not sit back and watch the comings and goings of the Didcot community.

Providing a warm and inviting environment for the residents and their families is what the home prides itself on. Come and discover the lifestyle that Valerian Court has to offer by visiting our Marketing Suite which opens on 18th May.

Find out more at Valerian Court Care Home and email

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Local Sue Ryder Hospice launches appeal

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National healthcare charity Sue Ryder, which runs Sue Ryder Duchess of Kent Hospice in Reading, has this month launched an appeal asking people to help them fill families’ final days together with love.

The charity is asking people of Berkshire to support their ‘Room Full of Love’ campaign, so Sue Ryder Nurses and expert care teams can continue to go above and beyond, helping to give families a better goodbye.

Families like David’s.

They made it possible for our family to be together

David’s family were supported by the Sue Ryder Hospice at Home team, who ensured he was able to spend his final days in the comfort of his own home, surrounded by photos and memories, with his wife and daughter by his side.

David’s daughter, Joanna, said: “When we found out we had been allocated care from the Sue Ryder Hospice at Home team, I felt as though a huge weight had been lifted from my shoulders. Where I live, the words “Sue Ryder” are synonymous with care, love, support and sanctuary. Knowing we would be supported by the team meant that Mum and I felt able to take the decision to care for Dad at home in the last weeks of his life.

Some of the care team brought humour – much needed at such a difficult time. Others connected with us on shared interests and experiences. In their first couple of visits, our carers took time to find out about Dad – where he used to work, what his interests were, and to look at old family photos. He wasn’t just a patient to them: he was a person.

It takes a very special person to carry out the work that the Hospice at Home team does, every day, for families like ours across the country. They made it possible for us to be together as a family in one of the most difficult times of our lives, and I will always, always be grateful and thankful for their love and care for us.”

Going above and beyond

“We often talk about the photos that people have around them and I really think patients like there to be a bit of normality”, shares Sue Ryder Nurse Melissa, who was one of the Sue Ryder care team who helped care for David and his family.

“I remember when we suggested it was time for David to have a hospital bed, the family all got together and rearranged the front room and it became a beautiful bedroom for him.

On the day David died we called their vicar for them and he came and I hope that gave them some comfort. David kept his Bible beside his bed, so we knew his faith was important to him.

When the family stepped out so we could perform the last offices we picked a rose from a bush in the garden and laid it on his pillow and placed his Bible under his hand. It’s a way for us to say that we have been privileged to look after your family.”

A room full of love

The past year has been difficult for everyone, with many families experiencing loss. Sue Ryder wants to take away some of the tough things that come with losing a loved one, helping to fill rooms with music, much-loved pets, or the people who mean the most, to help families have a better goodbye.

By supporting the appeal you can help Sue Ryder take the pain, stress, and uncertainty away through their medical expertise, emotional intelligence and practical support, leaving families like David’s free to focus on what’s really important – love.

To help Sue Ryder Nurses fill a room with love,  click here

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National Carers Rights Day

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People in Reading who provide unpaid care for a friend, relative or neighbour can access support and information at an event to mark National Carers Rights Day 2019 today, Thursday 21st.

The free event aims to reach out to people who might not access all the support they are entitled to and also to recognise the vital role unpaid carers play in the wellbeing of the community.

In Reading, an estimated 12,000 people provide unpaid care for someone who due to illness, disability, a mental health problem or an addiction, cannot cope without their support.

The event is hosted by the Reading and West Berkshire Carers Hub with support from Reading Council, local voluntary care sector providers, carers and charities. The event runs from 2pm to 6pm at Wycliffe Baptist Church, 233 King’s Rd, Reading.

The theme of the national campaign this year is ‘Helping you find your way’ with the aim of encouraging people to think about how caring might affect them now and in the future and what support they might need.

Reflecting this theme, advice and information will be provided at the event, which will also feature a series of presentations relating to health, benefits and carer assessments.

The event organisers are also keen to reach unpaid carers who also work and may not be aware of their rights and the support they are entitled to from their employers.

Information stands manned by community groups and charities will run throughout the event for people who cannot stay for the whole event. Light refreshments will also be available.

Cllr Graeme Hoskin, Reading’s lead member for health and wellbeing, said: “Carers play an essential role in our community and they deserve the best advice and support in their role as well as help in maintaining their own independent lives.

“Most of us will care for or be cared for at some point in our lives. Support for a loved one who is older, ill or has disabilities can be a source of great joy and satisfaction but without the right financial and practical support in place it can also be tough. We’re encouraging people to think about what support they might need so that they don’t miss out now or in the future.”

Cllr Tony Jones, Reading’s lead member for adult social care, said: “This Carers Rights Day, we hope to reach as many carers in Reading as possible with information and advice about the range of support they are entitled to – whether that’s certain benefits or practical help, like getting adaptations in the home.”

Although there is no need to book for the event, people will need to book in advance for advice sessions including Health MOTs and Power of Attorney.

Book a session

To book an advice session appointment or for any queries, please contact Carers Hub on 0118 342 7333 or email  

Who cares for the carers? 

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Carers Week puts the focus on 6.5million in the UK helping family and friends

There are 6.5million carers in the UK, many of whom don’t realise that’s just what they are – Carers Week aims to help them get connected.

The week from today (10th) until 16th June is an annual campaign to raise awareness of caring, highlight the challenges unpaid carers face and recognise the contribution they make to families and communities throughout the UK.

They will be looking after a family member or friend who has a disability, mental or physical illness or who needs extra help as they grow older.

It also helps people who don’t think of themselves as having caring responsibilities to identify as carers and access much-needed support.

The campaign is brought to life by thousands of individuals and organisations who come together to organise activities and events throughout the UK, drawing attention to just how important caring is.

Caring can be a hugely rewarding experience but carers often find it challenging to take care of their own wellbeing whilst caring. Its impact on all aspects of life from relationships and health to finances and work should not be underestimated. Caring without the right information and support can be tough.

With this in mind Reading Borough Council is holding a series of free events across the town to help ensure these people get all the support they need and to recognise the vital role they play.

The theme of this year’s week is Getting carers connected in their communities and highlights of the week’s events will include a drop-in market place at Broad Street Mall (12th June) offering unpaid carers support, advice and information.

The week will begin with presentations on power of attorney, mental health and end of life care with one-to-one sessions available at New Directions, Northumberland Avenue and a talk by Rowberry Morris Solicitors for parents or carers of a child or adult with learning disabilities at Reading Mencap, Alexandra Road (both 10th June).

Wellbeing sessions and health MOTs are available at Whitley Wood Community Centre on 14th June while the main event is on 12th June hosted by the Reading and West Berkshire Carers Hub at Broad Street Mall.

To book a place on any of these events in Reading or for help to arrange alternative care, call the hub on 0118 324 7333 or email  

  For more on Carers Week and the help that is out there, please visit Carers Week

Adult care guide: Winter 2019

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Who says you can’t teach an old dog new tricks? Later life can be full of fun & mental stimulation. In February we focus on adult care and our moving interview with Sir Jackie Stewart as well as initiatives from silverswans.

THE GREATEST CHALLENGE

Inspired by his wife’s diagnosis, Sir Jackie Stewart has launched a £2million funding drive in Race Against Dementia, writes Karen Neville.

Motor racing legend Sir Jackie Stewart is embarking on the greatest and most personal challenge of his life. His wife of 56 years, Lady Helen Stewart was diagnosed with frontotemporal dementia four years ago, driving him to establish the Race Against Dementia (RAD).

The three-time Formula One world champion has launched a £2million search for new scientists to develop breakthroughs in the prevention and treatment of dementia. RAD aims to find a solution that will allow millions of people to live longer with dementia.

There are 850,000 people in the UK living with dementia and millions more carers and family members who struggle to cope as their loved one suffers.

Unless a cure is found, one in three people born today will develop dementia in their lifetime. However, behind each statistic such as these
are the real people dealing with the disease and its effects on a daily basis, each with their own unique heart-breaking story – memories, passions and ambitions that are slowly fading away.

The £2m of research funding to find a solution to this will be administered in partnership with Alzheimer’s Research UK and will support innovative new ideas in dementia research through research fellowships.

Sir Jackie says: “The Race Against Dementia is the greatest challenge of my life, but with the right people and the right approach we can encourage and accelerate a new way of thinking and cross the finish line with success.”

The chief executive of Alzheimer’s Research UK, Hilary Evans said they were very grateful for the support of Sir Jackie and his sons, Paul and Mark. She says: “It has been inspirational to see Sir Jackie and the family step up to this challenge and to pour drive and determination into taking on the greatest medical challenge.

“We’re proud to have been working with him in setting up these ambitious global Race Against Dementia fellowships.

“These new fellowships are targeted at up-and-coming scientific global talent and will stimulate the careers of researchers with the drive and ambition to make breakthroughs possible that will transform lives.”

Sir Jackie hopes the fellowships will attract talent from all over the world and open the door to a new range of opportunities to “beat this horrendous illness”.

He adds: “Helen has always been my rock and her razor-sharp mind was one of the first things that I fell in love with. Four years on from her diagnosis, she’s still the same Helen, with the same sense of humour, but with a gradual decline in memory and mobility that throws up all sorts of challenges that she, and we, have had to learn to cope with.”

Admitting that his family’s world has been turned upside down, he also acknowledges that they are very fortunate to be able to afford 24-hour specialist care. He says: “I know this is not possible for millions of other families touched by dementia. The cost of care can be enormous and, from a medical point of view, there are very few treatments that can make life easier. This has to change.”

The couple’s sons are ambassadors for Race Against Dementia. Paul has written a song to his mother, entitled Praise You, as a gift to thank her for everything she has done for the family over the years. He says: “I wrote the words as a way to trigger special moments that we have shared together. Dementia has impacted not just my mother but all of us and in particular my father.”

Mark says his mother has always been a strong and loving parent, dedicating herself to the family. He adds: “Sadly we have seen up close what this terrible disease can do. Race Against Dementia is our family’s way of turning a negative in to something positive.”

70 per cent of people in care homes have dementia or severe memory problems

There is no cure for Alzheimer’s Disease or any other type of dementia

Five times fewer researchers choose to work on dementia than on cancer

GLIDE THROUGH AGEING

Become a Silver Swan and improve your body and mind through ballet.

It doesn’t matter whether you’re Darcey Bussell or have two left feet, dance improves your quality of life. Specially designed for older learners, Silver Swans ballet classes will not only help you keep fit and active physically but also help keep your mind in shape.

Silver Swans teachers are trained specifically to teach a range of abilities and ages over 55. Joining a local class will help improve your mobility, posture, coordination and energy levels.

Dance can improve your life in a variety of ways including improving energy levels and balance, helping to reduce stress and supporting weight loss as well as reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease and improving the immune system. Dancing increases cognitive ability by promoting new connections in the brain and it may even help stave off dementia in later life

If you’re an older learner, the social benefits of joining a dance class will also increase your sense of wellbeing – it’s a great way to expand your social circle and meet new people.

That’s certainly been the case for 74-year-old Anna, who says she lived for dancing when she was younger and then, having done nothing for more than 50 years, was thrilled to find Silver Swans. Anna considers ballet a wonderful discipline, both mentally and physically.

While most of those at the classes are women, 60-year-old Ian, who joined a class in Leatherhead 18 months ago, says he decided to do it when looking for exercise that didn’t involve the gym. He laughs: “I am told I’m getting better and I think I am, but it is a very long way to the Royal Opera House.”

Another dancer, Jane, 63, had long been wanting to find an adult ballet class, mindful of how it can help body and mind. She was further inspired after seeing a a 70-year-old woman perform, recalling: “She danced with such grace, within her own limits but demonstrating how beautiful old age could be. She was very moving. A role model to be all you can be at any stage of your life.”

   For more details, visit www.royalacademyofdance.org/silverswans

Studies have shown that dancing plays a role in helping diminish the symptoms of depression

Research has found 75% of the factors which affect quality of life and longevity are related to your lifestyle

SINGING FOR THE BRAIN

Music is key to unlock memories when it comes to dementia care.

Singing is about so much more than hitting the right notes and making a good sound – it can improve brain activity, wellbeing and mood.

For the Alzheimer’s Society it means much more even than that – singing can unlock memories and kickstart the brain, an increasingly key feature of dementia care which is why the society’s Singing for the Brain sessions are so beneficial.

Run in dozens of different locations across the country, it aims to boost confidence, self esteem and quality of life by involving people with dementia and their carers in singing sessions.

Singing for the Brain groups allow people with dementia to express themselves and interact creatively with others. The idea sprang from Singing for the Brain founder Chreanne Montgomery-Smith who when working in a nursing home noticed how residents responded positively to music.

Beginning with a quiz which used familiar tunes, Chreanne noticed how gradually everyone joined in, including one woman who couldn’t remember her name but knew every song.

She explains: “It made me realise that people with dementia had a special ability to remember songs. Even if people with dementia can’t talk, they may be able to sing, whistle, clap or tap their feet. It helps them – and their carers – to feel life is worthwhile.”

The positive effect of Singing for the Brain groups has been proved by talking to those involved. “Dementia is a devastating condition, slowly stripping people of their memories, relationships and identities. It’s so important to still include people with dementia in social activities – no one should have to face it alone, “ says Dr James Pickett, head of research at Alzheimer’s Society.

He added: “This study suggests that this transformation could be in part due to parts of the brain connecting better for a brief time after hearing music.

“Further research is needed to help understand the longer-term effects of music and help show that it’s not only drugs that can help people manage with dementia.”

Professor Paul Robertson, an academic and concert violinist who has made a study of music in dementia care said music tends to stay with us to the end and that the auditory system is the first to fully function at just 16 weeks. He says: “This means you are musically receptive long before anything else. It’s a case of first in, last out when it comes to a dementia-type breakdown of memory.”

   For exact details about locations and dates go to www.alzheimers.org.uk/find-support-near-you#!/search

Singing can reach parts of the brain in ways other forms of communication cannot

ADAPTING YOUR HOME

We’ve teamed up with the experts at Age UK to help you consider some simple changes to make your home safer & more comfortable.

Change is seldom easy. And it’s not always easy to know where to start – especially if you’ve lived in your house a long time. But the Age UK team can help you make the choices that feel right for you.

Answering the door

If it’s difficult to get to the front door, think about installing a system that lets you speak to visitors and manage who you let in. Modern door-entry intercoms can help you find out who’s there or you could install an easy-to-fit wireless doorbell that comes with an entry phone to keep near your chair. A video entry phone can help you see who’s at the door – some video entry phones allow you to press a button to open the door from where you’re sitting. Many DIY shops and high-street retailers stock wireless doorbells and key safes. You could ask a family member, handyperson or Home Improvement Agency to fit them for you.

Moving around

Make sure your home is well lit. Think about motion-sensor lights that come on automatically when you get out of bed or enter a room. If you find you need a lot more room or want to keep all essential facilities (like the toilet or shower) on one floor, extending might be an option. Talk to a qualified surveyor or architect.

Stairs

An extra banister rail or a stairlift can make life easier. Depending on the size and layout of your home, it might be possible to install a through-floor wheelchair lift. Remember, though, that if you rent your home or share access with other people, you may need permission from your landlord or your neighbours to make changes.

Disability support

If you want to make some adaptations, you may be eligible for financial support from your council to make small changes. For larger adaptations, you can apply for a Disabled Facilities Grant. Your first step is to get a free care needs assessment from your local council who will send a social worker or an occupational therapist to assess your needs. If your needs are considered “eligible”, the council has a duty to support you. Specialist disability equipment is provided free of charge if recommended by your council and minor adaptations – such as grab rails, short ramps, a dropped curb or outside lights – are also provided and fitted free.

   Call the Age UK advice line on 0800 055 6112. There are more than 140 local Age UK centres willing to help, too. Please visit www.ageuk.org.uk

A police-approved key safe is a good option if you want friends, relatives or carers to let themselves in

Widening door frames or changing the direction your doors open can help you get about –particularly if you use a wheelchair

Organic lawn care

Cherry Butler

care

Why organic?

Many products available focus on quick fixes and chemicals. Lawns are for walking on and enjoying so why poison them to people, pets and wildlife? The solution? It just means thinking about it a bit differently.

Ten points for lawn success

  1. Remove large broad-leaved weeds with a daisy grubber.
  2. Rake out the moss with a scarifier or metal rake.
  3. Aerate to improve drainage using a hollow-tine aerator or garden fork.
  4. Top dress with a proprietary product or mix your own with sieved garden compost and sandy loam.
  5. Sweep away fungi and worm casts regularly.
  6. If you want stripes use a rotary mower with a large roller on the back and mow regularly.
  7. Always remove lawn clippings.
  8. Reseed any bare patches and keep watered.
  9. Feed with blood, fish and bone.
  10. Do not water established lawns.

Cathie’s Gardening school services

  1. Horticultural consultancy visiting your garden for bespoke advice.
  2. Cathie’s Garden Army to transform your garden following a consultancy
  3. Professional pruning following a consultanc
  4. RHS courses. Please ask for details.
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Hydrangea heaven

Cherry Butler

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There are many types and some interesting facts about them. They can look good all year round but need a moist, well-drained soil. Pruning varies depending on type.

Hydrangea macrophylla

These are often referred to as indicator plants because their colour can determine soil pH. This refers to the mop head hydrangea macrophylla only; the bluer the flower the more acid your soil. In alkaline soil the flower will be pink but you can water on sequestered iron regularly or grow in a pot with ericaceous compost for more blue. They can be pruned to new shoots in late spring allowing the old flower heads to protect from frost during the winter.

Hydrangea paniculata

These are a lot larger and usually white and pale pink and my all-time favourite. The flowers are more pointed in shape and literally glow in a shady border. These are pruned to a woody framework in spring and will flower on the current growth. ‘Limelight’ and ‘Little Lime’ are lovely cultivars and ‘Vanilla Fraise’ is illustrated.

Hydrangea arborescens ‘Annabelle’

These huge white heads look amazing in a mixed border, under trees and anywhere you want a great summer show. Prune hard in spring support to tame heavy heads!

Hydrangea petiolaris

This climbing hydrangea will stick to a wall or fence, ideal for a northern aspect. Flowers are flatter and prolific. The only pruning needed is tidying and deadheading.

Horticultural consultancy

I can spend half a day in your garden identifying your plants and teaching you how to look after them. The four hydrangeas discussed all have very different pruning requirements and correct pruning of all plants is essential for healthy growth, fruit, flowers and foliage.

Cathie’s garden army

If you have lost control of your garden completely we are here to help! A qualified team of horticulturists can transform your garden in a day following a consultancy. Please ask for details. Find out more by emailing , visit www.cathiesgardeningschool.co.uk, call 07931 925 382 and follow Cathie’s Gardening School on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.