Thursday, 18 July 2013

Heat Wave 2013 - UK Elderly At Risk

Heat waves – dangers to elderly and infirm people

Health Warning Issued 18/07/13

ha ha heatwave
The heat wave warning has been raised to "level three" by the Met Office for south-west England and the West Midlands. The move brings those regions in line with the South East and London, where level three warnings remain in place. The warning alerts healthcare services to help those in high-risk groups such as the elderly and young children. Wednesday was the hottest day of the year, with 32.2C recorded at Hampton Water Works in south-west London. (

Why is a heat wave a problem?

The main risks posed by a heat wave are:  dehydration (not having enough water) overheating, which can make symptoms worse for people who already have problems with their heart or breathing heat exhaustion heatstroke.

Who is most at risk?

A heat wave can affect anyone, but the most vulnerable people in extreme heat are: older people, especially those over 75 babies and young children people with a serious chronic condition, especially heart or breathing problems people with mobility problems, for example people with Parkinson’s disease or who have had a stroke people with serious mental health problems people on certain medications, including those that affect sweating and temperature control, people who misuse alcohol or drugs, people who are physically active, for example labourers or those doing sports.

Advice for a heatwave

  • Shut windows and pull down the shades when it is hotter outside.
  •  If it’s safe, open them for ventilation when it is cooler.
  •  Avoid the heat: stay out of the sun and don’t go out between 11am and 3pm (the hottest part of the day) if you’re vulnerable to the effects of heat. (Source:

Many people, especially the elderly, experience mobility problems. We tend to concentrate on physical issues such as difficulty in walking or bathing. There are of course some excellent mobility aids to help people, not only to find basic tasks easier, but, very importantly, to retain independence. One person, having previously been confined to the ground floor but had invested in a stair lift, made the poignant comment “I have got the other half of my house back.” If mobility is difficult because of breathing problems, a heat wave can result in serious complications.

Heat can be a problem for people with COPD. Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) is not a disease in itself but the name given to conditions where you find it difficult to breathe in and out due to long term damage to your lungs. It includes chronic bronchitis and emphysema but not chronic asthma. In normal lungs, the network of tubes or ‘airways’ that transport air deep into your lungs, become gradually smaller, ending in tiny air sacs. When air reaches the air sacs, oxygen passes into your blood. At the same time, unwanted carbon dioxide transfers into your blood and is expelled when you breathe out. If your airways are damaged, it is harder for air to flow in and out of your lungs and so difficult for you to get enough oxygen. Damage occurs in response to harmful substances and usually starts with inflammation. If the inflammation lasts for a while, permanent changes start to take place. The walls of the airways become thickened, the airways are narrower and so breathing becomes more of an effort. In chronic bronchitis, inflammation results in overproduction of mucus in the airways and formation of phlegm that blocks your airways and makes you cough. Many people with COPD have chronic bronchitis and emphysema. In emphysema, the damage also affects the air sacs. They lose their elasticity, which makes it difficult to keep the airways open and for air to get in and out of your lungs.  With fewer air sacs working properly, the transfer of oxygen into your blood and removal of carbon dioxide is restricted.  Therefore you breathe harder in an attempt to get enough oxygen. If you can’t get enough oxygen, you will feel tired and less able to carry out everyday activities. (

Your Pets need help too! Pets, especially dogs and cats, are at risk as well as human beings. We have all gone to our car to discover that it has become a sweltering oven. It is impossible to get in and even the steering wheel is too hot to touch. Dogs and cats should never be left in a hot, un-ventilated car. If leaving them is unavoidable, park in the shade and leave the windows down enough to let in fresh air and supply a bowl of fresh water. Do not leave them for a long period. Just a few minutes can be enough to cause heat exhaustion and even death. Incredibly, even the professionals, who ought to know better, can get it badly wrong. A police dog handler who left two dogs to die in the back of his car during a heat wave was spared a custodial sentence yesterday. A judge told Ian Craven, 50, that the mental anguish he suffered and loss of his career was in itself ‘quite a punishment’. He was banned from keeping dogs for just three years after admitting causing unnecessary suffering to the animals. One animal welfare charity said a jail sentence would have been appropriate. The officer sparked a national outcry in June after Chay, a four-year-old Malinois, and six-month-old Alsatian puppy Tilly died from heatstroke. They were left in the back of his scorching vehicle for more than four hours at the force’s dog training centre in Keston, Kent, while he went to a meeting in Stratford, East London. Source:

Hot Weather For The UK

Forest Fires in Greece
 It is hard not to wonder at the vagaries of the British climate. We Brits would be lost for something to talk about if our weather was stable and reliable. The weather is a greater talking point than football! The threat of climate change may well be a topic open to academic and political debate, but the weather, the result of climate, is changing for sure. We no longer seem to have clearly defined seasons and the planet is witnessing extremes; floods, gales, temperatures, and snowfall are all being seen on a scale unknown in recent climatic history. What determines our weather? There are of course many factors but one is our island position. We are surrounded by water meaning that the sea, at the mercy of the prevailing winds and the sun’s temperature, is a big player in the game. The most regular winds come from the west and they have travelled over vast areas of ocean, collecting water, which, driven by the land to higher altitudes drops on us as rain. Air pressure and a complexity of ‘highs’ and ‘lows’ and ‘fronts’ are a part of our daily weather maps and satellite pictures. Then there are the other two culprits who are usually apportioned blame – the Jet Steam (air) and the Gulf Steam (water). We are prone to criticism of the met office, saying things like ‘they never get it right’. But you know, most of the time they do. Weather forecasting is a very difficult science, especially for areas where conditions can change very rapidly. We all remember the Bar-B-Q summers that never arrived. This year it has – bringing the longest heat wave in years. Hot sunny weather is not totally good news. High temperatures and dry conditions, together with a deadly blend of vandals or simply careless people, can result in disastrous fires destroying large areas of forest or grasslands, putting animals and people in danger and destroying property.

High temperatures, reaching the top 20’s and even 30’s, produces a significant health risk to vulnerable people, namely the very young, the elderly and those suffering breathing and mobility issues. We all love to have some summer, but we must be aware of the potential dangers. Remember that pets can suffer too! Our problem in this country is that we do not have the hot weather often enough to acclimatise. If you are particularly vulnerable, take steps to prepare and help yourself. It could be a long hot summer. Where possible, use a stair lift and perhaps a wheelchair, avoid steep slopes and stairs, keep out of the direct sun and always drink plenty of water. The video below from ‘Down Under’ gives you some very useful tips.

Be sure that you enjoy the great summer weather but stay comfortable and, above all, safe. Follow the NHS guide which lays out sound advice for all - but especially for those at high risk through age, illness or lack of mobility.

Friday, 28 June 2013

Stroke Recovery in Stoke on Trent

“When you have a stroke, you must talk slowly to be understood and I have discovered that when I talk slowly, people listen. They think I’m going to say something important.” - Kirk Douglas

Just the very mention of the word stroke strikes fear into the minds of most people. It conjures up images of disability, or losing the ability to speak and, in severe cases, even to death. One stroke survivor told me that after suffering a stroke his life quality had changed so dramatically that he sometimes became so depressed and frustrated that he had moments when he regretted having survived. But there is hope, and there is help available too.

Harry (not his real name) was the last person one would have thought was a high risk candidate. He has never smoked or drank, carried no extra weight and has enjoyed a stress free life. He is in his seventies and his wife in her mid eighties. One morning, without any warning, he slumped over the breakfast table. Until the stroke he had enjoyed good health. Harry is a musician. He had been an accomplished organist and choirmaster, teaching the organ and playing in his local parish church. His enthusiasm lead to the installation of a small pipe organ in his house. It is fair to say that music was his life. The stroke has left him incapable of using his left arm and leg. He will never play again. He now depends almost totally on his wife which adds to his frustration. He is now dependent on mobility aids. There is much help available. If stairs are a problem then a stair lift is the answer, used in conjunction with other aids such as a wheelchair, walking sticks and frames and a bath lift, together with regular physiotherapy.

Harry and his wife have now had the stress of moving home to Stoke-on-Trent to receive excellent care based at the University Hospital of North Staffordshire where people suffering Stroke are more likely to survive than anywhere else in the country and also to be near to family as extra support.

Our Stroke service in Stoke on Trent

A stroke occurs when the blood supply is cut off to the brain. Blood carries essential nutrients and oxygen to the brain, and without a blood supply, brain cells can be damaged or destroyed, and are not be able to do their job. Strokes occur in different parts of the brain, and can result in damage to your body, dependent on which part of the brain has been affected. For example, if the part of the brain which controls how limbs move is damaged, the ability to move can be damaged or even lost.
. Source: University Hospital of North Staffordshire NHS Trust
When a person shows symptoms of having a stroke, speed is essential and ringing 999 should never be delayed. Much is being done on TV and in the media to alert the public to F.A.S.T.
Just how common are strokes?
                                Males                   Females               Total
UK                          19,287                   30,079                   49,366
England                15,824                   24,743                   40,567
N. Ireland            489                         750                         1,239
Scotland              1,889                     2,875                     4,764
Wales                   1,085                     1,711                     2,796
It is interesting to note that women appear to be at greater risk of stroke than men.
How can I reduce my risk of having a stroke?
Most medical information suggests that the risk of having a stroke can be reduced by five actions:
Blood pressure 57-365
(Year 3)
Stopping Smoking
Cutting down on how much alcohol you drink
Eating a healthy diet - cut down on salt and fatty foods
Taking regular exercise
Having regular blood pressure checks

Are there signs of hope for stoke patients?

According to the BBC News website, one current experimental procedure involves injecting stem cells into the damaged area of the brain. Science correspondent Pallab Ghosh reports that a UK company is applying for permission to transplant stem cells made from human foetal tissue into the brains of stroke patients. ReNeuron, based in Guildford, has told the BBC that they have what they are calling ‘convincing evidence’ that damaged brain cells, as a result of a stroke, could potentially be regenerated.

Professor Keith Muir of Glasgow University has expressed “surprise” at the moderate improvements in the five patients trialled. However, he stresses that it is too soon to tell if the progress can be attributed to the procedure. The results will be presented at the European Stroke Conference in London.
One patient, 80 year old Frank Marsh, has reported encouraging changes in his condition. The normal period during which some improvement may naturally occur following a stroke is twelve months. Frank had his stroke five years ago. His wife said that he had reached a plateau and progress had stopped. Following the treatment he has gained some hand movement and can now dress himself, tie his shoe laces and hold on to things. To regain such simple actions, which the rest of us take for granted, must bring huge hope to the stroke victim.
Like my friend Harry, Frank is a musician and shares the frustration of no longer being able to play. In Frank’s words “I’d like to get back to my piano and walk a bit steadier and further.”
Source:  BBC News 

What are stem cells?
Stem cells are the body’s raw materials from which all other cells, having a specialised function, develop. If we think of the cell stems as the ‘parent’ then as the cells divide ‘daughter’ cells are produced. These either become new stem cells (self-renewal) or become specialised cells (differentiation) with a specific function such as blood cells, brain cells, heart muscle or bone. Cells can be genetically manipulated to regenerate or repair diseased or damaged tissues.

Who may benefit from stem cell therapy?
In the broad term, we all do because certain stem cells can be used to test the safety and effectiveness of new drugs.

More specifically, benefits may be seen in patients suffering spinal cord injuries, type 1 diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s, heart disease, burns, cancer and stroke.

Amongst the latest reported research, involving injecting stem cells into the area of damaged brain of stroke survivors is not without controversy. Scientific research involving both human and animal research and resources is always subject to ethical questioning.

The stark fact is that stroke survivors are currently not going to make a full recovery but who knows what future treatment may achieve. It is more a case of learning to adapt to the situation, aided by some excellent support from the heath experts, suppliers of mobility aids and, very importantly, self help and dedicated carers. It is worth repeating that physical symptoms are not the only obstacle to
be overcome. Understandably, patients experience levels of depression and frustration, sometimes taking this out on those who are caring for them, ironically often those to whom they are the closest such as their partner or children.

What help is out there for carers?

As well as the GP and Occupational Therapists, informed information is available from organisations whose knowledge is based on first-hand experience.
‘One in ten people in the UK is a carer.Being a carer can be a kind, admirable and selfless act. At times though, it can be challenging and carers have told us that they sometimes feel overwhelmed,exhausted and isolated. Stroke is a sudden and serious condition and can come as a shock. Suddenly seeing a loved one unwell can be very upsetting. You might not understand what has happened or may find it difficult to know how to support them. It is natural to feel overwhelmed, but as you come to terms with what has happened, you might want to know how you can help.’


Stroke exercises and treatment

Moving around safely is taken for granted, unless you suffer a stroke. Some survivors experience paralysis of an arm and/or leg, and balance issues add to the difficulties. Some 40% of survivors suffer serious falls within a year of suffering their stroke. Weakness in a muscle or group of muscles results from the inability of brain signals to get through and of course lack of movement results in the muscles becoming weaker. Exercise and movement is essential and a regular programme of exercises set out by an expert physiotherapist is very important. Many of these exercises can be done whilst sitting or lying down. Swimming can be excellent, but of course always under correct supervision. Walking, bending and stretching are all beneficial. Experts warn against fatigue and all exercise regimes should be tailored to the individuals needs.

Treatment is a combination of therapy and medicines. In addition to the motion exercises, splinting or casting can be used to give support or to straighten a foot twisted by muscle weakness. The release of chemicals which cause muscle contraction can be inhibited by the use of botulinum toxin.

Stroke and Kinetics

One other area of interesting therapy is that of kinetics. The ability to use kinetics or 3D pictures of movement, may hold a link to a new procedure to assist with the rehabilitation of stroke survivors by gait analysis, the study of how people walk. The leading research is taking place at Missouri University. It is claimed that cameras installed in people’s homes to collect data and analyse their movement may be able to act as an early warning system to health issues including falling and mobility impairment, providing advanced movement analysis for physiotherapy.  

Meanwhile, at the Royal Berkshire Hospital in Reading, UK, Kinect games are being used to help rehabilitate stroke patients. Titles such as Kinectimals and Kinect Bowling help redevelop coordination following a trauma. Doctors say that the ability to focus on natural movements and activities is vastly beneficial over the traditional physiotherapy where patients would be stretched and pulled to rebuild sensation and muscle strength.

There are also mobility exercises for rehabilitation and stroke recovery based around neurophysiotherapy.  An enterprisinig firm in New Zealand has combined clinical therapeutics developed at Otago in New Zealand ,which is a worldwide centre of excellence in falls rehabilitation, with a computer to help rehabilitate upper body function after a stroke.

Here's a video of it in action.

In conclusion, suffering a stroke is a cruel and debilitating trauma but there is a great deal of help available and the future holds some exciting possibilities to give hope to all, both survivors and carers.  If you would like to visit your local Stoke mobility aids showroom we can show you some of the products that other stroke survivors have found useful, indeed necessary in their new phase of life.

Saturday, 9 March 2013

Adjustable Beds Stoke on Trent

Adjustable Beds in Stoke on Trent

"Goodnight, perchance to sleep"

ready for bed in stoke on trent
Whatever our age or mobility a good night’s sleep, perhaps in a comfortable adjustable bed is very important.  Call us on 611411 today to find your new bed or to arrange a visit to our showroom.

Research suggests that most of us need between seven and nine hours sleep a night, with only one in fifty needing less than six hours.  If we don’t get enough good quality sleep it can affect our health and wellbeing, as well as our concentration and mood.

How do we achieve a good night’s sleep
and what are the key ways to ensure we do?

Healthy lifestyles, a regular bedtime routine i.e. going to bed at roughly the same time every night and of course a comfortable bed feature at the top of the Sleep Council’s list.

Are you sleeping comfortably?
Adjustable beds are one way of making sure you get the best possible comfort in bed.  If you already own a reclining chair you’ll know what we mean.

Breakfast in Bed
A motorised adjustable bed allows you to put the bed in the most comfortable position for you.  So inclining the upper body to a comfortable sitting position, whilst raising the knees so that you don’t slip down the bed, means that you can watch the television or read with ease.  It’s even a good position for breakfast in bed!

Source:Public domain
Perhaps even more importantly, slightly tilting both the top and bottom of the bed can put your spine in its correct position and aid a comfortable night’s sleep.  This is good for all of us, but particularly important for people suffering from a bad back?

The beauty of modern adjustable beds is that you can operate the motor using a hand-held control without getting out of bed!

Easier to get in and out of bed
An adjustable bed is suitable for everyone, but even more so for those of you who find getting in and out of bed difficult.  Certainly being aided into the sitting position is enough for some conditions where the core muscles aren’t strong enough for you to lift yourself.

A physiotherapist may advise on additional help, especially if you have difficulty sliding across the bed from sitting to lying down or lifting your legs onto the bed.  A pole or grab rail next to the bed can often be all the assistance you need to make sliding across easier.

Sometimes it is actually standing up from the bed that is difficult, so beds where the height can be adjusted are often all the help you need.

All of these things help to keep you independent no matter what your condition or age.

Types of electric bed

You can get beds that just raise the top of the mattress or ones that have two or three adjustable points.  Once upon a time it was only hospital beds that were adjustable but over the last thirty years or so, they have become more popular and more available for the domestic market.  Most modern adjustable beds have slatted bed bases which of course aid the movement of an adjustable bed.

 The Sherborne Dorchester Adjustable Bed - See it in Stoke on Trent.

This is a great modern adjustable bed that not only resembles a good quality regular bed and one you’d be proud to have in your bedroom, but it also has up-to-the-minute technology and is particularly strong.  In fact it can be used by people who weigh up to 25 stone.

This bed is suitable for those who just want a good night’s sleep or for those who have mobility issues.  After all we spend at least a third of our time in bed, so we need to be as comfortable as possible.

The Sherborne has a newly developed action with a very worthwhile 5 Year Guarantee for all its adjustable functions, its frame and of course its electrical parts.  That means the guarantee covers the bed and the adjustable frame, the electric motor, transformer and control box, as well as the handsets.  All other electrical parts of the bed are also covered in the 5 Year Guarantee.

With the added comfort of a top layer memory foam mattress supported by a thicker layer of reflex foam, the bed is not only ultra comfortable but designed to work with the adjustable frame.  The memory foam has the added bonus of relieving pressure, which is particularly good for those with limited mobility in bed.

The addition of a Cool-Max cover for the mattress helps to resolve any over-heating problems that may occur whilst you sleep.  The availability of the Supreme Mattress, which has a slightly softer top than the standard one, also helps to control the temperature.  Of course if you prefer, you can also take a medium or firm mattress.

This British made bed is aesthetically pleasing and would make a great addition to any home without looking out of place alongside your other furnishings.  The beds have a fully upholstered drawer for storage in the bed base too.

The double beds are similar to two single beds joined together allowing one side to be adjustable.  However we bet your partner will want to experience the comfort and movement of the adjustable bed too.

The Sherborne’s dual controls allow the top and bottom of the bed to move independently of one another.  They can be adjusted separately using the sleek backlit hand control unit, which also has memory functions built-in as standard.

If you’re looking for a top quality bed to do the job, the Sherborne is your strongest and most reliable option.  It is also sent by Express Delivery so that once you’ve decided this is the bed you want; you won’t have to wait too long for a comfortable night’s sleep.  Also available in Acapulco Grey or Acapulco Brown, why not visit our Stoke on Trent bed showroom to see one of these fabulous Adjustable Beds in Acapulco Fawn .

Saturday, 16 February 2013

Walking Sticks Stoke on Trent, Newcastle under Lyme, Stone & Stafford

Castle photos Feb1

Walking Sticks Stoke on Trent & Newcastle under Lyme

and all of Staffordshire, Cheshire, Derbyshire & Shropshire

The famous  -  CASTLE FOLDING ADJUSTABLE WALKING STICK  is always available at ...

A special offer price
                                                       of JUST  £10
                         Call us to reserve yours today.

WALKING STICKS .. Castle Comfort of Newcastle under Lyme in Staffordshire became kind of 'famous' for the supply of walking canes when they opened their stall in a Stoke on Trent market stall.  A decade ago, quite a stir was caused when visitors to Hanley, Stoke on Trent indoor market found themselves having their 'ferrules' changed on their walking canes - FREE OF CHARGE. The ferrule is the metal or rubber stopper on the end and folks came from miles around to see if it was true.

It started, not as a gimmick as such, but the firm who obtained the ferrules from manufacturers for around 50p each - found it time consuming and uneconomical to  account for and charge 75p-£1 and write out a receipt for each one. So they gave them away. Soon it was realised that peoples appreciation of getting something for nothing (and an item that can be difficult to find) resulted in one of Castle Comfort's best ever marketing policies. The local community got to know and love this local company that was clearly not out to make every penny it could - and naturally when time came to invest in a chair, bed or a stair lift - then CCC's Wolstanton showroom became the place to visit.

Castle photos Feb1
Source:Walking Sticks Stoke on Trent
To this day - a posse of Castle Comfort team members make regular visits to lots of care homes, residential complexes and  a 'coffee morning ferrule change.'  They can be found at place such as  Bradeley Village, Lisbon Place in The Westlands, Newcastle under Lyme, Gordon Court, Newhouse Court, Mill Rise, Amberly House, Lea Court, Berry Hill, Garners Garden Centre and many more.  You no doubt will have seen us when out shopping at your local Morrison's and Sainsbury's stores (the latter especially on Red Nose Day).

Castle Comfort Walking Sticks

If a similar product (and of a similar quality) is found elsewhere it will probably be around the £15 mark - thought it has been spotted retailing at up to £30 and even some suppliers may charge carriage.  Also, if people cannot get to the showroom and live within a fifteen mile radius, it will be delivered FREE OF CHARGE. Naturally if ever the ferrule needs changing- that will be free.

Details -

A height adjustable CASTLE WALKING STICK folds when not in use for compact storage or transportation. Available in SMALL or STANDARD. One or the other will be fine for a very tiny dot of a person - up to an Olympic pole jumper.  Simply try them out at  the Newcastle under Lyme showroom or in the comfort of your own home when the Castle team member arrives, of course, by appointment.
They are  made from strong powder-coated steel,  have an arthritic friendly shaped handle and have non-marking slip resistant rubber ferrules (tips.)




If you thought that a walking stick was just a walking stick, plain and simple, you would be wrong. The humble walking stick, giving walking support to the aged and infirm, is anything but. Walking sticks have been seen as a fashion accessory by some and even a real, trusted friend by others with which to share life; akin to walking the dog!
Walking sticks are also becoming an acceptable self-defence tool for ladies. But if you ever bash a would be mugger over the head don´t tell the police you carry it for that purpose. Just invent ´´a little arthritis in the knee´´ - and wink at the copper. He´ll tick the right boxes.

“When you have no companion, look to your walking stick.”
(Albanian Proverb)

“The best, the most exquisite automobile is a walking stick and one of the finest things in life is going for a walk with it.”
(Robert Coates Holliday)

“Speak softly and carry a large stick; you will go far.”
(Theodore Roosevelt)
Edward VII (1841-1910) was the son of Queen Victoria. He served as heir apparent and held the title Prince of Wales. It is not hard to draw at least some comparisons between Edward and Charles, Prince of Wales. Both princes had mothers as reining monarchs endowed with longevity. Elizabeth 11 became Queen on the death of her father, King George V1, in February 1952. She was only 25 years old. The coronation was held in June 1953. Her remarkable 60 years on the throne, her Diamond Jubilee, was one of the triumphs of 2012. Elizabeth 11 is the second longest reigning monarch. Victoria was Queen from June 1837 to January 1901, a total of 63 years.
To be Heir Apparent, or monarch in waiting, must be one of the most unenviable of roles. When most people are looking forward to retirement, Charles, and Edward before him, cannot take on the role which destiny has assigned them until their latter years, and then not until the death of the parent!
Queen Victoria had a passion for all things Scottish and this was epitomised by her choice of interior design at Balmoral Castle. This is of course where the Royal Family spends their summer holidays. The pursuit of all things Scottish is still a feature of senior Royals and highland dress, with a stout walking stick, is a part of the holiday at Balmoral Castle. Prince William apparently preferred jeans!

Source:Wikipedia Public Domain
Edward VII at Balmoral. Note the Scottish attire. The photograph is thought to have been taken by his wife, Alexandra.

Look at the pictures of the two Heirs Apparent. What do you see in common? The answer is a walking stick, a stylish accessory for the gentry of the day. Edward VII (Albert Edward) was born on 9th November 1841. He was King on the United Kingdom and all of the British Dominions. He was also Emperor of India from January 22 1901. Edward is thought to have been a champion of human equality and at times derisory of the Government. He undertook a tour of India which lasted an incredible eight months. It was noted that he treated all people equally, with no exclusions on the ground of race, colour or religion.  In an outspoken and unpopular attack of the treatment of Indians by the British officials he wrote “Because a man has a black face and a different religion from our own, there is no reason that he should be treated as a brute.” At the end of the successful tour, the title ‘Empress of India’ was bestowed on Victoria by the British Parliament, thus creating Edward as the future Emperor when he ascended the throne.

His family route was the House of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha and he was the first British monarch from that dynasty. The name, with its Germanic associations, was changed by his son, George V, to the House of Windsor and the name remains in the present day monarchy. During the long reign of his mother, Queen Victoria, he was largely excluded from affairs of State and became the personification of the fashionable playboy with a taste for the high life; fine wines, food and of course mistresses. Victoria spoke harshly of him “I never can, or shall, look at him without a shudder.”He was nothing like her beloved Albert whom she worshipped all her life.

Edward was no ‘dedicated follower of fashion’; rather he established the fashion for the gentry. He it was who made the wearing of tweed, Norfolk jackets and Homburg hats the fashion in men’s wear Outdoors, he was always accompanied by a walking stick, some styles for town and others for the country.

Edward was responsible for some traditions which still are followed today. These include the wearing of a black tie with dinner jackets and leaving the bottom button of a waistcoat unfastened. I think that this was born more from girth than fashion! Walking sticks too became the fashion and there are some fine examples spanning the centuries.

I include at this point an aspect of country life of which I have a loathing. Shooting living creatures in the guise of a ‘sport’, together with fox hunting with dogs. This walking stick shows the head of a Retriever returning the quarry. The fox hunting ban in Britain is still in force and will, I hope, remain so. I am visited by urban foxes every night which solve my food recycling! In common with the majority of the aristocracy and a rural way of life style of the less ‘well bred’, Edward had a passion for hunting. The rooms of Balmoral, with tartan drapes and carpets, adorned with stags heads, bare macabre testimony to the cruelty of a particular form of ‘Scottish’ tradition, so passionately embraced by Victoria. It is a regrettable anomaly that some senior Royals of today, Patrons of Wild Life Conservation, continue to hunt.

Edward did not restrict his guns to Balmoral. His passion led to a bizarre ‘naughtiness’ when resident at the Sandringham Estate in Norfolk. It seems that he had the clocks altered to run an hour fast to create more time for the morning shoots.  ‘Sandringham Time’, only ceased in 1936 on the express orders of Edward VIII.

People who shoot game birds need a stable platform from which to fire, hence the design of another type of walking stick, the aptly named shooting stick. The handle opens out into a two part canvas or leather seat, mounted on a single leg with a ground spike. The user perches on the seat and supports their body with their legs for greater stability.

Pheasant shooting sticks and walking sticks

Collectors of antiques do include walking sticks. Many are exquisite pieces and demand very high prices. One such walking stick, dating from 1780, is a fine example. The stick itself is built from Bark Malacca with a highly decorative handle in fine German Meissen pottery. Malacca, referred to by makers as the “King of Canes”, is a species of rattan palm, found along the coast of Sumatra. It is an ideal medium for walking sticks; light weight but very strong. This opulent stick is valued at a staggering £9000. The Malacca is of course a factor, but far more so the fine Meissen.

Malacca Walking Stick

Meissen began production of fine porcelain in Dresden. (Germany, not Stoke-on-Trent).
The ware can be authenticated by the crossed swords back stamp, patented in 1720.

Alongside‘Meissen’, the name ‘Wedgwood’ is world famous. Josiah Wedgwood was born in 1768 in Burslem, Stoke-on-Trent. In childhood, Wedgwood contracted smallpox which left him with a severely weakened knee. It was this weakness, rendering him unable to use the pedal on a potter’s wheel, which caused him to change direction towards design. He revolutionised the firing process with the invention of the pyrometer, to give accurate temperature readings in the kilns, for which he was recognised by the Royal Society. Being a son of Newcastle-under-Lyme, adjacent to Stoke-on-Trent, I thought that I had a reasonable knowledge of Josiah Wedgwood’s life. However, as in the adage,’one is never too old to learn!’ I did not know that in 1768 his knee problem resulted in the amputation of his right leg. Wedgwood was a perfectionist. It is recorded that he would tour the Etruria factory, closely inspecting the ware for the slightest imperfection. If the quality was not to his standard, he would raise his walking stick and smash the pot in pieces whilst shouting loudly “This will not do for Josiah Wedgwood.”

Modern day walking sticks may lack a little in elegance but they are a functional aid to mobility. Many are available in a telescopic design, and some effort is made to make them decorative for ladies! In common with their Malacca ancestors, the walking sticks are light weight and yet give strong support for those who need assistance when walking. The added advantage is that they can be collapsed and stowed in a shopping bag.

Walking sticks feature in Folklore and Fantasy. Fairies and ‘little people’ are more the stuff of Ireland, but one old tale comes from Wales.

A farmer from Cwmllan was tending his sheep in the hills. He heard a cry for help. Only people cried and he could not remember seeing people on the remote hill. He discovered a young girl. She had fallen and was trapped on a ledge above a rocky cliff. With no thought for his own safety, the famer climbed down and rescued her. A little old man appeared from nowhere, saying that the girl was his daughter, and thanked the farmer profusely for saving her life. The old man rewarded the farmer by insisting that he accepted his most valued possession, his walking stick. Within a moment, both the old man and the girl were gone from sight. It was as if they had never been.

From that day on, the farmer’s life changed and he became rich. His sheep always gave birth to two ewes. No accidents or diseases struck his flock. Sheep stealers were thwarted. Birds of prey never took a lamb. In the worst of winter, sheep buried in snow drifts always survived. In due season, his flock produced the finest wool. It seemed that the old man’s walking stick had brought good fortune indeed.

One night, having brought the sheep off the hill, the famer walked to a nearby village to a cock fight. He set off for home very late. A dreadful storm blew up with high winds and rain in sheets. He had to cross a swollen stream, using the stick to find a safe footing. Somehow the walking stick slipped from his hand and was washed away by the torrent. Exhausted, the farmer finally reached his cottage.

The next morning the storm had abated and the farmer set out to assess any damage and to look for his stick. Nearly all of his sheep had gone, washed away with the stick by the power of the torrent.
The farmer was ruined. His wealth had gone, as it came, with a walking stick.

(Adapted from ‘Welsh Fairy Book’ (1907) W. Jenkyn Thomas)

Fantasy is perfectly adapted to the cinema. Looking at the momentous success of the ‘Harry Potter’ films who could question that?

‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory’

The original film, ‘Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory’, was made in 1971 with Gene Wilder in the star role as Willy Wonka, It was based on the book of the same title, written in 1964, by one of the greatest of children’s fantasy writers, Roald Dahl. It was not a success. A second adaptation, ‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory’ was begun in 1991 and first screened in 2005. Willy Wonka played by Johnny Deep. A young boy, Charlie Buckett, wins every child’s dream, a tour of a candy factory. It turns out to be the most wonderful candy factory of all, run by the wildly eccentric Willy Wonka. The sugar corridors are not as sweet as they seem. The story unfolds with fantastical plots and intrigues but Willy and Charlie triumph. The whole design is a colourful extravaganza with every imaginable candy colour and shapes made in incredible ‘Heath Robinson’ machinery.

The musical (chocoholic) fans amongst us will not be surprised to know that a new stage
version of the story will be premiered at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, in May 2013. The show is directed by Academy Award winner Sam Mendes. Music is by Marc Shaiman with choreography by Peter Darling, who choreographed the poignant film ‘Billy Elliot’.

It seems then that the story of walking sticks is far from being a boring mundane topic. However, as with sweets, I like to save my favourite ‘til last. It is Willy Wonka who created perhaps the most irresistible walking stick of all; a candy stick filled to the handle with confectionary goodies!

Monday, 4 February 2013

Bath Lifts | Bathing Solutions | Newcastle | Stoke | Staffordshire

Elderly Bathing Solutions and Bath Lifts in Stoke on Trent and Newcastle under Lyme

Continue Enjoying a Long, Warm Soak

Walk in baths and bath lifts available to view at our Stoke on Trent Showroom
There’s nothing more refreshing than a long, warm soak in the bath.  It’s about much more than just getting clean.  Recent research from Yale University published in Psychology Today suggests that the warm feeling we get from a bath or any other warm comforter also makes us feel happier and less lonely.  Who’d have thought?  The problem comes if due to old age or disability that getting into the tub becomes a real struggle or even dangerous.  That is why we have walk-in baths and showers or a simple bath lift which can enable you to have a soak in the bath even if you can't lift your leg over the side.  The bath lift will help you in and out.

We have both a walk in bath and a bath lift on display in our everyday independent living aids showroom. 

Call us today to find out more - Call us 01782 611 411! 

A lengthy soak in the bath has also long been an aid for relieving aching muscles too.  And of course immersing yourself in a warm bath in a steam filled room is good for your skin and pores keeping them healthy.

Imagine not being able to enjoy a long, lingering bath or worse still, not being able to get in and out of the bath.  This is often the case for those with disabilities or those who are less nimble due to ageing, so a little help is needed.

There are a number of aids from bath seats combined with grab handles to swivel chairs to help users get in and out of the bath.  However if mobility is a real problem, then a bath lift is probably the answer.

Here 's how to find us:-

N.B. Bath boards usually just fit across the top of the bath as do bath seats.  Both allow the user to sit and then lower themselves into the water or indeed, sit on the board/seat and wash from there if they don’t feel safe lowering themselves into the water.

Here's Keith demonstrating a bath lift - an inexpensive alternative to a walk in bath.

The first bath lift
It was as recently as 1980 that Dave Garman invented the first pneumatic-based bath lift.  He was inspired to invent this aid when his own ageing parents were having problems getting in and out of the bath and there seemed to be nothing on the market to help.

It was an instant success and won a TV award for innovation almost immediately.  He was recognised for an industry award (British Healthcare Trades Association) about 5 years ago when he was 85 for his invention.

History of bathing
Taking a bath seems perfectly natural to most of us but bathing hasn’t always been a necessity or taken in the privacy of your own home.  Here’s a brief history:-
As far back as 2000 BC, the Egyptians loved bathing.
In fact, Egyptians obsessed with bathing and thought foreigners dirty.
The first known heated bath was in Egypt in 600 AD
Romans knew that cleanliness reduced disease
Roman aqueducts brought clean water to their public bath houses
Many towns all over Europe had bath houses in the Middle Age
Edward III installed a bathroom in the Palace of Westminster in the 14th Century
Public domain
Others who could afford it had wooden tubs which were manually filled with water.
In Tudor times, people sometimes used the rivers to bathe in during the summer months.
Henry VIII had a bathroom at Hampton Court Palace.
From 1800 people used portable metal tubs.
In Victorian times some middle class homes had bathrooms.
It wasn’t until the 1900 that homes in general began to get bathrooms and then not all. 
Some houses didn’t get bathrooms until half way through the 20th Century.

Bath lifts
Getting into the bath with the greatest of ease ... no, you don’t need a flying trapeze, just a bath lift.  With personal bathing a fairly recent thing for the masses, bath lifts are a relatively modern invention.  Most bath lifts are operated either hydraulically or by battery power.  They can be taken in and out of the bath so that other people can use the tub.

They are usually seat shaped i.e. with a seat and back rest.  Their highest point is level with the bath top so that access is relatively easy.  Once the person has sat on the seat and their legs are in the bath then it can be lowered into the water.  Some bath lifts have reclining backs so that users can get to immerse as much of their bodies as possible.

Battery operated bath lifts will need regular charging.  Some have a safety feature which will not allow the bath lift to lower into the water unless there is enough power to come back out again.  This is very important as no one wants to be stuck in the water!

Bath lifts do make it possible for those with mobility difficulties to retain some independence and bathe alone.  For those who need care, it is easier for carers to work with a bath lift rather than having to physically help someone into the bath when slipping or back injuries to the carer can be a risk.

Many bath lifts are ‘mobile’ so they can fold up when out of the bath and not in use.  There are also bath lifts that are fixed to a vertical pole positioned outside of the bath.  This allows the user to transfer onto the seat and then swivel round and lowered into the bath.  Battery operated or electric versions can usually be operated by the user with a handset.  If the bath lift is operated manually (hydraulically), they usually have a handle that needs turning and are intended for a carer to use.

There are overhead track sling hoists for those who are severely immobile.  These hoist the user right up and then immerse them into the water, and would be operated by a carer.

Types of bath lift
The seats of bath lifts should be comfortable and easy to clean but there are several different materials used to make them.

Moulded plastic is lightweight and easy to clean and pretty sturdy
Polished wood is comfortable and easy to slide onto and clean.  The polish can wear away and may need attention with wear
Wooden seat with cork top feels warm to sit on and the textured surface will mean bathers don’t slip off.  However users will need to be able to lift themselves off and wear may make it more difficult to clean
Painted or plastic coated wood are easy to slide onto and clean.  Surfaces may chip in time and will need attention or even resurfacing
Coated metal is easy to slide onto and will withstand long use.  Metal coated boards are also stronger and heavier and will take larger weights
Padded seats add extra comfort especially for those in pain or the very thin
Slatted or perforated seats allow water to drain away easily and are less slippery
Cut away fronts allow easier personal washing

This factsheet will give you much more information about bath lifts, alternative baths and other bathing aids, and when you are ready to buy then why not come and see a walk in bath in the showroom at Wolstanton? 

They can be designed to fit into a small or larger space so you could raing in your measurements or call into the showroom to have a look.  Also we can get our approved bathroom installation company to come and give you a no-obligation quote for you to consider as well. 
Our number is 01782 611 411

Saturday, 2 February 2013

Telephones For The Elderly With Big Buttons

Special Phones For The Elderly or Disabled - with Big Buttons - for Stoke on Trent folk.

Helping Staffordshire and Cheshire retired and disabled people, stay connected to those they may need to contact - and be contacted by.

Public Domain Image
Telephones have certainly come a long way since that first one developed by Alexander Graham Bell in 1876.  Now we expect to be able to speak to people any where in the world or at least text them.  You’ll have noticed that many people are always speaking or texting on the phone even when walking through the streets, in a restaurant, at home, everywhere.  Nowadays we expect to be connected at all times!

People in Stoke on Trent, Staffordshire were perhaps ahead in the mobile telephone revolution in the 1980s as local entrepreneur, John Caudwell created one of the world's biggest mobile companies

Source:Wikipedia Pbroks13
Telephones are a way of keeping in contact with people who live a long way away or a lifeline to help or just for going about your daily life.  Test yours out by giving us a ring! 01782 611 411

The developments in telephones have certainly made it possible to advance phones with special applications that can make them easier for those with disabilities or mobility issues.  Now that landlines have cordless handsets and there are mobile phones that connect to a network wherever you are – most of the time – a telephone means that you can easily be connected to whoever you need to speak to at anytime.

Features and benefits of the telephone for those with disabilities
  • Cordless handsets: this means that you can keep the telephone handset close to you especially if you are slow to get to the telephone base holder or hard of hearing
  • Hands-free telephones have built in microphones and loudspeakers which means you can speak to them and hear the caller without lifting the handset
  • On-hook dialling allows you to dial a number without lifting the receiver
  • Digital or caller display telephones have a small screen on which the number of the caller (or their name if you have their number stored on your phone) comes up when they call.  This means you know who is calling before you answer the telephone
  • Telephone memory allows you to store important numbers on your phone
  • Last number redial or call-back allows you to call the last number that called you by pressing just one button
  • Inductive couplers can be built-in to the phone or a small add-on box that can be attached to the handset.  They allow hearing aids that have a ‘T’ switch to pick up the ring tone
  • A pulsator gives a vibrating sound when placed on the bone in front or behind the ear.  This helps some people to hear the conversation of the caller better
  • Keys with a raised dot on the ‘5’ help people to navigate around the keypad.  The 5 is the central button so those who can’t see for instance know this key is in the middle
  • A phone with a ringer volume control allows the user to turn the volume of the ringer up or down
  • Built-in volume control allows the user to turn the volume of the conversation on the phone up or down
Telephones for those with disabilities
A number of the specially developed features for those with disabilities can be useful for several disabilities.  Others have been developed specifically to focus on a particular problem

Telephones for the visually impaired
There are some features that can make it easier for those who find it difficult to see.
  • For instance a larger keypad with larger buttons and more space between them helps to avoid misdials; a contrasting colour to define the space between keys will also help to avoid misdials. One of the main brands is the Doro.

  • Number memory allows frequently used telephone numbers to be stored in the phone.  This is really useful for quicker dialling for those who have difficulty seeing clearly

  • The raised dot on the ‘5’ as we’ve already mentioned helps to identify where you are on the keypad as 5 is the central figure

  • Either a wall mounted telephone so that it is at eyelevel or a cordless handset which you can bring closer to your eyes are both a help for those whose eyesight isn’t as good as it used to be
  • An added bonus can be a voice prompt that is available in some answer phones.  This could give you a voice message when a message has been left on the answer machine for you.  Some of these also give you voice-prompts when you are retrieving messages left for you or trying to record outgoing messages

Telephone for those with impaired dexterity
There are several adaptations of telephones for someone with limited movement especially in their hands:
  • Large concave buttons and more space between them
  • Hands-free set so that you can just use your voice
  • On hook dialling so that the handset doesn’t need to be lifted to dial the number
  • Telephone headsets to enable private conversations i.e. not on speaker phone but still leaving your hands free
  • Number memory to store frequently used numbers
  • Pre-dial allows you longer to key in the number and then just press the dial button i.e. gives you more time and makes it easier
  • Last number redial which allows you to call the last number that called you with one key
  • An automatic answering phone allows the person dialling in to manage the call as long as they are a pre-recognised number.  All the user has to do is listen and speak into the provided clip-on microphone.  The caller has to activate the phone with a 3-digit PIN.  This also means that only those with given permission can get through
  • Telephone conversation recorders allow the user to record conversations.  This is a particularly useful feature if the user is unable to take notes
  • Holders and stands are available for the handset so that the user doesn’t have to pick up or hold the handset for any length of time – nor put it back on the receiver!

For those with speech impediments
  • Hands-free is a useful feature especially if the user is using a computer or other aid with a keyboard and synthesised speech
  • Speech amplification on out-going calls means that a user with a weak voice can be heard
  • A fax machine allows the user to communicate in writing rather than by voice
  • Caller display allows the user to see who the caller is without speaking to them
  • Recording or using a recorded message on an answer phone or voice mail box can invite callers to leave a message so that the user doesn’t need to speak
  • If the user’s speech is difficult to understand a textphone allows the conversation to be typed rather than spoken
  • SMS or texting is widely available on mobile telephones and allows the user to send a written message to another similar phone
  • Video phones come into their own if you need to use sign language for instance as both parties can see one another

Communicating by telephone if you have a hearing impediment
  • Use a telephone that is ‘hearing aid compatible’ i.e. has an earpiece with an audio magnetic field
  • Using a hearing aid with a T setting affords a clearer sound as long as the aid is switched to T
  • Use the ringing volume control to ensure you hear the phone ring
  • Or add on a telephone bell unit to increase the ringing volume.  These units are usually mains electric or battery powered and will need a telephone socket to plug into
  • A telephone with a flashing light when the phone rings helps for those who have no or very poor hearing.  Be aware that often these flashing lights are small so you may need to position the phone near to you
  • Again add-on flashing units can be installed.  These are usually powered by mains electricity so will need a nearby plug and telephone socket
  • There are systems available that can cause lights in the house to flash when the phone rings.  These should be installed by an electrician

For those who find it difficult to hear the telephone conversation
  • Using an inductive coupler with your hearing aid turned to T will help to clarify the voice of the caller and also cut out background noise.  These don’t actually amplify the volume though
  • Inductive couplers can be built-in or bought as an add-on unit
  • Pulsators can help some to hear the conversation more clearly.  They operate by vibrating the sound when placed on the bone in front or behind your ear
Wikipedia:Ben Schumin Zach Vega

Mobile phones for older people

Pros - developed in the 1980s, the mobile phone can be useful for those with disabilities. As well as text messaging and caller recognition, many of them now accept the voice as a way of communication.  For instance you can ask a new smart phone to call a number in the stored phone book.  The internet can also be activated from many mobile phones too.

Cons – sometimes people who are less dexterous find mobile phones too small and fiddly to use and they usually take longer to set up than a landline phone.  Just as you have to remember to put your cordless handset back in its base to ensure it is charged, a mobile also runs on battery and must be plugged in and charged regularly using a special plug and cable.  Digital mobile phones can cause bad interference to analogue hearing aids but this can be addressed by wearing headphones or a headset.
  • There are a number of additional services that are available to those who have problems:
  • If you have a BT landline, they will supply an extension ringer to help you hear the telephone ringing
  • A free Directory Enquiry service is available to those who cannot use the directories due to a disability as long as it is backed up by your doctor
  • Several telephone service providers offer an ‘assisted call service’ if the user has difficulty using the keys to dial
  • Vulnerable customers (disabled or older) should let their service provider know of their condition so that when an engineer visits they can be given a pre-arranged password so that you know it is OK to let them in.
  • Literature and bills in accessible Formats – suppliers are legally obligated to ensure you get bills and other literature in a format you can read i.e. Braille, large-print and multi-media.  Many now provide Internet access so that bills can be seen online or there is a service where your bill is read to you over the phone.

If you are having difficulties or want more detailed information this factsheet produced by the Disabled Living Foundation should help.  And if you want something locally give us a call at Castle Comfort Centre and we will help.  Call us today or pop in.