AGE CYMRU helped older people in Wales claim more than £6.5m in benefits last year; additional income that could have a massive impact on the quality of life for those individuals who came forward seeking help.
However, this is just the tip of the iceberg as it’s estimated that more than £3.5 billion of state benefits available to older people in the UK goes unclaimed each year. In Wales this would equate to approximately £175 million of unclaimed benefits; a significant amount of money that could help bring about positive changes to thousands of older people in Wales.
Additionally, a recent study by the National Assembly for Wales found that more than 120,000 older people in Wales are living in poverty.
To help combat such levels of poverty amongst older people, Age Cymru has updated More Money In Your Pocket for 2019/2020; a bi-lingual guide to help older people and their carers claim benefit entitlements in later life.
The guide covers a wide range of benefits and entitlements, including state pensions, Pension Credit, help with Council Tax, help with heating costs, Attendance Allowance and Carers’ Allowance.
Take the case of Jack, who contacted one of Age Cymru’s partners for help in 2018.
Jack is 82 and lives with his wife Gwen who is 73. Jack has suffered six heart attacks and has several other debilitating diseases. As a result he has limited mobility and little stamina so rarely leaves his home.
An Age Cymru adviser undertook a thorough exploration of Jack and Gwen’s circumstances and identified that they were not claiming all their benefit entitlements.
In summary, Jack was awarded the highest rate of the Disability Living Allowance care component at £85.60 per week; Pension Credit for the couple was awarded at £119.00 a week and their Council Tax payments were reduced from £155 to £25 a month. They also received a number of backdated amounts, totalling £5,587.46.
As a result, their life has changed for the better. They can now afford to pay for food and heating and can also pay for transport if they need to go somewhere and therefore no longer feel trapped in their home.
Gavin Thomas, who manages the charity’s information and advice services across Wales says: “Poverty can have a devastating effect on an older person’s quality of life forcing many to choose between eating and heating. It can also keep an older person trapped in their homes leading to loneliness and isolation and, in many cases, poor mental and physical health.”
“Some people miss out on benefits because they mistakenly believe they don’t qualify or are put off by the claims process.
“However, older people might be surprised to learn what help is available to them. I would urge any older person in Wales to claim all their benefit entitlements and to use our guide as a useful tool to start the process.”
More Money In Your Pocket is available free of charge from Age Cymru and local partners throughout Wales. You may call the Advice Line free on 08000 223 444 or email email@example.com to order a copy. You may also download the free guide from our website: www.agecymru.org.uk/
The charity’s expert advisers can also carry out a full benefits check to find out what you might be entitled to claim. Age Cymru also offers a range of information guides and factsheets on many other topics.
Temporary visitor restrictions in place at Prince Philip Hospital
Members of the public are advised that Prince Philip Hospital in Llanelli that all wards are closed to visitors until further notice following a number of cases of Norovirus (diarrhoea and vomiting).
These temporary visitor restrictions are in place to help prevent the spread of this winter illness.
The restrictions are confined to the main hospital only and people are still able to visit loved ones in Ty Bryngwyn Hospice.
Patients who are scheduled to attend outpatient appointments are advised to do so as normal.
The situation is being monitored at regular intervals and a further update will become available when visitor restrictions are lifted.
Sharon Daniel, Assistant Director of Nursing for Hywel Dda University Health Board said: “I’d like to reassure visitors that a number of Norovirus cases have been diagnosed and appropriate infection control measures are in place to reduce the risk of infection.
“Unfortunately, at this time of the year, winter illnesses such as Norovirus and flu do become more commonplace and it’s important for anyone experiencing these symptoms to follow simple hygiene advice. This includes washing and drying your hands thoroughly, especially after going to the toilet and before you handle food, to prevent infections from being passed on to others.
“If you are otherwise fit and healthy, there’s usually no need to visit your GP; you should just rest at home until you feel better, while keeping warm, drinking plenty of water and taking painkillers if necessary. You can also help stop the spread of infections by avoiding unnecessary contact with other people while you’re infectious.”
I have lost the weight of my seven year old in a matter of months!
Andrea Morris, 35, from Llanelli, was fed up of being the fat friend.
‘I’ve been overweight as long as I can remember. After getting married I struggled to conceive. I had PCOS and hadn’ ovulated in over a year. I was advised by my GP to lose weight so I did! I managed to lose 2 stone and I got pregnant, regaining the weight after giving birth. I repeated this cycle of losing weight to get pregnant three times and ended up heavier than I’d ever been.’
In January 2019, after seeing some photos of herself in a Christmas dress Andrea decided that enough was enough.
‘At the time I thought I looked nice in that dress but looking back on it I really disliked the way I looked. Not only that, I was fed up of being the fat mam at the school gates. I was self-conscious, had no self-esteem and no energy to chase my three children. I felt worried I was going to put myself in an early grave by piling on the weight.’
On 3rd January 2019 Andrea joined WW (formerly Weight Watchers) with WW Coach Catrin Morris in Llanelli, weighing 18 st 2.5lb.
‘My first workshop was fab! I came out feeling amazing. Catrin made me feel so empowered as she asked me what my ‘why’ was to lose weight. Even though I knew why I needed to, I hadn’t thought hard about it. It made me realise that I wanted to wear clothes that I liked, not just ones that covered my lumps and big bumps. I wanted to make my children proud and set a good example for them. I didn’t want to die young from weight related illnesses.’
The WW plan is based on a SmartPoints counting system, where all foods and drinks have a value. Each member has a personalised budget to spend on the foods that they love and fit in with their lifestyle, depending on which plan they are following; Blue, Green or Purple. Within each plan there zero point foods that don’t need to be counted to help stretch the budget. The plan also incorporates mind-set and activity.
Before she knew it, Andrea, a busy mum of 3, was losing weight. As her weight dropped, her confidence grew which encouraged her to become more active and take up Couch25K and join exercise classes like Boogie Bounce.
‘I love the WW App, which is included with a subscription membership plan. The app makes sticking to budget easy. There is a barcode scanner to scan every day foods to find out the SmartPoints value. In addition to this there are 1000’s of recipes which help me to plan my meals with ease. I can grab food on the go and still feel like I’m in control knowing I can have zero pointed food if I’ve used my entire SmartPoints budget.’
Andrea finds eating out is absolutely doable with this plan.
‘Nando’s is one of my favourite places to eat. I use the Restaurant section in the App to help me find the lowest point option. I usually choose butterfly chicken, macho peas and corn on the cob. A Subway chicken tikka sub for 6 points fits in perfectly too when I’m on the go.’
By October 2019, Andrea has lost an amazing 4 stone 5lb.
‘Recently, while I was sorting breakfast for the family, my 7 year old daughter weighed herself on our bathroom scales and announced proudly that she was 4 stone 5 lb. This was something that she hadn’t done before as I don’t encourage my children to weigh themselves. The WW ethos is that it is more than just the numbers on the scales and as such I don’t ‘worry’ about the numbers. It is more about how I feel, getting healthier and the changes in my behaviours to achieve this. What hit home was that this was how much weight I had lost!’
For Andrea this weight loss and change in her outlook wouldn’t have happened without the support of WW Coach Catrin and the weekly WW Workshop.
‘The workshops have helped me think about my relationship with food and encouraged me to become more active. Each week we explore a different technique to help us change our behaviours. Recent topics have been how to manage stress, how to sit less and eat more fruit and veg, all things that I need help and advice with. The group support is brilliant.’
‘My life has changed for the better. I’m happier and more outgoing. Simple things like taking the children to Legoland are so much more enjoyable as I don’t have to worry that I won’t fit in the rides! I have gained friends from attending the workshop and with my new found body confidence I have bought a dress that I would never have worn before for my friend’s wedding. I’m not quite where I want to be yet but I can see the end is achievable. I’m so motivated and watching the scales go down each week is amazing. I’d recommend WW to everyone!’
Diabetes’ effect on mental health explored
NEW research from Diabetes UK has found that seven out of ten people feel overwhelmed by the demands of living with diabetes, significantly affecting their mental and physical health.
The survey of more than 2,000 adults with Type 1, Type 2 and other types of diabetes from across the UK shows that the majority (three quarters) of those who feel overwhelmed say that this affects how well they can manage the condition.
In order to explore the links between mental health and diabetes, the charity collected extensive insights from people affected by the condition and healthcare professionals from across the UK.
The findings, published in the report “Too often missing: Making emotional and psychological support routine in diabetes care”, show that diabetes is much more than a physical condition.
Management of physical symptoms 24/7 – for example checking blood glucose levels, or managing diet – alongside the continual need to make decisions and take actions in order to reduce the likelihood of short and long-term complications, can affect every aspect of day-to-day life.
The research revealed that the relentless nature of diabetes can impact people’s emotional, mental and psychological wellbeing and health, from day-to-day frustration and low mood, to specific psychological and mental health difficulties such as clinical depression and anxiety.
Three-quarters of those needing specialist mental health support to help manage the condition, such as from a counsellor or psychologist, could not access it. Seven out of ten people with diabetes also reported that they are not helped to talk about their emotional wellbeing by their diabetes teams.
Healthcare professionals surveyed also revealed that there was more to be done in this area. Specifically, 40 per cent of GPs say they are not likely to ask about emotional wellbeing and mental health in routine diabetes appointments, while only 30 per cent feel there is enough emotional and psychological support for people living with diabetes when needed.
The report marks the launch of a Diabetes UK campaign to make the emotional and psychological demands of living with diabetes recognised and provide the right support to everyone who needs it.
Diabetes UK Cymru is marking the launch with an event on Wednesday 22 May at the Norwegian Church in Cardiff Bay from 12 pm to 2 pm.
The charity is urgently calling on each of the four nations’ health services to create national standards for diabetes emotional and mental healthservices. These should ensure that everyone is asked how they are feeling as part of every diabetes appointment and that a mental healthprofessional with knowledge of diabetes is part of every diabetes care team.
Dai Williams, National Director, Diabetes UK Cymru, said: “The day-to-day demands of managing diabetes can be a constant struggle, affecting people’s emotional wellbeing and mental health. In turn, people tell us that struggling emotionally can make it even more difficult to keep on top of self-management. And when diabetes cannot be well managed, the risk of dangerous complications, such as amputations, kidney failure and stroke increases.
“Diabetes services that include emotional and psychological support can help people improve both their physical and mental health, reduce pressure on services, and save money.
“Mental health and physical health go hand in hand, but services for people with diabetes don’t always reflect this. We need to bridge the divide between physical and mental health services to ensure those with emotional and psychological difficulties related to their condition do not have their needs overlooked. It is critical that all diabetes care sees and supports the whole person, and explores what matters most to them.”
Diabetes UK is launching a petition to call for national standards for diabetes mental health support and services.
To find out more about the campaign and sign the petition go to www.diabetes.org.uk/missing
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