Tag Archives: people

Caffeine might help people with heart troubles, research says

Drinking coffee and tea every day may actually benefit people with heart troubles.

New research has linked caffeine consumption from the two popular drinks to decreased rates of arrhythmias, or abnormal heart rhythms.

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But the researchers warn against the consumption of energy drinks that contain high levels of caffeine for anyone with a pre-existing heart condition.

Arrhythmias cause the heart to beat too fast, slow or unevenly. Many clinicians advise patients with atrial or ventricular arrhythmias to avoid caffeinated beverages.

“There is a public perception, often based on anecdotal experience, that caffeine is a common acute trigger for heart rhythm problems,” said Dr Peter Kistler, director of electrophysiology at Alfred hospital and Baker Heart and Diabetes Institute. “Our extensive review of the medical literature suggests this is not the case.”

Researchers reviewed 11 major international studies involving 360,000 people and found caffeine had no effect on ventricular arrhythmias.

The analysis suggests caffeine intake of up to 300 milligrams a day may be safe for patients with arrhythmias. This equate to roughly three cups of coffee.

But there may be individual differences in susceptibility to the effects of caffeine on the factors which trigger arrhythmias in some, the researchers noted.

“Caffeinated beverages such as coffee and tea may have long term anti-arrhythmic properties mediated by antioxidant effects and antagonism of adenosine,” Kistler said. “In numerous population-based studies, patients who regularly consume coffee and tea at moderate levels have a lower lifetime risk of developing heart rhythm problems and possibly improved survival.”

The study is published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

Caffeine might help people with heart troubles, research says

Drinking coffee and tea every day may actually benefit people with heart troubles.

New research has linked caffeine consumption from the two popular drinks to decreased rates of arrhythmias, or abnormal heart rhythms.

Sign up to receive the top stories in Australia every day at noon

But the researchers warn against the consumption of energy drinks that contain high levels of caffeine for anyone with a pre-existing heart condition.

Arrhythmias cause the heart to beat too fast, slow or unevenly. Many clinicians advise patients with atrial or ventricular arrhythmias to avoid caffeinated beverages.

“There is a public perception, often based on anecdotal experience, that caffeine is a common acute trigger for heart rhythm problems,” said Dr Peter Kistler, director of electrophysiology at Alfred hospital and Baker Heart and Diabetes Institute. “Our extensive review of the medical literature suggests this is not the case.”

Researchers reviewed 11 major international studies involving 360,000 people and found caffeine had no effect on ventricular arrhythmias.

The analysis suggests caffeine intake of up to 300 milligrams a day may be safe for patients with arrhythmias. This equate to roughly three cups of coffee.

But there may be individual differences in susceptibility to the effects of caffeine on the factors which trigger arrhythmias in some, the researchers noted.

“Caffeinated beverages such as coffee and tea may have long term anti-arrhythmic properties mediated by antioxidant effects and antagonism of adenosine,” Kistler said. “In numerous population-based studies, patients who regularly consume coffee and tea at moderate levels have a lower lifetime risk of developing heart rhythm problems and possibly improved survival.”

The study is published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

Caffeine might help people with heart troubles, research says

Drinking coffee and tea every day may actually benefit people with heart troubles.

New research has linked caffeine consumption from the two popular drinks to decreased rates of arrhythmias, or abnormal heart rhythms.

Sign up to receive the top stories in Australia every day at noon

But the researchers warn against the consumption of energy drinks that contain high levels of caffeine for anyone with a pre-existing heart condition.

Arrhythmias cause the heart to beat too fast, slow or unevenly. Many clinicians advise patients with atrial or ventricular arrhythmias to avoid caffeinated beverages.

“There is a public perception, often based on anecdotal experience, that caffeine is a common acute trigger for heart rhythm problems,” said Dr Peter Kistler, director of electrophysiology at Alfred hospital and Baker Heart and Diabetes Institute. “Our extensive review of the medical literature suggests this is not the case.”

Researchers reviewed 11 major international studies involving 360,000 people and found caffeine had no effect on ventricular arrhythmias.

The analysis suggests caffeine intake of up to 300 milligrams a day may be safe for patients with arrhythmias. This equate to roughly three cups of coffee.

But there may be individual differences in susceptibility to the effects of caffeine on the factors which trigger arrhythmias in some, the researchers noted.

“Caffeinated beverages such as coffee and tea may have long term anti-arrhythmic properties mediated by antioxidant effects and antagonism of adenosine,” Kistler said. “In numerous population-based studies, patients who regularly consume coffee and tea at moderate levels have a lower lifetime risk of developing heart rhythm problems and possibly improved survival.”

The study is published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

‘I could be taken from my home’: why disabled people once again fear being ‘warehoused’

‘I fear for my life,” Lucy Watts, 24, tells me from her family bungalow in Benfleet, Essex. Watts has a range of severe health problems – muscle weakness around her lungs; kidney and stomach problems; and dysfunction of the nervous system. Osteoporosis, degenerative disease in her spine and a progressive muscle disease mean she uses a wheelchair. She is hooked up to intravenous drips as we talk. But it isn’t Watts’s health that is causing her to fear for her life. It is the government’s care cuts.

Since 2009, when her condition first deteriorated, Watts has lived comfortably at home with her mum, Kate, and sister, Vicky, with the aid of a complex care package: at first some social care delivered through her local authority, and then a more comprehensive arrangement funded by the NHS’s Continuing Healthcare scheme. Over the years, even with a care plan in place, Watts’s mum has been left to take up much of the slack, sometimes finishing work at 4pm, coming home, handling IVs and medical care until 11pm, then sleeping on a mattress on the floor next to her daughter’s bed.

The jigsaw of support has enabled Watts to make remarkable achievements: being an ambassador for several charities, sitting on medical boards, gaining an MBE in 2016 for services for young people with disabilities. But in 2015, Watts’s mum developed a brain tumour. While Kate was in hospital, Watts would be without the care she needed at home.

Watts turned to her clinical commissioning group (CCG), the local NHS body responsible for healthcare provision, in the hope she would be given a full care package to cover her mum’s recovery period. Instead, she was given another solution: Watts would be placed in a nursing home. “They told us the only two that would provisionally take me were an elderly nursing home or a learning disability home,” she recalls. When she pressed further, she says she was told that once in the home, she would be unable to go out – not even to visit her mum in hospital or to go to her own vital medical appointments.

After Watts threatened to bring legal action, she says the CCG backtracked and agreed a 24-hour care package. Castle Point and Rochford CCG says it is unable to discuss individual cases, but that its priority is to provide “high-quality care packages that are safe, clinically appropriate and meet people’s needs”, and that “depending on individual situations, different options could be suitable, including support at home and the opportunity to have a personalised health budget”. But Watts still feels as if the CCG is “desperate to get me in a home” because her independence is “too costly”. “At times, I’ve been made to feel unworthy of being alive,” she says.

Watts’s case is shocking but it is far from rare. As deep cuts to social care and NHS care set in, the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) warned last year that disabled people across the country face being “interned” in care homes due to cost-cutting measures. A dozen NHS organisations are facing legal action over what the EHRC calls “discriminatory” policies around pushing disabled people into residential care. Continuing healthcare of the kind that Watts relies on can be arranged in a care home, nursing home, hospice or a person’s own home. But new funding caps, which have already been rolled out in at least 44 CCGs across the UK, mean that many disabled people may now be prevented from living at home with their families despite being well enough to do so. As Watts puts it: “I’d be taken from my home and stripped of my life.”

As recently as the 1970s and 80s, disabled people in Britain were routinely put in out-of-town institutions – “warehoused”, as it was known – as a way to reduce the costs of providing support. Over the past 40 years, disabled campaigners have fought for the basic right to independent living. Against longstanding prejudice that treats disabled people as children to be cared for or dehumanises us as objects to be put away, the independent living movement fought for disabled people to be seen as ordinary adults, with the same right to fundamental freedoms as anyone else. But as austerity measures kicked in, this progress has been increasingly under threat.

“These cuts are rolling the right to independent living back years,” says Linda Burnip, the co-founder of the campaign group Disabled People Against Cuts. “DPAC is being inundated with cases where disabled people are losing the right to live independently or having care packages slashed.”

Jean Almond at home in St Helens with her husband Geoffrey.


Jean Almond at home in St Helens with her husband Geoffrey. Photograph: Christopher Thomond for the Guardian

Jean Almond remembers vividly her brief time in a care home. “It virtually killed me,” she says. Almond, 66, has multiple sclerosis and is quadriplegic, and is supported at her home in St Helens by a rotating team of five personal assistants. Her husband, Geoffrey, fills in the gaps, helping her during the four nights a week that her care package doesn’t provide an assistant.

When her husband went to a week-long conference in 2005 and she needed replacement care, Almond hoped that staying in a care home would be a decent solution. But, at just 53, she was told her only option was a nursing home for the elderly. Once there, she underwent an ordeal she can’t forget. Staff gave her the wrong medication – doubling some doses and skipping others – leaving her “out of it” and bleeding on the floor. She says she was given a suppository without her consent because all the residents had one – “They called it ‘bowel-opening day’” – while no one was given help to shower all week. The home has since been investigated and several staff members dismissed.

While good residential care does exist, there are also repeated reports of abuse, most infamously with the Winterbourne scandal in 2012 – last week a survey by University College London found that abuse is taking place in 99% of care homes due to chronic underfunding.

More than a decade after Almond’s stay, with care cuts hitting the news, she and her husband are “worried to death” over her care package. Geoffrey is now 70 – “Age is creeping on,” he says – and Almond is anxious that as her needs increase with age, and her husband’s ability to physically support her decreases, she will be forced out of her own home. “I live in fear of being returned to a care home,” she says. “I’ve still got all my faculties … and it’s worse like that, isn’t it? I’d rather die.”

Fear seems to go hand in hand with care packages in this climate. I spoke to several people who had been told they would have to move to a care home, while disability organisations told me of people who were afraid to speak out in case their CCG or local council punished them by cutting their care hours. Dan Burden of the Spinal Injuries Association says the organisation is now hearing of people with spinal cord injuries “being threatened with institutions” rather than receiving care at home with their families. “People are scared to go on the record, worried that the situation will get worse for them if they speak out.”

The same cost-cutting that has CCGs pushing some disabled people into residential care is also severely reducing the care packages that for years have enabled others to live at home. On paper, these disabled people are still afforded independent living but in reality the care is becoming so threadbare that it is barely meeting their most basic needs. Lorraine Howard, 47, has recently been told her care package will be gutted. For 24 years, Howard, who has the severe muscle condition spinal muscular atrophy type 2 and uses a wheelchair, had a 24/7 care package funded largely by the Independent Living Fund (ILF) – a standalone pot of money that supported 18,000 severely disabled people. But in 2015, the coalition government abolished the fund and transferred responsibility to cash-strapped local councils.

From 24-hour care to ‘almost nothing’: Lorraine Howard in Coventry.


From 24-hour care to ‘almost nothing’: Lorraine Howard in Coventry. Photograph: John Robertson for the Guardian

Howard’s life has until now been a well-oiled machine. She has a team of four personal assistants, one of whom has been with her for 12 years – “They know exactly how to care for me … we’re like a little family” – and this has enabled her not only to stay well but to make a home in Coventry with her husband, Howard, and raise a daughter, Kiah.

But like other former ILF users across the country, in February 2017 Howard was reassessed for her care package by her local council. Two weeks later, she received a phone call informing her that it was “cutting her care considerably”: she would lose her night care completely and be left with three and a half hours a day to go to the toilet, wash, eat and drink. She would get one shower a week, and 10 hours out of the house. “How can someone who has needed 24-hour care all their life go to almost nothing?” she asks. “My care needs haven’t suddenly got better just because the government needs to save money.”

This type of gutted care package is worryingly common. More than a million disabled people are now living without the care they need, according to the charity Leonard Cheshire Disability, with reports of people with serious health conditions waiting 14 hours to go to the toilet or left to sleep in their clothes. Campaigners fear that cut care packages such as Howard’s represent a “drip, drip” assault on independent living, where councils or CCGs do not technically force disabled people out of their homes but reduce at-home support to such a degree that they have no choice but to accept a place in a care home.

Howard has appealed against the decision and her care package is now being reviewed by a panel at the council. “A panel that has never met me,” she adds. Coventry city council says Howard’s care package is still going through an assessment process and it will “manage any subsequent transition arrangements as professionally and sympathetically as we can”. In the meantime, Howard tells me her social worker has asked her if she would consider sleeping in a hospital bed (so big it would be in a separate room) to save on night care, and even wearing adult nappies despite the fact she isn’t incontinent. “It’s humiliating,” she says. “I am an adult woman with a husband.”

The prospect of losing her 24/7 care has led Howard to have suicidal thoughts and she has seen her GP for depression. “I’m normally a very happy, confident, outgoing person. This government is slowly killing me.”

In Benfleet, Watts’s mum is recovering well but Watts is still battling over her care package. As things stand, she says, it feels like it’s her life “but on someone else’s terms”. Despite her optimism, Watts admits she is still worried about the future. “They could so easily place me in a nursing home,” she says. “I’m very scared, frightened. Petrified even.”

‘I could be taken from my home’: why disabled people once again fear being ‘warehoused’

‘I fear for my life,” Lucy Watts, 24, tells me from her family bungalow in Benfleet, Essex. Watts has a range of severe health problems – muscle weakness around her lungs; kidney and stomach problems; and dysfunction of the nervous system. Osteoporosis, degenerative disease in her spine and a progressive muscle disease mean she uses a wheelchair. She is hooked up to intravenous drips as we talk. But it isn’t Watts’s health that is causing her to fear for her life. It is the government’s care cuts.

Since 2009, when her condition first deteriorated, Watts has lived comfortably at home with her mum, Kate, and sister, Vicky, with the aid of a complex care package: at first some social care delivered through her local authority, and then a more comprehensive arrangement funded by the NHS’s Continuing Healthcare scheme. Over the years, even with a care plan in place, Watts’s mum has been left to take up much of the slack, sometimes finishing work at 4pm, coming home, handling IVs and medical care until 11pm, then sleeping on a mattress on the floor next to her daughter’s bed.

The jigsaw of support has enabled Watts to make remarkable achievements: being an ambassador for several charities, sitting on medical boards, gaining an MBE in 2016 for services for young people with disabilities. But in 2015, Watts’s mum developed a brain tumour. While Kate was in hospital, Watts would be without the care she needed at home.

Watts turned to her clinical commissioning group (CCG), the local NHS body responsible for healthcare provision, in the hope she would be given a full care package to cover her mum’s recovery period. Instead, she was given another solution: Watts would be placed in a nursing home. “They told us the only two that would provisionally take me were an elderly nursing home or a learning disability home,” she recalls. When she pressed further, she says she was told that once in the home, she would be unable to go out – not even to visit her mum in hospital or to go to her own vital medical appointments.

After Watts threatened to bring legal action, she says the CCG backtracked and agreed a 24-hour care package. Castle Point and Rochford CCG says it is unable to discuss individual cases, but that its priority is to provide “high-quality care packages that are safe, clinically appropriate and meet people’s needs”, and that “depending on individual situations, different options could be suitable, including support at home and the opportunity to have a personalised health budget”. But Watts still feels as if the CCG is “desperate to get me in a home” because her independence is “too costly”. “At times, I’ve been made to feel unworthy of being alive,” she says.

Watts’s case is shocking but it is far from rare. As deep cuts to social care and NHS care set in, the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) warned last year that disabled people across the country face being “interned” in care homes due to cost-cutting measures. A dozen NHS organisations are facing legal action over what the EHRC calls “discriminatory” policies around pushing disabled people into residential care. Continuing healthcare of the kind that Watts relies on can be arranged in a care home, nursing home, hospice or a person’s own home. But new funding caps, which have already been rolled out in at least 44 CCGs across the UK, mean that many disabled people may now be prevented from living at home with their families despite being well enough to do so. As Watts puts it: “I’d be taken from my home and stripped of my life.”

As recently as the 1970s and 80s, disabled people in Britain were routinely put in out-of-town institutions – “warehoused”, as it was known – as a way to reduce the costs of providing support. Over the past 40 years, disabled campaigners have fought for the basic right to independent living. Against longstanding prejudice that treats disabled people as children to be cared for or dehumanises us as objects to be put away, the independent living movement fought for disabled people to be seen as ordinary adults, with the same right to fundamental freedoms as anyone else. But as austerity measures kicked in, this progress has been increasingly under threat.

“These cuts are rolling the right to independent living back years,” says Linda Burnip, the co-founder of the campaign group Disabled People Against Cuts. “DPAC is being inundated with cases where disabled people are losing the right to live independently or having care packages slashed.”

Jean Almond at home in St Helens with her husband Geoffrey.


Jean Almond at home in St Helens with her husband Geoffrey. Photograph: Christopher Thomond for the Guardian

Jean Almond remembers vividly her brief time in a care home. “It virtually killed me,” she says. Almond, 66, has multiple sclerosis and is quadriplegic, and is supported at her home in St Helens by a rotating team of five personal assistants. Her husband, Geoffrey, fills in the gaps, helping her during the four nights a week that her care package doesn’t provide an assistant.

When her husband went to a week-long conference in 2005 and she needed replacement care, Almond hoped that staying in a care home would be a decent solution. But, at just 53, she was told her only option was a nursing home for the elderly. Once there, she underwent an ordeal she can’t forget. Staff gave her the wrong medication – doubling some doses and skipping others – leaving her “out of it” and bleeding on the floor. She says she was given a suppository without her consent because all the residents had one – “They called it ‘bowel-opening day’” – while no one was given help to shower all week. The home has since been investigated and several staff members dismissed.

While good residential care does exist, there are also repeated reports of abuse, most infamously with the Winterbourne scandal in 2012 – last week a survey by University College London found that abuse is taking place in 99% of care homes due to chronic underfunding.

More than a decade after Almond’s stay, with care cuts hitting the news, she and her husband are “worried to death” over her care package. Geoffrey is now 70 – “Age is creeping on,” he says – and Almond is anxious that as her needs increase with age, and her husband’s ability to physically support her decreases, she will be forced out of her own home. “I live in fear of being returned to a care home,” she says. “I’ve still got all my faculties … and it’s worse like that, isn’t it? I’d rather die.”

Fear seems to go hand in hand with care packages in this climate. I spoke to several people who had been told they would have to move to a care home, while disability organisations told me of people who were afraid to speak out in case their CCG or local council punished them by cutting their care hours. Dan Burden of the Spinal Injuries Association says the organisation is now hearing of people with spinal cord injuries “being threatened with institutions” rather than receiving care at home with their families. “People are scared to go on the record, worried that the situation will get worse for them if they speak out.”

The same cost-cutting that has CCGs pushing some disabled people into residential care is also severely reducing the care packages that for years have enabled others to live at home. On paper, these disabled people are still afforded independent living but in reality the care is becoming so threadbare that it is barely meeting their most basic needs. Lorraine Howard, 47, has recently been told her care package will be gutted. For 24 years, Howard, who has the severe muscle condition spinal muscular atrophy type 2 and uses a wheelchair, had a 24/7 care package funded largely by the Independent Living Fund (ILF) – a standalone pot of money that supported 18,000 severely disabled people. But in 2015, the coalition government abolished the fund and transferred responsibility to cash-strapped local councils.

From 24-hour care to ‘almost nothing’: Lorraine Howard in Coventry.


From 24-hour care to ‘almost nothing’: Lorraine Howard in Coventry. Photograph: John Robertson for the Guardian

Howard’s life has until now been a well-oiled machine. She has a team of four personal assistants, one of whom has been with her for 12 years – “They know exactly how to care for me … we’re like a little family” – and this has enabled her not only to stay well but to make a home in Coventry with her husband, Howard, and raise a daughter, Kiah.

But like other former ILF users across the country, in February 2017 Howard was reassessed for her care package by her local council. Two weeks later, she received a phone call informing her that it was “cutting her care considerably”: she would lose her night care completely and be left with three and a half hours a day to go to the toilet, wash, eat and drink. She would get one shower a week, and 10 hours out of the house. “How can someone who has needed 24-hour care all their life go to almost nothing?” she asks. “My care needs haven’t suddenly got better just because the government needs to save money.”

This type of gutted care package is worryingly common. More than a million disabled people are now living without the care they need, according to the charity Leonard Cheshire Disability, with reports of people with serious health conditions waiting 14 hours to go to the toilet or left to sleep in their clothes. Campaigners fear that cut care packages such as Howard’s represent a “drip, drip” assault on independent living, where councils or CCGs do not technically force disabled people out of their homes but reduce at-home support to such a degree that they have no choice but to accept a place in a care home.

Howard has appealed against the decision and her care package is now being reviewed by a panel at the council. “A panel that has never met me,” she adds. Coventry city council says Howard’s care package is still going through an assessment process and it will “manage any subsequent transition arrangements as professionally and sympathetically as we can”. In the meantime, Howard tells me her social worker has asked her if she would consider sleeping in a hospital bed (so big it would be in a separate room) to save on night care, and even wearing adult nappies despite the fact she isn’t incontinent. “It’s humiliating,” she says. “I am an adult woman with a husband.”

The prospect of losing her 24/7 care has led Howard to have suicidal thoughts and she has seen her GP for depression. “I’m normally a very happy, confident, outgoing person. This government is slowly killing me.”

In Benfleet, Watts’s mum is recovering well but Watts is still battling over her care package. As things stand, she says, it feels like it’s her life “but on someone else’s terms”. Despite her optimism, Watts admits she is still worried about the future. “They could so easily place me in a nursing home,” she says. “I’m very scared, frightened. Petrified even.”

‘The spark will ignite’: how poetry helps engage people with dementia

With lifted feet, hands still / I am poised, and down the hill / Dart, with heedful mind / The air goes by in a wind

Stephanie Brada reads the Henry Charles Beeching poem Going Down Hill on a Bicycle to a group of residents at a care home. They read along with her, some mouthing the words, others silently following the print-outs on their laps.

“Michael, did you ever have a bike?” Brada asks one of the men sitting across from her.

“Yes,” he replies. “I rode it to work.”

This might be unremarkable in another setting, but the 10 participants of this reading group at Stapely care home in Liverpool all have dementia. Moments of clarity can be rare. After some discussion of bicycles and riding down hills, another poem is read – My Grandmother’s African Grey by Matt Simpson. Unprompted, another resident starts talking about her grandparents’ parrot.

“She never normally says anything,” Brada says afterwards. “Some have quite severe dementia but if they can see [the poem], they can read aloud.”

More than one million people in the UK are expected to have dementia by 2025, while 70% of people in care homes have dementia or severe memory problems. Despite being one of the main causes of disability in later life , the UK spends much less on treating it than cancer, heart disease and strokes.

A number of innovative techniques have been tried by care homes to engage those with dementia, including virtual reality therapy, opera and standup comedy. Reading poems aloud – or shared reading – can have a significant impact on residents’ mood, concentration and social interaction.

Brada has led shared reading groups at Stapely since 2015 and – with two other volunteers – now runs three groups a week. During each one-hour session, three poems are read aloud multiple times by the residents, and then discussed. Care home trustee Philip Ettinger says staff attend the groups themselves if they can spare the time.

“Staff get a buzz from it,” he says. “It’s a privilege to witness the joy on residents’ faces as they realise they can still get great satisfaction from reading aloud together.”

The groups are the brainchild of Liverpudlian charity The Reader, which first worked with a care home in 2006. In 2016-17 the organisation ran 514 shared reading groups around the country – 15% of which were in care homes or community groups for people with dementia. Other participants might face issues such as mental health conditions, chronic pain, isolation or recovery from substance misuse. Supported by a £850,000 grant from the Big Lottery Fund, The Reader has plans to recruit more volunteers and double the number of shared reading groups around the UK over the next three years.

“Our founder wanted to get literature out into the community where people really needed it,” says Kate McDonnell, the charity’s head of reading excellence. “[For] people with dementia … to find your voice in somebody else’s words is incredibly powerful.”


It was like an electric current went around the room. One lady who’d been hunched over … lifted her head and beamed

McDonnell admits that, initially, there were concerns the model wouldn’t work in a care home setting. Other groups had responded well to novels or short stories, but it quickly became clear that prose wouldn’t be suitable.

“I looked around at all of these puzzled faces,” she says, about reading a short story to the first group. “I had A Red, Red Rose by Robert Burns in my bag. As soon as I started reading, it was like an electric current went around the room. One lady, who had been hunched over in her wheelchair the whole time, lifted her head and beamed.”

Relatives who join in often comment on the impact it can have on their loved ones. “Another time, a lady with quite advanced dementia talked about something that had happened in her life,” says McDonnell. “Her daughter was completely amazed. She said: ‘I thought I’d lost my mum forever, but I’ve just had another glimpse of her’.”

The poetry blows on embers, says McDonnell, “and you never know where that spark is going to ignite”.

Poetry resonates particularly well with those with dementia, agrees Philip Davis, the director of the Centre for Research into Reading, Literature and Society at the University of Liverpool. He has researched the benefits of shared reading in care homes for more than five years and thinks that part of the appeal may be that this generation once learned poems by heart at school. But Davis believes it’s more than that – there’s power in the rhythm, the strength of the language, and the shortness of the attention span required to understand poetry. The shared element of the reading also makes all the difference.

“There’s an active, shared engagement. It’s shared emotion that recreates a small community again,” he says. “People help each other read aloud, and begin to share past memories. The aim is to reach the deeper part [of residents] that are often hidden from themselves and others.”

Care homes can be quite lonely places, Brada adds. “But reading enables conversations, and gives them something to think about other than ‘when’s lunch?’ You could write people with dementia off. Or you could put a poem in front of them to see what happens.”

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‘People with ADHD can be incredibly valuable at work’

‘As an employee, I wasn’t very good because I was inconsistent,” says Jannine Harris, 44, from Northampton. “I’m brilliant, and then I’m rubbish. And that’s obviously frustrating for an employer to contend with because they don’t know which Jannine they are going to get.”

Harris says she lost, or left, more than 40 jobs before she settled in her current role at Billing Brook school as a special needs teacher. “I’ve been dismissed from so many jobs,” she says. “That was the cycle of things. The only time I managed to hold down a long-term job, before my current one, was when I worked for myself for six years, but I only managed 13 months in a job prior to that.”

Harris was unaware that her inconsistency and flightiness was due to undiagnosed attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), a neurodevelopmental disorder that describes a group of behavioural symptoms including inattentiveness, hyperactivity and impulsivity. The problems that Harris experienced at work are shared by many who have the condition. A new report into the socioeconomic impact of ADHD, conducted by Demos, a cross-party thinktank, found that it can be associated with lack of career planning, poor workplace productivity and increased job instability. The report also found that the likelihood of being a recipient of welfare benefits was 15% greater among individuals diagnosed with the condition.

The findings in Demos’s report correlate with my own experiences at work. I was diagnosed with ADHD in the early 1990s, when I was six years old. Educators were not aware of the condition back then, and I was expelled from every school I attended, finally leaving school altogether aged 14. The lack of qualifications that result from such an early withdrawal from education restricted my career choices to relatively mundane jobs.

Many people can tolerate the monotony of doing the same task over and over again in low-paid roles but, for me, it was intolerable. For example, in 2010 I had a gardening job with Oldham council. One of my daily duties was running a dutch hoe through flower beds to excavate the horsetail weeds that had taken root there; it was like a never-ending game of whack-a-mole. So rather than stick at this task, I felt it would be far more entertaining to twirl my hoe around like a ninja weapon and fill the rest of my time by winding up my colleagues. The council was quite tolerant and did everything it could to accommodate me despite my bad behaviour – including giving me time off to get treatment.

I’m brilliant, and then I’m rubbish. And that’s obviously frustrating for an employer to contend with

I was diagnosed with ADHD at a young age, but many adults struggle for years without knowing why their relationships and jobs keep breaking down.

Dan Maudsley, 38, who works as a senior broadcast journalist for BBC Radio 5 Live, says his life was at a “crisis point” before he was diagnosed three years ago. “In a sense, working on news summaries is quite good for ADHD, because the deadlines are short and it keeps you on track.” But Maudsley would be writing the summaries down to the wire and it was beginning to grate on his colleagues. “I think that if I hadn’t been diagnosed I would have been out of work and divorced, because deterioration at work leads to deterioration at home,” he says.

Since his diagnosis, Maudsley takes medication to control his condition and has devised other strategies to make sure he functions better at work, such as keeping a timer on his desk to help him visualise time.

But for John, a former housing options officer from Leeds, it took being sacked from his job and a suicide attempt before he received a diagnosis of ADHD. “I always knew I was different somehow, but I didn’t know I had the condition,” he says . “So I spent the last 30 years thinking I was inferior, because I found it harder to do things that most typically minded people take for granted.”

John says he was good at dealing with clients but struggled to keep appointments or turn up on time, and was generally disorganised. Since starting on medication, however, he is doing much better and plans to set up a not-for-profit organisation for housing the homeless.

Absenteeism is an issue for a lot of those with ADHD. When I meet Simon, 45, in Canary Wharf, east London, he tells me that things started going wrong when he changed roles. “I got offered a job that I thought was a great next step, but it didn’t quite work out. It took all the nice things about the old job and left all the dross. I had been able to cope with that as a small percentage but not 100%,” he says. Simon works as a business analyst for a prestigious financial company and says that when he started, as a temp, he had impressed his managers and was given more free reign as a result. “I was given space and other interesting things to do,” he says. “I’ve done well any time I had a management structure that allows that licence. The flip side is that when I have a management structure that is much more constraining, it goes the other way. I start switching off and become disengaged.”

Simon ended up taking six weeks off due to the stress caused by the change in roles and is currently working half days. After doing some of his own research, he thought he might have ADHD. He was formally diagnosed with the condition two weeks ago.

Jannine Harris, teacher in Northampton


Jannine Harris: ‘No one expects me to run a standard, quiet classroom.’ Photograph: David Sillitoe for the Guardian

With undiagnosed ADHD presenting a significant cost to the country, what can employers do to ensure their employees don’t deteriorate at work? For Michelle Beckett, CEO and founder of ADHD Action – a charity that is lobbying the government to create provision for those with the condition – the key is in raising awareness. “I think people with ADHD do have a lot of strengths if they are supported properly by employers,” she says. “You don’t need a lot of extra resources to manage an employee with ADHD.” She believes that small businesses could benefit from the type of brain that someone with ADHD can bring.

Simone Vibert, a researcher at Demos and author of the report into the socioeconomic impact of ADHD, agrees with Beckett: “People with ADHD who have received a diagnosis and support can be immensely valuable to employers One phenomenon common among people with ADHD is ‘hyperfocusing’ – the tendency to focus on certain passions, interests or work very intensely – which could prove very useful in a work scenario.” She adds that employers should work with individuals with ADHD to identify their best support strategy. “ADHD affects people in very different ways [and] can affect the same individual differently from day to day. A task might seem easy one day but, at a later time, it might feel much more difficult.”

I spent the last 30 years thinking I was inferior, because I found it harder to do things that most people take for granted

She also recommends that employers and Department for Work and Pensions staff direct staff with ADHD to Access to Work – a publicly funded employment support programme that provides grants to those with disabilities. Vibert says: “The scheme can be used by people with ADHD to help pay for support such as ADHD coaching, which helps them to develop strategies to manage their condition and succeed in life, including in employment.”

ADHD is a highly treatable condition and if those who have it receive the right support, their lives can dramatically improve. For Maudsley, the most important thing an employer can do is “listen and have that conversation. It’s an ongoing conversation; there will always need to be adjustments throughout my career and it’s not always clear what they will be.”

Harris is similarly thriving in a working environment where she is supported by her employer, and works with a number of students who have ADHD. She is also involved in training and assisting teachers of inattentive or hyperactive students. “I teach literacy and it’s a perfect subject for igniting excitement and channelling energy. This makes me feel useful and valued.” She also feels that the school regards her ADHD as an asset. “No one expects me to run a standard, quiet classroom,” she says. “I am allowed to be me, with all my exuberance.”

‘People with ADHD can be incredibly valuable at work’

‘As an employee, I wasn’t very good because I was inconsistent,” says Jannine Harris, 44, from Northampton. “I’m brilliant, and then I’m rubbish. And that’s obviously frustrating for an employer to contend with because they don’t know which Jannine they are going to get.”

Harris says she lost, or left, more than 40 jobs before she settled in her current role at Billing Brook school as a special needs teacher. “I’ve been dismissed from so many jobs,” she says. “That was the cycle of things. The only time I managed to hold down a long-term job, before my current one, was when I worked for myself for six years, but I only managed 13 months in a job prior to that.”

Harris was unaware that her inconsistency and flightiness was due to undiagnosed attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), a neurodevelopmental disorder that describes a group of behavioural symptoms including inattentiveness, hyperactivity and impulsivity. The problems that Harris experienced at work are shared by many who have the condition. A new report into the socioeconomic impact of ADHD, conducted by Demos, a cross-party thinktank, found that it can be associated with lack of career planning, poor workplace productivity and increased job instability. The report also found that the likelihood of being a recipient of welfare benefits was 15% greater among individuals diagnosed with the condition.

The findings in Demos’s report correlate with my own experiences at work. I was diagnosed with ADHD in the early 1990s, when I was six years old. Educators were not aware of the condition back then, and I was expelled from every school I attended, finally leaving school altogether aged 14. The lack of qualifications that result from such an early withdrawal from education restricted my career choices to relatively mundane jobs.

Many people can tolerate the monotony of doing the same task over and over again in low-paid roles but, for me, it was intolerable. For example, in 2010 I had a gardening job with Oldham council. One of my daily duties was running a dutch hoe through flower beds to excavate the horsetail weeds that had taken root there; it was like a never-ending game of whack-a-mole. So rather than stick at this task, I felt it would be far more entertaining to twirl my hoe around like a ninja weapon and fill the rest of my time by winding up my colleagues. The council was quite tolerant and did everything it could to accommodate me despite my bad behaviour – including giving me time off to get treatment.

I’m brilliant, and then I’m rubbish. And that’s obviously frustrating for an employer to contend with

I was diagnosed with ADHD at a young age, but many adults struggle for years without knowing why their relationships and jobs keep breaking down.

Dan Maudsley, 38, who works as a senior broadcast journalist for BBC Radio 5 Live, says his life was at a “crisis point” before he was diagnosed three years ago. “In a sense, working on news summaries is quite good for ADHD, because the deadlines are short and it keeps you on track.” But Maudsley would be writing the summaries down to the wire and it was beginning to grate on his colleagues. “I think that if I hadn’t been diagnosed I would have been out of work and divorced, because deterioration at work leads to deterioration at home,” he says.

Since his diagnosis, Maudsley takes medication to control his condition and has devised other strategies to make sure he functions better at work, such as keeping a timer on his desk to help him visualise time.

But for John, a former housing options officer from Leeds, it took being sacked from his job and a suicide attempt before he received a diagnosis of ADHD. “I always knew I was different somehow, but I didn’t know I had the condition,” he says . “So I spent the last 30 years thinking I was inferior, because I found it harder to do things that most typically minded people take for granted.”

John says he was good at dealing with clients but struggled to keep appointments or turn up on time, and was generally disorganised. Since starting on medication, however, he is doing much better and plans to set up a not-for-profit organisation for housing the homeless.

Absenteeism is an issue for a lot of those with ADHD. When I meet Simon, 45, in Canary Wharf, east London, he tells me that things started going wrong when he changed roles. “I got offered a job that I thought was a great next step, but it didn’t quite work out. It took all the nice things about the old job and left all the dross. I had been able to cope with that as a small percentage but not 100%,” he says. Simon works as a business analyst for a prestigious financial company and says that when he started, as a temp, he had impressed his managers and was given more free reign as a result. “I was given space and other interesting things to do,” he says. “I’ve done well any time I had a management structure that allows that licence. The flip side is that when I have a management structure that is much more constraining, it goes the other way. I start switching off and become disengaged.”

Simon ended up taking six weeks off due to the stress caused by the change in roles and is currently working half days. After doing some of his own research, he thought he might have ADHD. He was formally diagnosed with the condition two weeks ago.

Jannine Harris, teacher in Northampton


Jannine Harris: ‘No one expects me to run a standard, quiet classroom.’ Photograph: David Sillitoe for the Guardian

With undiagnosed ADHD presenting a significant cost to the country, what can employers do to ensure their employees don’t deteriorate at work? For Michelle Beckett, CEO and founder of ADHD Action – a charity that is lobbying the government to create provision for those with the condition – the key is in raising awareness. “I think people with ADHD do have a lot of strengths if they are supported properly by employers,” she says. “You don’t need a lot of extra resources to manage an employee with ADHD.” She believes that small businesses could benefit from the type of brain that someone with ADHD can bring.

Simone Vibert, a researcher at Demos and author of the report into the socioeconomic impact of ADHD, agrees with Beckett: “People with ADHD who have received a diagnosis and support can be immensely valuable to employers One phenomenon common among people with ADHD is ‘hyperfocusing’ – the tendency to focus on certain passions, interests or work very intensely – which could prove very useful in a work scenario.” She adds that employers should work with individuals with ADHD to identify their best support strategy. “ADHD affects people in very different ways [and] can affect the same individual differently from day to day. A task might seem easy one day but, at a later time, it might feel much more difficult.”

I spent the last 30 years thinking I was inferior, because I found it harder to do things that most people take for granted

She also recommends that employers and Department for Work and Pensions staff direct staff with ADHD to Access to Work – a publicly funded employment support programme that provides grants to those with disabilities. Vibert says: “The scheme can be used by people with ADHD to help pay for support such as ADHD coaching, which helps them to develop strategies to manage their condition and succeed in life, including in employment.”

ADHD is a highly treatable condition and if those who have it receive the right support, their lives can dramatically improve. For Maudsley, the most important thing an employer can do is “listen and have that conversation. It’s an ongoing conversation; there will always need to be adjustments throughout my career and it’s not always clear what they will be.”

Harris is similarly thriving in a working environment where she is supported by her employer, and works with a number of students who have ADHD. She is also involved in training and assisting teachers of inattentive or hyperactive students. “I teach literacy and it’s a perfect subject for igniting excitement and channelling energy. This makes me feel useful and valued.” She also feels that the school regards her ADHD as an asset. “No one expects me to run a standard, quiet classroom,” she says. “I am allowed to be me, with all my exuberance.”

People don’t trust us on NHS and schools, Theresa May admits

Theresa May is to call on the Conservative party to face up to the “political fact” that people distrust its motivations around vital public services such as the NHS and education.

In a speech that has echoes her infamous “nasty party” warning 16 years ago, the prime minister will say hospitals and schools are facing difficulties that the government must show it is trying to tackle.

“While always defending our record in office, we also need to accept that our public services today do face real challenges and we must be clear about the action we are taking to help them,” she will tell the Tories’ spring conference in central London.

Her comments are likely to raise the hopes of MPs who have been calling on ministers to boost NHS spending through new tax rises, with changes expected in the autumn budget.

May will say that Tory councils have kept taxes low while delivering high quality services to those most in need and will stress the importance of Brexit.

But, using language similar to the 2002 landmark speech when May, then party chair, warned “you know what some people call us – the nasty party”, the prime minister will focus on public services, arguing they are just as important to national life.

“Some people question our motives. They wonder whether we care enough about our NHS and schools. Whether we truly respect the people who work in them. And understand that people rely on them,” May will say, insisting that “everyone in this party cares deeply about our public services” with many relying on them.

She will talk about her own story. “Mine starts with state schools which helped me to get into a great university and set me on course for a rewarding career … When I was diagnosed with diabetes, the NHS was there for me. Skilled and compassionate, helping me every step of the way to manage my condition and live a normal life. I rely on the NHS everyday and I am eternally grateful to them.”

May will insist that the government has a strong record of delivery, “so we might think that the public’s doubts about us are unfair, but they are a political fact which we must face up to”.

The prime minister’s choice of words could be controversial within elements of the Conservative party as parallels are drawn with her earlier warnings when she attacked the “disgraceful behaviour” of colleagues who cheated on their partners and others who “demonised minorities”.

The attempt at rebranding came as others promoted a series of liberal reforms including same-sex marriage, an A-list of candidates that would be 50% female and black and minority ethnic and even suggesting the party be renamed “reform Conservatives”.

The shadow education secretary, Angela Rayner, said the prime minister was desperately trying to sound like she cared about public services, “but you can’t trust a word she says”.

“The truth is that, under this government, the NHS is in crisis, our schools are in crisis and local councils are in crisis as a result of Tory cuts,” she said.

There have been growing calls from Tory MPs to consider higher taxes to fund struggling hospitals, with many concerned that anger about austerity contributed to the party losing its majority in 2017.

The former minister, Nick Boles, has suggested an overhaul of national insurance to fund health spending, an idea also pushed by other MPs.

In recent days, reports have suggested that Tory politicians have been sounded out about the possibility of a 1p hike in national insurance to find £4.9bn extra in health spending.

However, the chief secretary to the Treasury, Elizabeth Truss, stressed that the Conservatives remained a “low tax party”. She did not rule out the possibility of a national insurance rise over the parliament but denied MPs had been consulted about any specific changes to national insurance contributions to fund the NHS.

Truss said Philip Hammond would make a fresh set of spending decisions in his autumn budget, which would be based on the state of public finances at the time.

“We’ve had some positive news recently, productivity has ticked up, we’ve seen manufacturing results that are the best for a considerable number of years, but we need to be sure about what the future looks like before we take those types of decisions,” she told the Yorkshire Post.

But she added: “The Conservatives are a low tax party; we believe in lowering taxes on individuals and businesses. That’s what generates economic growth and that’s very, very important.”

Senior government sources made clear that nothing would happen before the autumn budget, with one saying: “We have no plans to raise taxes.”

People don’t trust us on NHS and schools, Theresa May admits

Theresa May is to call on the Conservative party to face up to the “political fact” that people distrust its motivations around vital public services such as the NHS and education.

In a speech that has echoes her infamous “nasty party” warning 16 years ago, the prime minister will say hospitals and schools are facing difficulties that the government must show it is trying to tackle.

“While always defending our record in office, we also need to accept that our public services today do face real challenges and we must be clear about the action we are taking to help them,” she will tell the Tories’ spring conference in central London.

Her comments are likely to raise the hopes of MPs who have been calling on ministers to boost NHS spending through new tax rises, with changes expected in the autumn budget.

May will say that Tory councils have kept taxes low while delivering high quality services to those most in need and will stress the importance of Brexit.

But, using language similar to the 2002 landmark speech when May, then party chair, warned “you know what some people call us – the nasty party”, the prime minister will focus on public services, arguing they are just as important to national life.

“Some people question our motives. They wonder whether we care enough about our NHS and schools. Whether we truly respect the people who work in them. And understand that people rely on them,” May will say, insisting that “everyone in this party cares deeply about our public services” with many relying on them.

She will talk about her own story. “Mine starts with state schools which helped me to get into a great university and set me on course for a rewarding career … When I was diagnosed with diabetes, the NHS was there for me. Skilled and compassionate, helping me every step of the way to manage my condition and live a normal life. I rely on the NHS everyday and I am eternally grateful to them.”

May will insist that the government has a strong record of delivery, “so we might think that the public’s doubts about us are unfair, but they are a political fact which we must face up to”.

The prime minister’s choice of words could be controversial within elements of the Conservative party as parallels are drawn with her earlier warnings when she attacked the “disgraceful behaviour” of colleagues who cheated on their partners and others who “demonised minorities”.

The attempt at rebranding came as others promoted a series of liberal reforms including same-sex marriage, an A-list of candidates that would be 50% female and black and minority ethnic and even suggesting the party be renamed “reform Conservatives”.

The shadow education secretary, Angela Rayner, said the prime minister was desperately trying to sound like she cared about public services, “but you can’t trust a word she says”.

“The truth is that, under this government, the NHS is in crisis, our schools are in crisis and local councils are in crisis as a result of Tory cuts,” she said.

There have been growing calls from Tory MPs to consider higher taxes to fund struggling hospitals, with many concerned that anger about austerity contributed to the party losing its majority in 2017.

The former minister, Nick Boles, has suggested an overhaul of national insurance to fund health spending, an idea also pushed by other MPs.

In recent days, reports have suggested that Tory politicians have been sounded out about the possibility of a 1p hike in national insurance to find £4.9bn extra in health spending.

However, the chief secretary to the Treasury, Elizabeth Truss, stressed that the Conservatives remained a “low tax party”. She did not rule out the possibility of a national insurance rise over the parliament but denied MPs had been consulted about any specific changes to national insurance contributions to fund the NHS.

Truss said Philip Hammond would make a fresh set of spending decisions in his autumn budget, which would be based on the state of public finances at the time.

“We’ve had some positive news recently, productivity has ticked up, we’ve seen manufacturing results that are the best for a considerable number of years, but we need to be sure about what the future looks like before we take those types of decisions,” she told the Yorkshire Post.

But she added: “The Conservatives are a low tax party; we believe in lowering taxes on individuals and businesses. That’s what generates economic growth and that’s very, very important.”

Senior government sources made clear that nothing would happen before the autumn budget, with one saying: “We have no plans to raise taxes.”