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We are delighted to showcase below a series of guest blogs which provide insight, highlight resources and generally aim to inform readers about self care.
Disclaimer: Please note the opinions expressed by our guest writers are their’s alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Self Care Forum. Also, whilst we review the content, we cannot be held responsible for any inaccuracies of the information supplied by the writer.
By Dr Dominic Horne, Fellow – RCGP. National Specialty Adviser for Screening, NHS England and Trustee of the Self Care Forum.
Resources and tools for clinicians to empower people to self care
Self Care Week has been organised annually by the Self Care Forum since 2011. Its aims are to raise awareness of and embed support for self care across communities, families and generations. This year’s theme is ‘Live self care for life.’ Further information and lots of resources are available online.
What do we mean by self care? It is defined by Self Care Forum as ‘the actions that individuals take for themselves, on behalf of and with others in order to develop, protect, maintain and improve their health, wellbeing or wellness.’ In other words, it’s about looking after ourselves and those around us. This can consist of self treatment of illness, and of taking steps to stay healthy in the first place.
During a global pandemic, this is more necessary than ever. In primary care we are well used to giving out self care advice. The Self Care Forum has produced a series of Factsheets which have recently been updated to include references to Covid. These can be accessed directly by the public or handed out in surgeries and give useful information on preventing and treating common minor illnesses. A few examples are Cough, Fever in Children, Back Pain, and Constipation. Important sections include explaining the expected duration of symptoms and listing red flags which should be reported to a clinician.
An e-learning module ‘Successful self care aware consultations’ has been produced in conjunction with NHS England and Health Education England. The module aims to equip healthcare professionals with the knowledge and skills to conduct self care aware consultations, supporting people to have the confidence to better look after their own health.
Self Care Coronavirus Innovation Awards
In July the Self Care Forum launched the Self Care Coronavirus Innovation Awards, seeking nominations from self care initiatives making a difference to people’s lives at a time when they need it most. There were 43 entries, demonstrating inspirational projects being run by community groups and local organisations right across the UK. The judging process has now taken place and case studies of the winners and highly commended are available with tips and ideas of best practice.
The Importance of Screening
Of course, I couldn’t write about self care without mentioning screening. This is a vital element of helping individuals to maintain their health. There was an understandable drop in activity during the first national lockdown, but services are now fully up and running again, with many providers operating at over 100% of their pre-Covid activity levels. Surgeries should be actively encouraging their patients to participate.
What about us?
Finally, it is important for us healthcare professionals to look after ourselves and our teams, now even more so than usual. As workload and stress levels increase, we must take the time to think of our own physical and mental health. To quote from the SCF’s Boosting Your Mood factsheet: ‘Be gentle with yourself and those around you. Nothing is “normal” right now because the Coronavirus crisis has an impact on all areas of our lives. Don’t expect to feel okay all the time or to be perfect at everything. You are doing the best you can.’
Ade Williams talks about supporting Self Care Week and how community pharmacy is at the forefront of its essential ethos
As the most accessible healthcare professionals in the UK, community pharmacists are seen as central to the future of self care.
It’s been widely proclaimed now is the time to place community pharmacy at the heart of self care, a belief cemented by the sector’s frontline response to the coronavirus pandemic as it continues to provide reassuring support to patients.
Throughout the outbreak it’s been at the forefront of providing medicines and self care advice – something which has helped re-shape public attitudes to the valuable role it plays while emphasising the importance of preserving the NHS.
Having championed self care through pharmacy for almost 30 years, we’re backing the call for our highly skilled pharmacists and their teams to lead the self care revolution.
As a brand committed to helping pharmacy provide self-treatment answers to many everyday health concerns, we are supporting the Self Care Forum’s annual NHS-backed awareness initiative Self Care Week, taking place from 16th-22nd November.
And we’re really hoping you’ll join us!
Strong Bones after 50: Patient Guide and Animation
By Ellie Davies, Royal College of Physicians
My name is Ellie and I am the Programme Coordinator for the Falls and Fragility Fracture Audit Programme (FFFAP) at the Royal College of Physicians (RCP). I know what you’re thinking…well that’s a mouthful and indeed it is. Dinner party conversations regarding my career usually end in eyes glazing over and a swift diversion of subject matter. But the work I do towards the improvement of care for those suffering with osteoporosis and its potentially life-threatening repercussions must not be overlooked!
Osteoporosis affects over 3 million people in the UK but despite its prevalence, it is vastly undiagnosed. Shockingly, a fifth of female sufferers who have broken a bone go on to break another three or more before being diagnosed with the condition.
Read more here.
7 Ways to Look After Yourself as a Family Carer
By Holly Clarke, Boxnote
Being a carer may be spiritually rewarding, but it can also be mentally and physically exhausting. Most carers are pushed into this new role without any prior notice. Life as a caregiver can be especially hard if you already have your plate full — taking care of someone else isn’t easy when you have bills to be paid, a full-time job or children to take care of. It is, thus, that while juggling with life’s many demands, carers completely forget about their own well being. Remember, no matter what, every person should be their biggest priority. Here are 7 ways to look after yourself as a family carer.
Never Let Guilt Creep In
Care-giving is a time and energy-consuming process, sometimes with no indication of any light at the end of a very long tunnel. As a carer, you may sometimes feel disappointed with your own efforts. Your mind may play games and lead you to believe that you are not giving your best. This is when guilt creeps in. When this happens, do not let your mind win. The fact is you are already doing what most people might have outrightly refused to do. Give yourself credit. If you find your mind conquering your positive thoughts, consult a counsellor.
Read more here.
My Spira – Asthma Self Care App
By Hayden Allen-Vercoe, Orbital Media
According to the National Review of Asthma Deaths in 2014, two-thirds of asthma deaths would be preventable by better management and 93% of asthma sufferers were using their inhalers incorrectly. This critical area of improving inhaler use is exactly where the new augmented reality application, MySpira, comes in.
Developed by Orbital Media, in collaboration with the University of Suffolk and supported by a team of healthcare experts – including Dr. Simon Rudland and asthma nurse Karyn McBride – MySpira is world first! It’s the first of its kind to utilise the new augmented reality function released by Google (AR Core) and Apple (AR Kit).
Utilising likeable characters and tactile interactions through any mobile device, the application engages children suffering with asthma. It’s an enjoyable and informative 20-minute experience, in which a child is taught about asthma keywords, triggers, different inhalers, inhaler preparation, and how to inhale medicine correctly. With this correct training, it’s estimated that the £1.1 billion spent annually by the NHS on asthma could be considerably reduced.
Orbital Media has also conducted a study using the app on 96 children aged 6-13. This survey showed that MySpira considerably improved information recall over traditional education methods, like leaflets or videos. In fact, the app demonstrated an overall score that was 26% better than videos, and a substantial 70% better than leaflets.
How to Self Care with Coeliac Disease
By Vicki Mongague, the Free From Fairy
Coeliac disease is an autoimmune condition that affects 1 in 100 people in the UK. My daughter was diagnosed with it just before her third birthday.
Symptoms are very varied ranging from diarrhoea, constipation and or wind to tiredness, mouth ulcers, depression and repeated miscarriages.
Diagnosis is made through a blood test and, if positive, subsequent biopsy. In practice my understanding is that this does not always happen. People are being diagnosed with coeliac disease from a positive blood test alone, by their GP.
In order to test for coeliac disease people should be eating food containing gluten at least twice a day for six weeks before the tests. This is up until the point that the biopsy has been taken, even if a positive blood test has been received.
The only way to manage the condition is to follow a very strict gluten free diet. Even trace amounts of gluten can make those with coeliac disease ill.
Once diagnosed, people are often told to avoid gluten but given very little additional support. This can make following the gluten free diet stressful and difficult.
Often people are diagnosed almost by accident.
They may have visited their GP with some symptoms, had blood taken and then received a positive result for coeliac disease. They may have none of the obvious gastrointestinal coeliac symptoms such as diarrhoea, constipation, bloating, nausea etc. Subsequently it can be very difficult to follow a gluten free diet because there are no obvious consequences to eating gluten.
However, it’s vitally important for anyone diagnosed with coeliac disease to follow a strict gluten free diet.
Read more here.
Men and Self Care
By Peter Baker, Director, Global Action on Men’s Health.
Men’s health has generally been overlooked in the self care field, especially from a global perspective. A new report from Global Action on Men’s Health, Who Self-Cares Wins: A global perspective on men and self-care, aims to fill that gap.
The report busts the myth that men are invariably self-destructive risk-takers – globally, most men do enough physical activity to benefit their health and do not smoke or drink alcohol – but sets out very clearly where there is room for improvement.
In 2016, average global life expectancy for men lagged behind women’s by four years and there was not a single country where men lived longer than women. Genetics account for 1-2 years of the ‘sex gap’ and the remaining deficit is in large part due to men’s health practices, including risk-taking behaviours and under-use of services.
Around half of the sex difference in all-cause mortality in Europe is due to smoking and around one fifth is due to alcohol consumption. Globally, about 45% of male deaths are due to health behaviours, according to Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation data.
An analysis of men’s health practices utilising the International Self-Care Foundation’s ‘Seven Pillars’ of self-care reveals the scale of the problem. Men generally have lower health literacy levels than women. Male mental health problems are under-diagnosed, because men are less likely to contact health services for help and often present their mental distress differently from women.
About a quarter of men globally are too sedentary with inactivity levels in men highest in the high-income countries. Men generally have less healthy diets than women with lower consumption of fruits, vegetables, nuts/seeds and whole grains. Adult men are more than five times more likely to smoke than adult women and well over a third of men drank alcohol compared to a quarter of women.
Read more here.
Improving Your Self Care Routine
By Emily Liptak, Mesothelioma and Asbestos Awareness Centre.
Before we can take on the job of taking care of others, it’s important we take care of ourselves everyday. Whether it be mentally or physically, knowing what’s going on around us and being in tune with our environment will help us better understand our own health and what to look out for. Below we can look at the many components to self care, and a few practices we can add to our daily routines.
Eating whatever you want won’t be enough to lead a happy and healthy life. Paying attention to the food you are putting into your body is important in making sure you are on a healthy path and giving your body what it needs to function properly. It affects our energy levels and performance. If you go longer than five hours without eating your body will slow down and not function at its potential. It will also impact your thought process and you may notice you aren’t thinking as clearly as usual. Because of low glucose levels your body will experience fatigue, low energy, and even headaches.
Health literacy – still the missing link to better wellness.
By Dr Selwyn Hodge, Self Care Forum Co-chair
Many of us sometimes use the expression ‘Look after yourself’ when taking our leave from someone; but to be really helpful, we should consider whether they actually have the capacity or willingness to do so.
As we progress from being babies, through school and teenage years, into adulthood, it is to be hoped that we all have the opportunities to gain the knowledge, skills and determination to look after ourselves effectively, since this is a key characteristic shared by most other living organisms. However, all the evidence suggests that too many people don’t and can’t.
While we all respond naturally to life’s fundamental needs of eating and drinking, and react to painful stimuli etc., we are not necessarily that good at protecting our own health and looking after our bodies’ wellbeing.
Given the relatively advanced state of medical science today, it is worrying therefore that self-care in the UK is often less well established now than it was several decades ago.
Why is this? Well, although this response won’t be very popular, primarily because of the provision of universal healthcare, free at the point of access, which has led the majority of us to assume that we don’t need to worry over much about protecting our health, since, if we have any problems with our bodies, we can go and see somebody for a solution.
This idealistic situation would perhaps be a reasonable state of affairs, if we restricted any visits to a GP or to A&E to just serious or life threatening conditions, but, in fact, the evidence strongly suggests that many of the visits that do take place are for largely trivial matters, which we could quickly address ourselves through simple treatments and a basic knowledge of first aid.
Compassion Fatigue – Why Carers Need To Care For Themselves As Well
by Helen Turner, a freelance writer and mother with a background in health, she finds it important to write about issues that could help facilitate change in people’s lives for the better.
Caring for others is a complex business. It can be tough physically, it’s often tough logistically, and it’s always tough emotionally. While it’s often rewarding, and brings with it a tenderness and an understanding of humanity on a level which others may never experience, it is also a complicated task, emotionally speaking. The mix of love, guilt, frustration, hope, anger, joy, and despair experienced by many carers can take a huge toll, leading to ‘burnout’ and a whole host of associated problems. When you’re caring for someone else, it is doubly important that you also practice self-care. Unfortunately, the nature of caring means that we often think that we have to be completely ‘selfless’ when caring for others, and we feel guilty about catering to our own needs. In fact, caring for yourself will help you to care for others more effectively and more compassionately, whereas being ‘selfless’ will lead to stress, anger, and burnout.