The main headline for our news round-up this week concerns tap water, with claims that drinking it could help reduce your risk of developing dementia.
Elsewhere, there’s concerning news coming from the care sector. A new report has revealed that the elderly and disabled are being forced to eat their evening meals as early as 3:30pm, so that overstretched care workers can fit in their home visits.
Finally, we have news of a brand-new transgender healthcare clinic opening in Cardiff – the first of its kind to open in Wales.
Tap water could reduce dementia risk
Researchers in Denmark have said that people with higher levels of lithium in their drinking water appear to have a lower risk of developing dementia. Lithium is naturally found in tap water, which some people may have been avoiding until this point.
The study carried out by researchers included 800,000 people and was carried out at the University of Copenhagen. The team looked at medical records of 73,731 Danish people with dementia and 733,653 without the condition. Tap water was then tested in 151 areas of the country.
The results however, are not clear-cut. Those drinking tap water which had the highest lithium levels, above 15 micrograms per litre, had a 17% reduction in the risk of dementia. However, moderate lithium levels, between 5.1 and 10 micrograms per litre, increased the risk of dementia by 22% – compared with low levels (below five micrograms per litre).
Speaking to the BBC, Prof Simon Lovestone, from the department of psychiatry at the University of Oxford, seemed to be intrigued by these findings:
“This is a really intriguing study. In neurons in a dish and in mouse and fruit-fly models of Alzheimer’s disease, lithium has been shown to be protective. Not only that, but lithium is used to treat people with bipolar disorder and some studies have suggested that people on lithium for this reason, often for life, might also be protected from Alzheimer’s.”
Prof. Lovestone also suggested that more studies should now be carried out to see if regular, small doses of lithium could prevent the onset of dementia.
Evening meal being served too early
A new report into social care has found that the elderly and disabled are being forced to eat their evening meals as early as 3:30pm, due to overstretched staff. It is said that this happening so that care workers can “cram in home visits.”
According to The Daily Mail’s article, the report by Healthwatch England also found that patients are often left stranded without food or medication, including insulin for diabetes, for hours due to staff delays or cancelled appointments.
During the report, Healthwatch England interviewed 3415 home care users, their families and care workers from 52 different areas. Here’re some of the findings from the report:
- One in seven care users in the Newcastle area said they missed medications due to care workers failing to turn up.
- Diabetic patients in London and Hampshire said they were at risk due to carers not turning up to help with their insulin injections.
- There is a lack of consistency in care, with a high turnover of staff. Some patients claimed to have seen 20 care workers a week.
There were also concerns that care workers had received a lack of training, which could put patients at risk.
Transgender healthcare clinic to open in Wales
A new gender identity clinic is to be built in Cardiff, the first transgender healthcare clinic to open in Wales. The new clinic will be supported by a network of GPs, who all have a specialist interest in gender care.
The Welsh Government hopes the new service will mean less travelling, improved waiting times and better user experience. The new clinic has been praised by equality charity Stonewall Cymru, who say that this is a huge step forward.
Policy and campaigns officer for the charity, Crash Wigley, told the BBC:
“Before this there was no provision of gender identity services in Wales, so in order to access the care that people needed they had to go through a complicated referral procedure. You are talking about having to wait over a year in order to get your referral made. One of the things we know is that when people are denied access to care for such long periods of time, as they have in Wales, that takes a significant toll on people’s mental health and well-being.”
An interim service is due to be launched in the autumn and the Welsh Gender Team will accept new referrals from the end of March 2018.