Dementia and the World of the Arts

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I recently read a very moving and interesting article in The Observer of 16/7/2017 by Nicci Gerrard called “Say it with a picture or a song”. It resonated with me for certain  reasons, primarily because of the work we do here with adults with incapacity and our involvement with Project Ability Glasgow, an art project creating opportunities for people with disabilities and mental health issues.

As Nicci Gerrard explains “A few weeks ago turning on the radio, I hear a voice saying that creative writing can help wounds heal faster. Startled I turn the volume up. Volunteers were given small wounds; half were then asked to write about something distressing in their life, the other half about something mundane. The wounds of the confessional writers healed substantially more quickly. A thought or a feeling is felt on the skin. Our minds, which have the power over our bodies, are in our bodies and are our bodies: we cannot separate the two. Words, self expression, can tangibly help pain and suffering. Art can be medicine for body and soul”- potent words indeed.

An all party parliamentary group inquiry into the arts, health and well being has been gathering evidence over the last two years and has come to the unambiguous conclusion that the arts used appropriately by health professionals can help with some major social challenges of an aging population, long-term illness, loneliness and mental health ,saving money in the health service. As Lord Howarth of Newport co-chair of the all party group said “The arts have a vital role to play for people with dementia. Research demonstrates that visual arts, music, dance, digital creativity and other cultural activities can help to delay the onset of dementia and diminish its severity. This not only makes a huge difference to many individuals but also leads to cost savings. If the onset of Alzheimer’s disease ( which accounts for 62% of dementias) could be delayed by five years, savings between 2020 and 2035 are estimated at £100bn. Those are powerful statistics, but this isn’t just about money; the arts can play a powerful role in improving the quality of life for people with dementia and for their carers”.

There are projects the length and breadth of the country in theatres, galleries, community centres hospitals and care homes. As Nicci Gerrard describes” I attended one of the monthly sessions at the Royal Academy in London where people who have been art- lovers through their life- and are art-lovers still come to talk about a particular work, led by two practicing artists. We sat in front of an enigmatic painting by John Singer Sargent and there was an air of calmness, patience and above all time and there were no wrong opinions. There are many ways of seeing. People with dementia are continually contradicted and corrected, their versions of reality denied: it’s Sunday not Friday; you’ve already eaten your breakfast; I’m your wife not your mother; anyway you are old and she is dead….In this humanising democratic space, people were encouraged to see, feel, remember and express themselves. Slowly at first they began to talk. There was a sense of language returning and of thoughts feeding off each other. They were listened to with respect and were validated.”

Nicci Gerrard also mentions in her article the film “Alive Inside”. It is a documentary which follows social worker Dan Cohen founder of the non-profit making organisation Music & Memory as he fights against a broken health care system to demonstrate music’s ability to combat memory loss and restore a deep sense of self to those suffering from it. Nicci Gerrard points to an emotive example “an old man with advanced dementia sits slumped in a wheelchair. He drools; his eyes are half closed and it’s impossible to know if he is asleep or awake. A few times a day, soft food is pushed into his mouth. Then someone puts earphones on his head and suddenly the music that he loved when he was a strong young man is pouring into him. His eyes open and knowledge comes into them. His toothless mouth splits into a beatific grin. And now he is dancing in his chair, swaying. And then this man –who doesn’t speak any longer –is actually singing. The music has reached him, found him, gladdened him and brought him back to life.”  The arts creating a miracle of which there should be more as we realise the wonderful benefits of the artistic world.

To find out more about Project Ability, please visit http://www.project-ability.co.uk/

The First Digital Memorial Garden in Scotland

The first digital-led memorial garden is to open in Saline in Fife after Landsales Direct, a Scottish company won planning permission. The garden will feature small plots of ground in which purchasers can place mementoes of loved ones. However the plots will not be marked out with any visible signs and can only be located using digital technology on smart phones. John MacCallum of JM Planning Services, who is the planning agent representing Landsales Direct said “ The means of people locating the time capsule for their loved one will be through digital technology so they will be able to access it using a QR code.”

The idea of a historic cache of goods or information placed with the intention that they will be accessed at a future date by using a QR code seems somewhat at variance. It is widely debated when time capsules were first used but current evidence suggests they were used as early as 1876 but may be prior to that. In 2014 a Revolutionary-era time capsule was found at the Massachusetts State House dating back to 1795. And now in the digitally- led new memorial garden  items will be interred  along with a buried microchip and a “life story” website  about the deceased person can be triggered  on their phone using a QR code.

So what is a QR code? It is a Quick Response Code which is a type of two-dimensional barcode that can be read using smart phones and dedicated QR reading devices. Whilst a standard barcode stores up to 30 numbers a QR barcode can store up to a massive 7,089!

It is not clear how the memorial garden space will be allocated nor how the owners of the garden will package the various elements such as QR codes but what it does do is pose questions about ownership of digital assets after death. As most of us use some aspect of online shopping, banking or social media it can cause difficulties for executors to deal with your online assets after your death if you do not leave up- to – date information. This has to be balanced of course with the need to maintain security over passwords.

This first digital-led memorial garden I am sure will not be the last and there is little doubt that people should now be thinking about how their digital assets are dealt with when they are gone. If I can help in any way or you would wish to have more information please contact me Marcus Downie by email on marcus@mitchells-roberton.co.uk  or by phoning 0141 552 3422.

The Bank of Mum and Dad

The Bank of Mum and Dad apparently is now Britain’s ninth biggest “mortgage lender” putting it on a par with the Yorkshire Building Society. Parents are predicted to lend more than £6.5bn this year to help their children get on the property ladder.  This is a 30% increase on the £5bn loaned in 2016 according to recent research from Legal & General and economics consultancy Cebr.  This means that parents will be involved in more than 25% of UK property transactions as first time buyers continue to struggle to afford homes.

According to the report, the so called Bank of Mum and Dad will help fund property purchases worth about £75bn in 2017 including deposits for more than 298,000 mortgages. Parental assistance is expected to have risen from an average of £17,000 in 2016 to £21,600 this year. For those under the age of 35 the proportion seeking help from parents, friends and family for property purchases stands at 62%.

Nigel Wilson, the chief executive of L & G said “This is the second year of our bank of mum and dad research programme and the statistics show the problem is getting worse, not better.”

“The intergenerational inequality that creates the demand for (parental) funding continues to widen- younger children today don’t have the same opportunities that the baby boomers had, including affordable housing, defined benefit pensions and free university education.”

“Parents want to see their kids get on in life and the bank of mum and dad is a testament to their generosity, but it is also a symptom of our broken housing market.”

The surge in parental lending comes in spite of record low rates on mortgages, fuelled by intense competition between lenders for new business. But while mortgage repayments have never been more affordable, high prices in parts of the country mean first time buyers need large deposits to qualify for loans.

Government Urged To Remove VAT On Charitable Wills

Charity Consortium, Remember a Charity, has urged the UK Government to exempt VAT from the cost of writing a Will containing a charitable bequest.

The consortium predicts a VAT exemption on charitable wills would double the number of people leaving a gift to charity, generating a further £800m for the voluntary sector.

Rob Cope, Remember a Charity director, said “While this change would come at a relatively low cost to government, this could make a huge difference to charities, giving solicitors and will- writers cause to highlight the option and benefits of legacy giving with all clients.”

“We need to ensure that legacy giving is not just something reserved for the wealthiest in society; that it is something we are all given the opportunity to do.”

Legacy giving is a vital source of funds for charities and accounts for £2.5 billion of charitable income each year. Backing the recommendation is The Charity Finance Group, its head of policy and engagement, Andrew O’Brien said: “Legacies are a growing and important way that the public supports good causes. It is critical that we make giving as easy and effective as possible.”

Also supporting the move is the Institute of Fundraising, with its head of public affairs Mike Smith adding “This small change in the cost of writing a will could make a massive difference in the number of people who decide to leave a gift to charity.”

“The Government has been really supportive of efforts to increase legacy giving, and we are encouraging them to back this small reduction in tax to help raise millions for good causes.”

For expert advice on writing or updating a will then please contact Heather Warnock on hw@mitchells-roberton.co.uk or by phoning 0141 552 3422.

Gender Pay Gap

When you “make a bold statement”, you express an opinion in a brave way or it might be “bold” because the opinion is uncommon or controversial.

In the wake of International Women’s Day I am going to be bold.

  • There exists a gender pay gap (GPG) which the World Economic Forum predicts will not be closed until 2186. The gap currently stands at 18.1% being the difference between the average pay of men and of women. Although 2017 heralds the arrival of the GPG Reporting Regulations which require employers with 250 or more employees to publish information relating to the average pay of women and men thereby disclosing their GPG ,no sanctions for non-compliance have been imposed nor is there any requirement on employers to take positive steps to close the gap.
  • Last year the House of Commons Women and Equalities Committee requested urgent action to give pregnant women and new mothers more protection. The Committee reported that over the past decade the number of expectant and new mothers forced to leave their job has doubled to 54,000 a year. The representatives called for a law similar to the one in Germany which prevents pregnant employees being made redundant except in extremely rare cases. They also called for the three month employment tribunal time limit for pregnancy and maternity claims to be doubled to six months.
  • Recent research from the TUC found that more than half of women say they have experienced sexual harassment at work, including unwelcome jokes and comments of a sexual nature about their body or clothes. The accusations of mistreating women made against Donald Trump sparked outrage and served as a timely reminder that harassment and sexism in the work place should not be tolerated.

International  Women’s Day made an appeal for women to be bold- bold for change and bold enough to speak up.

New Residence Nil Rate Band

From April 2017 a new IHT- free allowance has being  introduced. It is to be known as the residence  nil rate band (RNRB) and will apply if you leave your residence to your  “direct descendants”.

The objective of the policy according to the Government is to “reduce the burden of IHT for most families by making it easier to pass on the family home to direct descendants without a tax charge.”

For some years now the nil rate band has been fixed at £325,000 and it looks like it will remain set at this amount for the next few years. At the moment IHT is charged at 40% on the value of a deceased person’s estate which exceeds the nil rate band. Where spouses or civil partners leave their estates to each other the nil rate band can be transferred giving a maximum of £650,000 IHT free.The RNRB when introduced can also be transferred between spouses and civil partners.

If you would like more information or to find out whether you should consider revising your Will to benefit from this new allowance, please contact me Heather Warnock  at heather@mitchells-roberton.co.uk or by telephoning 0141 552 3422.

A new Bill to tackle psychological domestic abuse has been published

The Domestic Abuse (Scotland) Bill aims to strengthen the law against people who psychologically abuse their partners using coercive and controlling behaviour.

For the first time, the Bill will create a statutory offence of domestic abuse by recognising the damage which non- physical abuse can cause. Such behaviour could include subordination, humiliation, isolating a partner from friends, relatives and sources of support and controlling or monitoring their day to day activity.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon met survivors of abuse at the Glasgow Young Women’s Movement (YWCA) as the Bill was introduced to Parliament.

Ms Sturgeon said: “ I am proud that as a society, we’ve come a long way from believing that domestic abuse is only a physical act. The truth is that the psychological scars left by emotional abuse can have devastating effects on victims and this government will work hard to make sure perpetrators face the justice they deserve.”

“This Bill will help our police and prosecutors hold abusers to account- but importantly, it also shows those who have suffered abuse that we stand with them and will take the steps needed to help them.”

Kara Brown, Director of YWCA Scotland added “The Young Women’s Movement is proud to be part of a country breaking ground through new progressive legislation.”

“We welcome this legislation as a critical tool to reduce stigma, raise understanding and encourage survivors of mental, financial and physical abuse to come forward.”