Advice on caring for the elderly in Devon

Caron Sprake

Caron Sprake - Credit: Archant

This month Laura Dale interviews home help for the elderly and care blogger Caron Sprake, who is also our new resident care columnist

A senior citizen driving a car

A senior citizen driving a car - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Award winning blogger Caron Sprake has become an agony aunt and a valuable source of advice and help for carers across the country.

The Exmouth mother of two has been caring for disabled people, family members and clients since she was a teenager; from helping to look after disabled children as a schoolgirl to upping sticks to the Scottish Highlands to care for her elderly grandparents when she was just 17. Caron, who comes from a family of nurses, recalls: “It was when I was at school that I realised I had a real passion for caring for people, then I looked after my grandparents for about six months and they needed quite a lot of personal care, which was quite full on at such a young age; but I didn’t question it at the time and I just thought, ‘I’m available to do it’.”

During her career, Caron has looked after a disabled policeman who was gunned down and left paralysed by a Hell’s Angel in the 1980s, worked in a residential care home for disabled adults, cared for her disabled mother-in-law and been a self-employed home help for the elderly for more than 20 years.Caron is also a Purple Angel Ambassador to raise awareness about Dementia including the introduction of Dementia assistance cards which alert members of the public to the fact someone has Dementia and contain the name and number of someone to call if they need help.

Caron explains: “There are 13,000 people with Dementia in Devon and we have an ageing demographic. The Dementia cards are really helping people – people who get lost or confused are being returned home by the police.”

A former self confessed ‘technophobe’, Caron started up her blog ‘Caron Cares’ in 2012 after recognising there was a need to provide a one-stop-shop for carers to get advice, information and support. Since then she has been a finalist in the Older People in the Media awards in 2014, named blogger of the year by Bloggers Lounge, and been crowned the winner of the individual, health and social care category in the UK Blog Awards 2016. Caron writes about “anything that can help people” from posts about flu jabs, shopping and Dementia, protected meal times, incontinence pads which detect urinary infections, and improving circulation.

“I have actually been a carer and I understand the strain this can put on the carer themselves and their families. Our family life was restricted by the care needs of my mother-in-law,” Caron says, before adding: “Looking back I’m glad I did it because I gave her the best end of life possible.”

Most Read

Caron continues: “The problem is carers are exhausted and they often become patients themselves. Unpaid carers have a lack of freedom, they are tired, and they feel isolated and undervalued by society. Many people have to give up their jobs to become carers and they get just £62 per week.

“I would really like to be able to get their voice heard. I want information to be more accessible to people, I want care issues to be commonly talked about.”

Caron is our new care columnist. To contact her or for advice and information for anyone caring for the elderly visit Cares Column:

An elderly woman falling in the bathroom because of slippery surfaces

An elderly woman falling in the bathroom because of slippery surfaces - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto


I am very happy and excited to be writing for such a prestigious publication as Devon Life. I intend to provide plenty of useful ideas and information to help you if you are caring for someone elderly or someone with dementia.There is so much information and advice available on the web but not everyone uses the Internet so I will be sharing my research of useful products, services, age related benefits. There may also be the occasional “soap box” moment where I have a personal rant about a care issue I feel passionately about!If you can’t wait until the next issue of Devon Life to discover more you can visit my blog Caron Cares. ( Here you can browse over 700 hundred articles and if you can’t find what you are looking for, please let me know and I will research it for you.

As Caron Cares, I don’t simply write about issues surrounding the elderly, I do genuinely care. If you have any questions or problems please do not hesitate to contact me as I also have some very useful and helpful contacts. Together we will do what we can to help you.I would like to be as accessible and interactive as possible, a cross between Age UK and WHICH with a person who really does cares. You can email me at caroncares01@gmail, send me a message using my contact form on Caron Cares or phone or text me on 0747 204 1991

No Shame to Claim. Age related Benefits

Amazingly, £3.5 billion worth of Pension Credit and Housing Benefit goes unclaimed annually. Four million older people are entitled to claim Pension Credit yet only one in three do. Many older people feel ashamed to claim even if entitled to because of the stigma “benefit scroungers”. Pension Credit is an income-related benefit consisting of two components. Someone over the age of 63 may be entitled to one or both.•Guarantee Credit, tops up a weekly income to a guaranteed minimum level. This is currently £155.60 for a single person and £237.55 for a couple. •Savings Credit is available to those reaching State Pension age before April 6th this year. It is for people with a modest income or savings. You may receive up to £13.07 for a single person or £14.75 as a couple.

There is no savings limit for Guarantee Credit but savings of more that £10,000 this may affect the amount payable.The easiest way to apply is by calling Gov.Uk on 0800 99 1234. Calls from landlines cost up to 12p per min and mobiles up to 45p.

Preventing Falls.

“Pride comes before a fall”. More often than not far more than just pride is lost following a fall for someone elderly.

•A fall resulting in a broken hip for someone over 80 may result in death caused by postoperative complications. Less drastic is the loneliness and isolation caused by a lack of confidence. Half of all older people suffering a hip fracture are no longer able to live independently.

•According to Age UK, one in three people aged 65 or over fall each year, that’s 3.4 million at huge cost to taxpayers for NHS and social care services.

•Many falls are preventable so why do older people fall and what can we do to reduce or prevent the likelihood of this happening?

•Muscle strength and balance play a huge part in fall prevention with an estimated one million fewer falls had this been maintained. Did you know we lose an estimated 30 per cent of our muscle strength between the ages of 50-70?

•Encourage a minimum of 150 minutes vigorous exercise per week; gardening, brisk walking and Tai Chi are all good for strength, balance and agility. Dancing has been proven to be the best all round form of exercise so cancel the gym and get your dancing shoes on.

•Visual impairments cause falls, regular eyesight tests, appropriate glasses and treatments help.

•Deafness and ear infections can really affect someone’s balance too.

•Poor lighting - eyes of people aged over 60 need three times more light than those of a 20 year old.

•Medication, many prescription drugs increase the risk of a fall including those in the diazepam family, antipsychotics, antidepressants, drugs to treat Parkinson’s disease and some used to treat cardiovascular disease.

•Poorly fitting footwear, loose slippers and untied laces or a shuffling walk. Encourage an elderly person to lift their feet higher off the ground.

•Syncope - temporary loss of consciousness due to a fall in blood pressure.

•Cognitive decline such as people with Dementia and Parkinson’s disease significantly reduce the risk of a fall.

•Generalised frailty, a recognised condition of being elderly.

•Loose floor coverings. Ensure all rugs are safe and carpets are smooth.

•Loose wires and cables, make sure they are hidden safely.

•Handbags. Keep them off the floor.

•Dehydration causes falls - help maintain good fluid intake.

•Encourage the use of a walker with a tray. It makes carrying drinks and meals easier reducing the risk of a fall.

•Most GP practices have a “Falls Team”. You can refer someone yourself or ask them to do so. They will try to establish the cause of the falls and work to reduce the risk of having more.

•Strengthen bones. Calcium, magnesium and Vitamin D. A diet full of milk, cheese, yoghurt, leafy veg, pulses, beans, dried fruit and oily fish is recommended.

Older Drivers’ Awareness Week:

Older Drivers’ Awareness Week 2016 runs from 26-30 September and provides an opportunity to encourage older motorists to think about ways that they can continue to drive safely and for longer. Advice from Age UK Exeter includes slightly reducing the speed of driving, being up-to-date with the Highway Code and keeping fit and healthy which can help with the range of movement and strength required for driving.To mark Older Drivers’ Awareness Week 2016, Age UK Exeter has arranged a free session for anyone who is over 50 and interested in driving. It will be held on Friday 30 September from 10am-12pm at Age UK Exeter Sycamores Centre, Mount Pleasant.

Hairdressing to T’ai Chi:

A variety of activities are available at Age UK Exeter, from hairdressing and T’ai Chi to swimming and massage. There are a range of exercise classes including walking, basketball, tea dancing and keep fit lessons. Several pop-in social groups are located across Exeter at Heavitree, Beacon Heath and St. David’s.One-to-one computer sessions are available to support individuals who would like to develop their knowledge and understanding of technology. There is also an art group and bridge group meet at Age UK Exeter’s headquarters on Cowick Street. All of the activities provide an opportunity to socialise, develop a skill or try something new.

For a comprehensive list of all the activities and services that are available, visit or contact Claire Morse on 01392 202092.