For the want of a nail…

Barabel McKay

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A view by health and wellbeing campaigner Barabel McKay, chairwoman of the volunteer Mid Argyll-based Health and Care Group

Remember school and the lessons that shaped our lives?

An internationally respected nursery rhyme and proverb, dating back to the 14th century, doesn’t seem to be popular today. And we lose by its omission.

‘For the want of a nail…the kingdom was lost’ describes a sequence of events, starting very small, which end up in catastrophe.

During the second world war the poem hung in the troop supply department in London, so there was a reminder of the message every day. It was seen as that important.

In health little things matter. If you neglect the muscle strain, the pain that becomes persistent, the tooth giving bother, the change in body function, the end result may be irreversible.

That doesn’t mean a rush to the surgery with every little symptom, but it does mean paying attention and sorting small problems – physical and emotional – before they become too big to manage, before they sabotage everyday activities.

In a recent Science Matters column in this paper Dorothy Crawford pointed out a connection between hearing loss and dementia.

The same is true of eyesight problems and diminished social contact because these things tend to cut you off from the world.

If there always seems to be something else more demanding of attention, remember that procrastination is the thief of time.

Putting off may risk what could be active, enjoyable life years.

If we don’t pay attention to ourselves, who will? As you get older it becomes increasingly difficult because there are barriers in the way of action.

The ‘what do you expect’ mindset, the difference in provision between NHS, charities, private care, the costs involved, the sheer energy required to produce change.

The message of the last year has been that what we do matters, to ourselves and others.

You have to believe you are important enough to care.

The health and care group aims to represent the views of service users and their families. Email Barabel McKay – – for more information.