With people in the United States living longer, eye diseases and vision loss have become major public health concerns. By 2030, when the last baby boomers turn 65, this number is projected to reach 7.2 million, with 5 million having low vision.
If you are a caregiver for an elderly person with low vision, there are some things you can do to both ease your burden and help them deal with a very serious and life changing affliction.
Proper Lighting is a crucial element in helping someone with Low vision. Lights should be placed directly overhead to maximize the useful illuminated zone. This also helps prevent it from shining directly in their eyes which forces the eye to constantly readjust. Its also a good idea to equalize the light in a room so it is even and has as little contrast as possible between light and dark spaces. Reducing glare and reflection by covering shiny objects and closing blinds on windows will also help your patient as they go about their daily lives.
Magnification tools are an essential part of someone with low vision’s life. Whether it be a small pocket magnifier or Electronic magnification units. If your out with you’r client try to remain patient and let them use the tools they have to read restaurant checks, receipts or price tags instead of doing it for them. This will help promote independence and maintain dignity and a sense of being able to cope with their ailment. There are also a number of electronic devices that use cameras or telescopic devices for use at home for reading books and seeing long distance such as seeing a T.V. An old tried and true solution is to provide books and reading material with oversized print.
One of the most helpful things you can do is to provide tactile and visual aids around the house to help them distinguish similar things. This could be by placing different numbers of rubber bands around similar containers in the fridge, putting felt patches on different remotes, or using bright colored labels if they have some vison left.
Finally, the most important thing you can do as a caregiver is to make sure you don’t leave things out of place. People with low vision often rely on things being in a specific place or even more important, things not being there, such as trip hazards like chairs and open cabinet doors. As a caregiver you can make a big difference in someone’s life who is struggling with low vision.
Slipping and falling is one of the leading causes of injuries for seniors. Icy and cold conditions make winter the highest risk time for these types of accidents.
As a Caregiver taking an elderly person out during the winter months, fall prevention should be your main focus. 70% of serious injuries that require a trip to the emergency room happen within 30 yards of your home or property.
Fortunately, there are some steps that can be taken to prevent these types of injuries.
- Simply stay focused. This means staying focused on the task at hand and that is keeping your client or loved one safe. It sounds simple but staying in the moment and not being distracted is the best way to prevent falls. Dropping your guard or letting yourself be distracted puts the person you’re helping at risk.
- Be aware. Another one that sounds simple but is very important. This means awareness of your surroundings, such as the route you must take to get to the car or the building entrance. It’s easy to get into trouble if you don’t look ahead and get around a corner and find an obstacle such as stairs, rough terrain, or a crowded space. This is a good strategy for everyday use but especially during winter when snow banks, ice patches, and puddles can become serious obstacles for you and an elderly person. If you’re at a home, make sure that you or someone responsible has taken the proper steps to reduce risk such as shoveling clear paths and adequate salting.
- Go slow. This goes without saying when working with the elderly but during slippery conditions it is even more important. Give yourself extra time to get where you’re going and don’t be afraid to be late during icy conditions. Being late for an appointment or missing the start of something is always better than a trip to the emergency room.
- Finally, don’t be afraid to say No. Sometimes during wintery conditions, it is just too risky to go certain places. As a caregiver you are responsible for their safety, don’t let yourself be pressured into doing something or going somewhere if you’re not comfortable that you can keep them safe and prevent a fall.
Not all falls can be prevented but you can take steps to reduce the risk especially during the cold icy winter months. Nothing feels worse than failing to keep someone safe who trusted you to do so.
Being a caregiver for an elderly person can be challenging yet rewarding. From upkeep of the house, laundry, keeping track of doctor appointments and cooking meals, there’s a lot of responsibility that rests on your shoulders. As such, you may not always have enough hours in the day to accomplish all the things you want, or need to.
Nutrition is a crucial element of your loved one’s health, however. You need to make sure they’re eating enough and getting nutritional meals. But this doesn’t have to be a time consuming task. With the right information and a little bit of planning, you can make meal time less hectic and stressful.
Below are some links for easy to prepare, nutritional and tasty meals for your elderly loved ones.
Making large portions then dividing and freezing for later dates can help reduce your work load and the stress of having to cook every night. This will prevent you from falling back on easy to prepare pre-packaged meals that are less healthy than a home cooked meal geared towards the elderly and their dietary needs.
If you are a caregiver for an elderly person, helping to maintain their dental health can be a difficult task to broach and execute.
Whether you are a family caregiver or a professional caregiver, you may encounter a bit of resistance initially. However, ensuring oral health is an essential part of caring for an elder’s overall health
Here are a few practical guidelines to help ensure the oral care and support you provide is both effective and kind.
- Look out for any existing oral conditions
Mouth or tooth pain can leave anyone feeling poorly. As you provide support with tooth brushing and dental hygiene, keep an eye on any changes in gum and tooth health.
- How to help with teeth brushing
It is important to make the experience as pleasant and comfortable as possible. Brushing teeth can easily be done simply sitting up in bed and rinsing into a cup.
- Cleanliness after meals and throughout the day
Having frequent sips of water during the day is a great way of keeping the mouth feeling fresh and moist. After meals ensure all food is wiped away and ask your loved one to rinse into a cup to remove any remaining food from their mouth.
- Don’t forget about the dentist
Most dentist recommend that seniors pay their dentist a visit every six months for a checkup and thorough clean
- A few notes on diet
Often foods that are easy to prepare, eat and chew are also high in sugars and refined carbohydrates. There are plenty of great tasting healthy options that are easy for caregivers to prepare.
Be sure to check out our next weeks blog article on easy and nutritious meals for caregivers to prepare
Today’s technology enables us to stay connected with people in ways never before possible. Family members can talk, see and interact with each other across the country with only a few taps on a phone screen. Yet research shows that people are lonelier today than ever before, and the elderly are the most likely group to have feelings of loneliness and isolation.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau 11 million, or 28% of people aged 65 and older, lived alone in 2010. People are also having less children nowadays, says the AARP, and that means there will be fewer family members to act as caregivers.
Seniors that are lonely and isolated are more likely to decline and die faster. A UCSF study found that people 60-years-old and older who reported feeling lonely saw a 45 percent increase in their risk for death. Isolated elders also had a 59 percent greater risk of mental and physical decline than their more social counterparts.
Dr. John Cacioppo is a psychologist at the University of Chicago. He has 30 years of experience studying social isolation. One of his most significant findings is that feelings of loneliness are linked to poor cognitive performance and quicker cognitive decline. He believes we evolved to be a social species and when we don’t meet that need it can have physical and neurological effects.
Quite frankly seniors feel isolated and lonely because they are in fact alone. We have an accepted culture in western society of moving our elderly family members into nursing homes and assisted livings when they become a burden to us. This change of environment can be unsettling and is very different than what they’ve been used to. Studies indicated that being surrounded by other elderly people doesn’t always fulfill the need for engaging communication with people that can combat the feeling of isolation.
What can be done to prevent loneliness in seniors?
As a caregiver, you can provide this much-needed interaction by engaging in meaningful conversation, paying attention to their wishes and getting out and sharing experiences together. Studies indicate it’s not just the amount of time spent with someone, it’s the quality and depth of that time that truly matters.
In today’s fast paced world many people are juggling the responsibilities of a full-time job and being a caregiver to someone they love. You can become torn between your commitment to work and your commitment to caring for an elderly person. In many cases one or both areas will start to suffer and that can lead to unsafe situations, lack of job performance or emotional stress. It may seem like you’re alone in your struggle but in fact many family caregivers admit they’d like more help.
One of the ways you can help relieve your caregiver burnout level is to form a relationship with a Home Care Agency. Even if you do not require home care services on a daily basis this shouldn’t stop you from calling and establishing a relationship with an agency. When the time comes that you absolutely need help, having a good agency to use can be a huge stress relief. Whether it’s a work meeting you just can’t miss or an emergency with a child at school, a good agency can usually help even with short notice. If you’ve already established a relationship with them, they should have an idea of who and what kind of care your loved one requires.
Don’t let Caregiver burnout get the best of you, everyone needs help sometimes. Contact a local Home Care Agency and let them be part of the team you’ve created to provide great care for someone you love without sacrificing your sanity and happiness.
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