We recently received a call from a daughter in a panic and unsure how to help her father who is losing his vision remain safely in their home. She realized recently that her father's vision loss was accelerating and he could no longer see the instructions on his medication bottles. As we spoke, it became clear she was afraid of what was coming, and did not know how to prepare for the changes in her father's health.
Many seniors struggle with medication management. Some are unable to distinguish between the pills, while others simply can't remember to take their medications as directed. Medication programs like Simple Meds pre-dose and package medications into packets that are easy to open and take at scheduled times. For those who may need a reminder when it's time to take their medications, an automated pill dispenser may be the solution. Medications are preloaded into the dispenser and then medication is dispensed at specific times, alerting your loved one it's time to take their medication by sounding an alarm.
When a loved one is losing their vision, it is important to keep the environment around them safe. This begins with removing unnecessary clutter that can pose trip hazards and create confusion as your loved one adapts to their changing reality. If an item is not regularly used, it should be removed from the environment. Your loved one will have enough difficulty learning where the things they need most are located; they don't need to be worried about items not used in years. A word to the wise…do not assume you know what is or is not important to your loved one. This is not a project to do without their involvement. Your loved one is fighting for their independence as their abilities change. Avoid taking over and doing everything for them as it can have a negative impact of the physiological well-being.
When someone loses their sight, structure becomes necessary to their success within the home. Establishing where items will be kept and ensuring items are put back in the same place sets your loved one up for success and boosts confidence as they navigate their environment with minimal assistance. Rearranging furniture, even by a few inches can be a safety concern blocking walkways and can create unnecessary frustration for your loved one. A chair left pulled out from the table or an ottoman moved out from a chair can be dangerous to someone unable to see the change in their pathways they usually navigate. If items are placed in a known location, your loved one can better navigate their environment and maintain the independence they have always had. If your loved one still has low vision, colors can be a valuable tool for labeling regularly used items. Using bright primary colors can help your loved one distinguish between different products of similar packaging in the kitchen or bathroom like shampoo and conditioner.
Keep in mind…anticipating every possible scenario is simply not possible. There will be mistakes, frustrations and lessons learned, not only for your loved one, but for you as well. Your loved one will learn to rely more on their other senses and you will learn how your actions impact their success. You will work through this transition together and find the steps that work in your household if you practice patience. There are a number of great resources to help you navigate through this change, including Vision Rehabilitation Therapy. For more information on resources in your area, contact the American Foundation for the Blind or visit www.afb.org.
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