It’s a sad fact of life that as we age our sight and our hearing deteriorates.

A major impairment to either of these senses can pose problems, however when they happen simultaneously – as is the case with one in ten older people – your loved ones can often feel totally isolated from their family, friends and the community.

Experiencing problems with their sight and their hearing can do more than hinder communication, reduce their quality of life, and make everyday tasks difficult, it can also be a safety issue.

Obviously the first thing to do is for your parent or grandparent to visit a specialist if they haven’t already done so, to see if there is a medical procedure or device that may restore or improve their vision or hearing capacity.

Failing that, it’s a case of making the most of the situation.

Over the years Home Instead’s CAREGivers have met many seniors whose eyesight and hearing isn’t what it used to be.

Based on our experience in providing senior home care services, we have worked out the best ways to ensure they overcome these setbacks and retain their dignity and independence…and there is a lot you can do to reduce the impact of their impairments on their everyday life.

To assist those with vision loss:

  • Ensure their living areas are very well lit, without glare.
  • Use lots of contrasting colours to make sure things such as door trims, steps, light switches, etc. stand out.
  • Keep their spectacles and magnifying glasses scrupulously clean.
  • Refrain from moving furniture or furnishings as it can lead to disorientation and falls.
  • Remove/reduce potential hazards such as rugs, ottomans and coffee tables.
  • Install phones with oversized numbers.
  • Look for books with large, sans-serif type (or audio books if suitable).
  • Offer your arm to support and guide those with poor vision when walking.
  • Give clear concise directions when in unfamiliar surroundings, using a clock face as reference. E.g. “Toilet is straight up the hallway at 3 o’clock.”

To help those who are hard of hearing:

  • Speak slowly and succinctly, enunciating each word clearly.
  • Always face the person you are speaking to, the closer the better.
  • Speak in low tones (the higher ranges are harder to hear).
  • Avoid SHOUTING (it can be hard not to, but it really doesn’t help).
  • Point or gesticulate if that helps you make yourself clear.
  • Turn down/off background noise or move away from competing sounds.
  • Allow time for what you say to “sink in” – the person may be wondering if they heard you right.
  • If they wear a hearing aid, always make sure it’s on and working properly and check the batteries regularly.
  • Speak up, but never talk down…just because your loved one is going deaf it doesn’t mean they are losing all their faculties.
  • Similarly, always speak directly to the person, not to someone else who may be present eg. “Does he want tea or coffee?” If they do hear you, they will feel inadequate.

For more ways to help seniors cope with vision and hearing impairment, simply contact your local Home Instead.