According to the NHS, a deafblind person won’t usually be totally deaf and totally blind, but both these senses are likely to be limited to the point it causes them difficulties with everyday life. If your loved one is living with sensory loss but continues to live in their own home, you may be concerned for their well-being. As the senses are diminished, the risk of falls and accidents in the kitchen can increase.
The effects of sensory loss
In older people sensory loss tends to manifest itself gradually, meaning that your loved one may not realise just how bad their hearing or vision has become. It may start with things like –
- needing to turn the television or radio up
- struggling to follow or hold a conversation
- asking people to speak up or repeat things
- losing things like glasses or keys around the home
- holding a things like letters or books close to their face to read them
- struggling to navigate unfamiliar places
- bumping into things
It can also force them to give up pastimes and hobbies that they have previously enjoyed, such as painting, crosswords, or sports like bowls or golf. They may become socially isolated as a result.
Hearing loss also has a profound effect on a person’s quality of living. Hearing loss can cause sensations of vertigo and affect a person’s balance, again putting them at greater risk of a falls in the home.
It can also mean that an elderly person will not hear early warning systems such as smoke detectors or carbon monoxide alarms, and they may also find themselves becoming withdrawn because they struggle to interact with other people.
What is deafblindness?
Deafblindness is the combination of sight and hearing loss, and it is thought to affect over 222,000 over-70s in the UK. That means that around one in twenty of us can expect to suffer from dual sensory loss by the time we reach 75, and the numbers are expected to rise considerably over the next few years.
Deafblindness can be a debilitating condition, not only because it can increase the risk of accidents and injuries, but because it can also leave sufferers struggling to communicate and feeling increasingly isolated and cut off from family, friends and wider society.
A diagnosis of deafblindness is particularly difficult for those in need of dementia care or care for another disability, as the condition can make day to day living a real struggle.
Deafblindness and dementia
Living with dementia may make it harder to identify sensory loss as it develops, and living with sensory loss may also make it harder to recognise the onset and progression of dementia. This is because a lot of the behaviours a person may exhibit as a result of both conditions are vey similar – for example, not joining in conversations, feeling confused about where they are, and being prone to angry or frustrated outbursts.
Sensory loss and disability
A loss of the senses can be particularly debilitating if your loved one is already suffering from a disability. If they’re confined to a wheelchair or have limited mobility, they may find it even harder to get around the home and carry out the day to day tasks we take for granted. Manoeuvring a wheelchair or negotiating a safe path with a mobility aid could be made all the more difficult if they cannot see obstacles very clearly, putting them at increased risk of a fall and leaving them feeling trapped in their own home.
Supporting someone with deafblindness
Of course, exactly how you support your loved one will depend on their level of sensory loss, whether they live alone, and their overall health. However, below are a few areas to think about –
- Helping them to look after the sight and hearing they still have – this means ensuring they have regular optician appointments, and that they’re looking after any glasses or hearing aids.
- Learning new ways to communicate – this could be something as simple as using visual prompts and aids or talking computers, or learning sign language or braille
- Identifying daily challenges – consider a full day in their shoes, from getting up in the morning to going to bed. Go around their home and think about what tasks you rely on your sight and hearing for, and what could help your loved one to do these things for themselves. For example, applying raised stickers to on/off buttons on simple appliances, improving lighting and contrasting colours around the home, and installing a vibrating door bell could all be beneficial.
- Supporting independence – this could mean helping them to adjust to life with a cane, a guide dog or a live-in companion.
The benefits of live-in care
People suffering from sensory loss are usually far more comfortable and happy in familiar surroundings, so the majority could benefit from home care which allows them to remain in their own home rather than face the upheaval of a move into a care or nursing home.
In their own home, they will know familiar routes around the house and where important things such as medication are stored, as well as enjoying the comfort of having all their own possessions around them.
An increasingly popular form of care, employing a companion care worker to live with your loved one can enable them to lead a more independent and active lifestyle despite sensory loss.
With live-in care, your loved one will be supported round the clock and they can help out as much or as little as required with household tasks such as cleaning and cooking, and personal care tasks including bathing, dressing and getting to the toilet.
With a care at home through Elder, you can be assured that your loved one is being watched over at all times and that help is on hand to prevent a fall or an accident as a result of their reduced vision or hearing.
For more information on the cost of care or the services Elder can provide, simply get in touch with us today to discuss future care options for your loved one.
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