Blog

Adaptive Equipment

Adaptive equipment are devices used to assist with completing activities of daily living. Bathing, dressing, grooming, toileting, and feeding are self-care activities that are including in the spectrum of Activities of Daily Living (ADLs). These devices can range from the most James Bond like electronic devices to something as simple as a piece of rope to pull a hatchback shut or an old tennis ball with a hole in it to hold a pen to aid in writing. Devices can be created or purchased but creativity can provide simple solutions and one need not look to the most modern gadget to achieve the end result.

This is just an overview, skimming the surface of what is available, do not be limited to the areas discussed here in finding inventive ways to complete a task.
People have different abilities and unique needs. Individuals who have physical disabilities in addition to sensory impairments often benefit from a variety of adaptations to routines, materials, and the environment. The following are examples of adaptive equipment and strategies that can be considered in order to help people with physical limitations be more independent with their daily living skills.

Eating Skills
Before considering the use of adaptive equipment to promote a persons ability to eat independently, take a look at basic positioning. The Consumer needs to be as close to the table as possible. This will minimize the amount of food that falls into the lap and can discourage slouching, which can interfere with swallowing.

Therapists commonly recommend that positioning follow the rule of 90 degrees. This incorporates a 90-degree bend at the hip, a 90-degree bend at the knees, and 90 degrees of flexion at the ankle. This means that smaller individuals may need footstools when they eat so their feet don’t dangle. This kind of accommodation might not be possible in all places, such as restaurants and outdoor settings, but it is important in school cafeterias, classrooms, and at home in order to develop independent eating skills.

Consider using some of the following materials and equipment to help promote greater independence when eating:
Adapted plates or dishes: HiLo dish, plate (food) guard (clear or metal), a high-sided plate (regular or partitioned), or a scoop plate. Overall, these dishes are good for the visually disabled population because they give them a physical barrier to push their food up against. They are all available commercially at medical supply stores and online.

Dycem (a brand name) can help stabilize the plate or bowl on the bottom to prevent it from sliding. It can also be used to stabilize other things, such as books, tabletop projects, etc. We have even used it to keep a child from sliding out of his chair.

For those who have physical difficulty holding things in their hands, utensils with built-up handles (foam or manufactured supergrip) and hollow-handled or cuffed utensils may help. Hollow-handled utensils allow a helper to insert a finger into the handle to teach the correct motion of scooping.

Adapted utensils might also work with those who have tactile or sensory deficits, coordination problems, or reduced strength. Angled spoons may help get the food to their mouth more successfully because they require less wrist movement. Weighted utensils are good for those who need more feedback to help them grade their force when scooping food onto the utensil or if they have tremors/unsteadiness in their hands. A rocker knife or T-shaped rocker knife can be helpful for people who have the use of only one hand.

Cooking Skills and Food Preparation
Adaptive equipment can also help develop more independence with cooking skills and food preparation, especially those who have the use of only one hand.

Spread boards can be used to stabilize a slice of bread, so that it does not move when spreading food over it.

Two pins on an adapted cutting board will hold food in place during cutting tasks.

A one-handed dish scrubber can be suctioned to the bottom or side of the sink to let you wash dishes, bowls, cups, and utensils with one hand.

The Pan Holder (suction cups) keeps the pan from turning when cooking on the stove. The suction cups don’t work as well, however, when the stove top gets hot.

Dressing Skills
People with physical or visual impairments can use adaptive equipment to dress themselves more independently.
Individuals with limited functional reach to their lower extremities can use a long-handled shoehorn to independently put on and take off their shoes.

For people who cannot tie their shoelaces because of physical or cognitive limitations, elastic shoelaces are an option, as are shoes with Velcro closures. Elastic laces turn regular laced shoes into slip-on shoes by letting the tongue of the shoe stretch to accommodate the foot. They come in two different types, Spyrolaces for younger children, and Tylastic(which look like regular shoelaces) for older Consumers who want to look more age appropriate.

Reachers work well for an individual in a wheelchair who has some vision. The reacher lets the person pick up items that have dropped on the floor.

For some individuals with limited functional reach to their lower extremities, a dressing stick makes putting on and removing socks or pants simpler. Most of the dressing sticks can also be used as a shoehorn, but they may not be as comfortable for this use as the metal shoehorns.

For individuals who cannot bend down to touch their toes, the sock aid can help them get the sock over their foot (some coordination is necessary and some vision helps).

For the those who lack fine motor coordination or who have the use of only one hand, a button hook or a zipper pull might be useful.

Velcro adaptations can be made on clothing for individuals that have difficulty with fasteners, such as those often found on pants.

Some individuals use a device known as a Dressing Bar. Someone in a wheelchair that has upper body strength and some coordination in his/her hands can use the dressing bar to pull to standing and then pull his/her pants/underwear up or down. Those who have less upper body strength or coordination skills can hold onto the dressing bar while being assisted with their pants/underwear.

The Flipfold is a 4-panel device that can assist with folding shirts, pants, and towels.

Spotlight on Clothing and Dressing Hints
• Look for items with Velcro closures or snaps rather than buttons,or consider altering your existing clothing with these closures.
• Homemade zipper pulls can be made by tying on a piece of cloth or attaching a circular key ring, piece of fishing line, or other object.
• Rub the lead from a pencil on the teeth of a sticky zipper to make it easier to pull.
• Slip-on shoes are easiest for dressing, and those with Velcro closures avoid laces.
• Spiral, “no-tie” shoelaces just need to be twisted once or twice and allow you to secure a shoe without having to tie a knot.
• Elastic shoelaces look like regular laces except for the elastic “give.” The elasticity will allow you to slip shoes on or off more easily. • Long-handled shoe horns are helpful for slipping on shoes without having to bend down as far.
• Sock aids prevent you from having to bend down to slip on socks. One version holds the open sock at the end of a U-shaped device that has long rope handles. Another consists of a wire or plastic frame that holds socks or stockings in place for the foot to be slipped into. Caregivers can place socks on these aids in advance for the next dressing time.
• Whenever possible, sit while dressing so you can safely rest as needed. If one side of the body is weaker, it takes less effort to dress this side first. For example, put the weaker arm into the shirt sleeve first, the stronger arm next.

Hygiene/Bathing Skills
The foam described above for use with eating utensils can also be used on other things, such as toothbrushes, razors, hairbrushes, and pens.

Toothpaste dispensers can help individuals with limited finger/hand function or visual impairments put the correct amount of toothpaste on their toothbrush. The main drawbacks to these dispensers are the price (they can be rather expensive) and they only work with Aqua-Fresh 4.3- or 4.6-oz pump toothpaste.

Spray-can extenders can help people with decreased movement, control, or strength in their fingers.

There are also soap dispensers with single (like the ones you see in the public restrooms) and multiple containers that can be mounted in the shower/bathtub area for easier access for people with limited hand function or use of only one working hand. The drawbacks are that the dispensers that require drilling (for mounting on the wall) might not be possible in some bathrooms, and the dispensers held by adhesives might not hold well.

Long-handled sponges allow people with limited reach to wash their backs, lower legs, and feet.

Adaptive devices such as button hooks, key holders, utensils with built-up handles, plate guards, tub transfer seats, lifting cushions, and raised toilet seats make it easier for you to perform daily living tasks. Other aids, or orthotic devices, include wrist supports to assist weak muscles and improve hand function, hand splints for positioning, and neck supports to help support and protect your head and neck.

Home and work modifications include ramps (see picture at right), widened doorways, raised seating, walk-in showers and rails. The OT also assesses safety and helps you and your family structure your environment to reduce falls. Ergonomic devices such as computer arm supports, armrests, footrests, and the no-hands or easy-touch mouse can enable those with severe arm weakness to continue working, maintain productivity at home, and enhance their quality of life.

Community resources also can enrich your life and provide support for caregivers and family members. For example, people with ALS can obtain permits to park in handicap-designated spots early on to help combat fatigue. This guide has information about community resources such as books on tape, MDA support groups and seminars, and public transportation services. You also may get some help from senior citizens’ programs, such as Meals on Wheels.

Therapeutic interventions performed by occupational therapists include range-of-motion, fabrication of splints and other orthotic devices to maintain and improve hand function, and training the caregiver in transfer techniques and stretching exercises.

Help with activities of daily living
Many devices have been designed to help you preserve the ability to perform daily tasks by modifying commonly used items. Other assistive devices make use of the stronger or unaffected muscles to increase efficiency and performance of daily tasks. For example, the button hook allows you to button clothing with a gripping motion rather than relying on finger strength and dexterity.

The following is a sample of the many simple assistive devices available. Each is designed to allow you to continue with normal activities for as long as possible. Most can be found through medical or rehabilitation equipment dealers, or by searching the Internet for “daily living aids.” In some cases you can create these and similar devices yourself.

Button hook
Finger dexterity is required for buttoning clothing. If this is a problem, you may elect to use Velcro in place of buttons, use oversized buttons with large loops, or wear clothing that requires no fasteners. An alternative to these methods is the use of a button hook.
Grip the enlarged handle of the hook and feed the wire loop through the button hole. Catch the button in the loop and slide the button back through the hole.
Zipper pull
Adequate strength in fingers and arms is necessary to grip and zip a zipper. With increasing weakness you may need to use a zipper with a loop placed through the pull or clothing that requires no fasteners, or a zipper pull.
A hook connected to an enlarged handle is placed in the eye of the zipper to pull the zipper up or down.
Handwriting aids
As pinch strength and dexterity decrease, handwriting may become more difficult. Enlarging your pen/pencil with a triangular grip or cylindrical foam will position the fingers, reduce strength needed, and make writing easier and more legible.
You can find cylindrical foam in various diameters and may want to use it for an easier grasp for razors, eating utensils, toothbrushes and similar items with handles.
Some people use a small, hollow rubber ball in this way, or look for utensils made with larger grips.
Key holder
Considerable pinch and hand strength are required to turn a key in a lock. Should weakness make this task difficult or impossible, you can use a key holder. A key holder is made with bars of stiff plastic and screws to hold the keys.
The key holder provides leverage for turning the key in the lock.
Bath mitt
If holding soap and a washcloth is difficult, a bath mitt may solve the problem. Insert your hand and the soap into the terrycloth “pocket” and close it with Velcro.
Car door opener
Strong plastic handles for opening push button or pull-up car door handles are available. These handles use grip and leverage instead of finger dexterity.
Rocker knife
This knife has a curved blade and an enlarged handle. You can cut food with it by using a rocking motion.
Door knob extenders
This device increases leverage to aid in operating knobs, handles or controls. For example, you can use it on faucets, door knobs, stove handles and lamp knobs.
Screw cap
If you have difficulty opening twist or screw-on caps with the fingers, you can use a screw cap. It fits into the palm of the hand and requires minimal strength to turn.
Card holder
If your grasp is weak, and you enjoy playing card games, a card holder is helpful.
Loop scissors
These practical, lightweight scissors are made for either right- or left-handed users. A self-opening handle enables easy operation by a simple squeezing action.
Long straw
A long, plastic tube eliminates the need to lift the glass when drinking.
Strawholder
This metal device clips onto the side of a glass and holds the straw securely in place at a right angle.
Offset eating utensils
An angled head reduces the dexterity needed to bring food to the mouth. Utensils with oversized handles also can be easier to grasp. (See photo at right.)
Jar openers
Electric or battery-powered openers can open various sizes of jars and bottles, and some can be mounted under a cabinet or shelf. A manual jar opener also can be helpful.
Reacher
This long, lightweight aluminum reacher has a trigger or grip closure and is designed to extend your reach upward or downward without bending or stretching.
Risers
Most standard table heights don’t allow a wheelchair to fit underneath. Risers are extenders that fit under each leg of a table to increase the table height by 2 to 8 inches. Risers can also be used with chairs, beds and couches to make transfers easier, as higher surfaces are easier to get up from.
Universal cuff
You can secure this elastic band with a pocket around your hand to hold utensils, pencils, page turner, etc.
Book holder
This wire-framed stand holds the book open and the pages back.
Wrist brace
An elastic brace supports your wrist to stabilize your hand. This support is commonly used by people with ALS, and your OT can show you how it functions and assists you.
Resting hand splint
Made of sturdy plastic, this splint positions your hand and wrist comfortably to counteract the effects of muscular tightening.
Shampoo rinse tray
Use this shampoo basin while you’re lying flat in bed. The caregiver places your head inside the basin with your neck resting on the soft ring and pours water over your hair. A flexible plastic tube drains water to the container you supply alongside the bed.
Help/Call switch
This tent-shaped, ultrasensitive touch plate activates by a touch or head turn. A wireless doorbell also can be used as a personal call system.
Rising or lift chairs
Recliner-style chairs help you go from sitting to standing because their seats slowly rise and tilt forward. Another option is rising or lift cushions that slowly spring open to assist a seated person in standing.
These cushions are portable, so you can take them to restaurants, theaters and other places you visit.
Toilet aids
Decreased mobility eventually may make it difficult to move to a toilet or bedside commode. Alternatives that don’t require transferring from the bed include bedpans, urinals and external catheters that drain into a collection bag.
If maintaining good hygiene becomes a problem, a bidet or a handheld shower nozzle may be useful. A bidet is a device that fits into the toilet tank and connects to a warm water supply. An under-seat, warm-water spray head operates with a hand control.
Other helpful items include toilet seat risers (or raised commode seats) that increase the height of a toilet seat and make it easier to get up and down. Some models include safety handles, and others have lift mechanisms to help the user stand.

Draw sheet
If you’re still using a regular bed, your caregiver may appreciate a draw sheet, which will help him or her easily roll and position you. The sheet is placed under you extending from shoulder level to buttocks with at least 6 inches of sheet remaining on each side.
Some families have found that satin or nylon sheets or pajamas make turning the person easier.
Mattress overlays
Specifically designed to prevent discomfort from immobility and encourage good blood flow to the skin, mattress overlays are fabricated from foam, rubber, gels or in an innovative honeycomb design. Similar technology can be found in wheelchair cushions. These greatly increase comfort and can help prevent painful bedsores.
Head and neck support
Similar materials and technology used in foam or air mattress overlays also are used in special pillows that provide added support for head, neck and surrounding muscles.
Hospital-style beds
A hospital-style bed is recommended for those who spend a majority of their time in bed or have very limited mobility. This bed allows your caregiver to adjust your position easily, elevating your feet to prevent swelling and your head for watching television, reading, etc. It also aids in positioning and weight shifting when turning in bed becomes difficult.
A major advantage of a hospital bed is that it reduces the risk of injury to your caregiver. The height of the bed can be adjusted to prevent him or her from stooping, bending, pushing and pulling, thereby lessening the chance of back strain or other injury.
You can purchase or rent traditional hospital beds from medical suppliers. Convenience features include side rails, adjustable height, and adjustable mattresses for raising or lowering head or feet. Some beds with these features are constructed to look like typical bedroom furniture, with attractive wood panels that obscure the operating controls.
Alternating pressure/turning mattresses
To help prevent pressure sores, alternating pressure mattress overlays automatically inflate and deflate cells along their length, and provide different pressure/firmness settings. Electrically powered turning mattress overlays will automatically turn you every few minutes (from side to side). Turning beds provide the ultimate in technology — the entire bed rotates, not just the mattress. All can provide great relief to caregivers.
Bed safety rails
These provide a sturdy handle or rail to grasp while you’re getting in and out of bed. Some designs slide between mattress and box springs, and others stand on the floor.
Adaptable clothing
A growing selection of clothing made specifically for people who use wheelchairs is available. Pants, shirts, jackets, shoes, boots and more have been designed for comfort and convenience.
The items are designed with clever features like openings in the back, and made not to look rumpled or ill-fitting on someone who’s seated. Although not always available in your local department store, this specialized clothing usually can be purchased by mail, phone or over the Internet.

Telephone equipment
Phone holder
The phone holder fastens to the receiver with a Velcro closure and provides a handle on the receiver. Slide your palm into the U-shaped opening and bring the receiver to your ear.
Receiver extender
With this flexible metal arm that places the receiver in position, you don’t need to lift the receiver off the base. Flip the switch to open the line and place your ear near the receiver.
Telephone adaptations
There are numerous adaptations and accessories available that can make using the telephone easier or possible for people with ALS.

In fact, many assistive features are standard on today’s phones, such as speed dialing, one-touch dialing, speaker phones and voice-activated systems. Other adaptations can be made with inexpensive accessories, such as hands-free headsets or large button adapters for easier dialing.
Cellular phones and wireless phones offer even more independence, as users can be just about anywhere and make or take a phone call. Occupational therapists and other experts can also help you integrate a telephone with an augmentative, alternative communication device, or an environmental control unit.

Phones with “emergency response systems” are another option that provides increased ability to contact emergency workers, friends or relatives in the event of a problem. Some systems can play a prerecorded message to alert the person you call that you’ve had an emergency. They may come with a remote-control autodialer that can be activated by a button worn on a necklace or a belt.

Local phone companies have TTD equipment that’s generally provided for people with hearing impairments. This equipment, which sends telephone messages that you type, can also be useful if you’ve lost the ability to speak. Of course, e-mail also replaces many telephone functions.

Books
The local library and used bookstores are good resources for audio books, as is the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped. Mechanical page-turning devices enable hands-free reading. E-readers, such as the Kindle by Amazon, offer read-aloud features for a wide range of books and publications.
Books and the vast resources of the Internet can be accessed hands-free via eye-gaze or eye-tracking software.

Resources
MDA ALS Caregiver’s Guide — Chapter 2: Daily Care of Your Loved One with ALS
MDA articles

Mobile Tech Tips for Weak Hands, Quest, October-December 2011

Bidets: A Disability Friendly Way to Go, Quest, April-June 2011

Get Up, Get Out, Get Going, Quest, November-December 2008

Low-Tech, Low-Cost Assistance for Daily Living, MDA/ALS Newsmagazine, September 2008

Splish Splash: Easier Ways to Get Clean, Quest, January-February 2008

Sleep Aids: Low-Tech Strategies for Improving Sleep Comfort, MDA/ALS Newsmagazine, March 2007

MDA national equipment program

MDA assists individuals with obtaining and repairing durable medical equipment through its national equipment program. The program is open to anyone for whom durable medical equipment has been recommended by an

MDA clinic doctor.

Through its local field offices, MDA gratefully accepts donations of durable medical equipment for distribution through its equipment loan program. MDA is able to make minor repairs to gently used equipment. MDA staff also can help you locate other local sources and funding options for daily equipment and assistive technology.
Organizations

American Occupational Therapy Association, (301) 652-2682. Can help you find a specialist in your area.

National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped, (800) 424-8567. Through a national network of cooperating libraries, NLS administers a free library program of Braille and audio materials circulated to eligible borrowers in the United States by postage-free mail.

 

AgeSmart would like to thank Steve Fulton from Linc for providing this blog and also for presenting this topic at our July Snacks and Facts.

Aging and Your Eyes, from the National Institute on Aging

Steps to Protect Your Eyesight

Have your eyes checked regularly by an eye care professional—either an ophthalmologist or optometrist. People over age 65 should have yearly dilated eye exams. During this exam, the eye care professional should put drops in your eyes that will widen (dilate) your pupils so that he or she can look at the back of each eye. This is the only way to find some common eye diseases that have no early signs or symptoms. If you wear glasses, your prescription should be checked, too. See your doctor regularly to check for diseases like diabetes and high blood pressure. These diseases can cause eye problems if not controlled or treated.

See an eye care professional right away if you:

  • Suddenly cannot see or everything looks blurry
  • See flashes of light
  • Have eye pain
  • Experience double vision
  • Have redness or swelling of your eye or eyelid

Protect your eyes from too much sunlight by wearing sunglasses that block ultraviolet (UV) radiation and a hat with a wide brim when you are outside. Healthy habits, like not smoking, making smart food choices, and maintaining a healthy weight can also help protect your vision.

Common Eye Problems

The following common eye problems can be easily treated. But, sometimes they can be signs of more serious issues.

  • Presbyopia (prez-bee-OH-pee-uh) is a slow loss of ability to see close objects or small print. It is normal to have this problem as you get older. People with presbyopia often have headaches or strained, tired eyes. Reading glasses usually fix the problem.
  • Floaters are tiny specks or “cobwebs” that seem to float across your vision. You might see them in well-lit rooms or outdoors on a bright day. Floaters can be a normal part of aging. But, sometimes they are a sign of a more serious eye problem such as retinal detachment. If you see many new floaters and/or flashes of light, see your eye care professional right away.
  • Tearing (or having too many tears) can come from being sensitive to light, wind, or temperature changes, or having a condition called dry eye. Wearing sunglasses may help. So might eye drops. Sometimes tearing is a sign of a more serious eye problem, like an infection or a blocked tear duct. Your eye care professional can treat these problems.
  • Eyelid problems can result from different diseases or conditions. Common eyelid problems include red and swollen eyelids, itching, tearing, and crusting of eyelashes during sleep. These problems may be caused by a condition called blepharitis (ble-fa-RI-tis) and treated with warm compresses and gentle eyelid scrubs.

Eye Diseases and Disorders

The following eye conditions can lead to vision loss and blindness. They may have few or no early symptoms. Regular eye exams are your best protection. If your eye care professional finds a problem early, there are often things you can do to keep your eyesight.

  • Cataracts are cloudy areas in the eye’s lens causing blurred or hazy vision. Some cataracts stay small and don’t change your eyesight a lot. Others become large and reduce vision. Cataract surgery can restore good vision. It is a safe and common treatment. If you have a cataract, your eye care professional will watch for changes over time to see if you would benefit from surgery.
  • Corneal diseases and conditions can cause redness, watery eyes, pain, problems with vision, or a halo effect of the vision (things appear to have an aura of light around them). Infection and injury are some of the things that can hurt the cornea. Some problems with the cornea are more common in older people. Treatment may be simple—for example, changing your eyeglass prescription or using eye drops. In severe cases, surgery may be needed.
  • Dry eye happens when tear glands don’t work well. You may feel itching, burning, or other discomfort. Dry eye is more common as people get older, especially for women. Your eye care professional may tell you to use a home humidifier, special eye drops (artificial tears), or ointments to treat dry eye.
  • Glaucoma often comes from too much fluid pressure inside the eye. If not treated, it can lead to vision loss and blindness. People with glaucoma often have no early symptoms or pain. You can protect yourself by having regular dilated eye exams. Glaucoma can be treated with prescription eye drops, lasers, or surgery.
  • Retinal disorders are a leading cause of blindness in the United States. Retinal disorders that affect aging eyes include:
    • Age-related macular degeneration (AMD). AMD can harm the sharp vision needed to see objects clearly and to do common things like driving and reading. During a dilated eye exam, your eye care professional will look for signs of AMD. There are treatments for AMD. If you have AMD, ask if special dietary supplements could lower your chance of it getting worse.
    • Diabetic retinopathy. This problem may occur if you have diabetes. Diabetic retinopathy develops slowly and often has no early warning signs. If you have diabetes, be sure to have a dilated eye exam at least once a year. Keeping your blood sugar under control can prevent diabetic retinopathy or slow its progress. Laser surgery can sometimes prevent it from getting worse.
    • Retinal detachment. THIS IS A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. When the retina separates from the back of the eye, it’s called retinal detachment. If you see new floaters or light flashes, or if it seems like a curtain has been pulled over your eye, go to your eye care professional right away. With surgery or laser treatment, doctors often can prevent loss of vision.

Low Vision

Low vision means you cannot fix your eyesight with glasses, contact lenses, medicine, or surgery. Low vision affects some people as they age. You may have low vision if you:

  • Can’t see well enough to do everyday tasks like reading, cooking, or sewing
  • Have difficulty recognizing the faces of your friends or family
  • Have trouble reading street signs
  • Find that lights don’t seem as bright

If you have any of these problems, ask your eye care professional to test you for low vision. Special tools can help people with low vision to read, write, and manage daily tasks. These tools include large-print reading materials, magnifying aids, closed-circuit televisions, audio tapes, electronic reading machines, and computers with large print and a talking function.

Other things that may help:

  • Change the type of lighting in your room.
  • Write with bold, black felt-tip markers.
  • Use paper with bold lines to help you write in a straight line.
  • Put colored tape on the edge of your steps to help you see them and prevent you from falling.
  • Install dark-colored light switches and electrical outlets that you can see easily against light-colored walls.
  • Use motion lights that turn on when you enter a room. These may help you avoid accidents caused by poor lighting.
  • Use telephones, clocks, and watches with large numbers; put large-print labels on the microwave and stove.

Remember to ask your eye doctor if your vision is okay for safe driving.

For More Information

Here are some helpful resources:

National Eye Institute
Information Office
31 Center Drive MSC 2510
Bethesda, MD 20892-2510
1-301-496-5248
www.nei.nih.gov

National Library of Medicine
MedlinePlus
www.medlineplus.gov

For more information on health and aging, contact:

National Institute on Aging
Information Center

P.O. Box 8057
Gaithersburg, MD 20898-8057
1-800-222-2225 (toll-free)
1-800-222-4225 (TTY/toll-free)
www.nia.nih.gov
www.nia.nih.gov/espanol

American Optometric Association:   http://www.aoa.org/patients-and-public/good-vision-throughout-life/adult-vision-19-to-40-years-of-age/adult-vision-41-to-60-years-of-age?sso=y

2015 Healthy Living Expo

Have Fun and Get the Facts at the 2015 Healthy Living Expo! – May 29th
8:00 – 12:00 p.m. at the Southwestern Illinois College
Varsity Gymnasium 2500 Carlyle Ave. Belleville, IL

Join us as we discover ways to Head to Toe wellness. The Healthy Living Expo will take place on Friday, May 29th 2014 from 8:00 – 12:00 p.m. Gain information and enjoy great entertainment with hands on activities.

Visit the interactive stations at the Expo and find out what is hiding in the piles of paper in your house with Habits for a Healthy Home. Learn a new exercise or the benefits of therapeutic drumming. Find out how you can add more water into your daily routine or how to make a healthy fruit smoothie. Participants can also bring in their smart phones or tablets and questions they may have about how to operate them.  For more detailed information on stations please see below.

The event also offers health screenings including: balance and fall risk assessment, blood pressure screenings, glucose testing, and hearing assessments. The highlight of the event is over 100 exhibit tables. Family members and caregivers are also encouraged to attend. This event is open to the public, and all activities are free.

Major sponsors of the event include: AARP, Direct Medical, O’Fallon Apartments, Reliant Health Care, SWIC- PSOP, St. Clair County Office on Aging, and Visiting Angels.

This free event is hosted by AgeSmart Community Resources. The mission of the Healthy Living Expo is to provide informational, educational and social activities for older adults, their family and friends in a half-day event. Additional information is available at www.AgeSmart.org or by calling 618-222-2561.

 

Interactive Stations

Habits for a Healthy Home
Sponsored by Tranquil Transitions

What’s hiding in those piles of paper? When was the last time you vacuumed under the couch? Why is it important to keep your clutter to a minimum? Join Tranquil Transitions for information on keeping your home clean, organized and decluttered to improve your health and wellness.
Motivation Station
Sponsored by

Research shows us the therapeutic benefits of ancient rhythm techniques. Drumming accelerates physical healing, boosts the immune system and produces feelings of well-being, and a release of emotional trauma. Join Christopher Sutton as he shares some of the benefits of drumming.

Exercise! It is never too late. Join Lucas Hale and Ashley Duffie as they demonstrate the Strong for Life Exercise program. Strong for Life is a strengthening exercise program designed by physical therapists for home use by older adults to improve strength, balance and overall health.
U + H20 = a healthier you!
Sponsored by Hospice of Southern Illinois

The human body is anywhere from 55% to 78% water depending on body size. A rule of thumb, 2/3 of the body consists of water, and it is the main component of human body. Did you know that your tissues and organs are mainly made up of water? Here are the percentages:
• Muscle consists of 75% water
• Brain consists of 90% water
• Bone consists of 22% water
• Blood consists of 85% water
The functions of water in the human body are vital. Every cell in your body needs water from “Head to Toe”!
Technology Station
Sponsored by Joe’s Technology

“Joe’s technology will help keep you connected to your world”

Enjoy a Healthy Fruit Smoothie
Sponsored by Buena Salud11

Our health embraces so much more than just our body, but encompasses our mind and spirit too…reaching well beyond today’s pains or pleasures! Come join Certified Health Coaches Derek and Christina to explore daily habits that promote wellness and mental clarity for life’s journey ahead and enjoy a fruit smoothie while you learn.

MiniHLE15

Stages of Financial Planning

I have a secret for you. I don’t blog. I was asked if I’d write one on the stages of financial planning, and given the constant nagging from my marketing director to start blogging, I agreed. In this two part series we’ll cover those stages and hopefully a few insights along the way.

Obviously there’s a 30,000 foot view stretching from adolescence to death, but I felt that folks reading this wouldn’t be too concerned with the youth of today, or paragraphs talking about the compounding effect for 20 year olds vs 30 year olds. After all, most folks reading this were probably the youth of yesterday and you’re just now getting around to reading about this stuff yourselves. So I thought I’d do a slightly more micro approach on the later stages. I’ll try to offer some ideas that I’ve come across in the 10 plus years I’ve helped clients navigate through their later years, in the hopes that you find some things useful or applicable to your own situations,
I’ll call these stages The Planning Time, Honeymoon Phase, Disenchantment, Reorientation, and Legacy. Our first stage ‘The Planning Time’ usually takes place somewhere around age 50. It’s when folks start looking at the balances of their 401K’s and begin wondering “Hmm, is that going to do it?” People fortunate enough to have pensions start adding up their expenses and doing to math. I cannot express how important these years are for your future. The decisions you’ll make set the foundation for the rest of your life. I tell my teenagers that exact same line, but something tells me that you may be more receptive.

The general school of thought for retirement has been that you can safely pull 4% from your moderately invested savings with only a slight risk of your account hitting zero before your blood pressure does. (However, this has been under some scrutiny in the last 4-5 years due to volatile markets and low interest rate environment). So keep in mind that it anything but a ‘rule’ when planning. A few pointers for planning would be to ensure that your allocations haven’t gotten out of whack over the years of raising kids and not monitoring accounts. Going over a detailed budget is going to be vital for you. Notice I didn’t say create a budget, or to budget yourself. I’ll leave telling you not to have a cup of coffee every day to the Suzie Orman’s of the world. Simply put, you need to know what your expenses will be once you retire to effectively plan for it. Common sense right? You’d be surprised at the amount of people that thought they just won’t spend as much during retirement. When in fact I’ve found that people often spend more than they did the years they were working (more on that later). You also want to understand that diversification is more than just a healthy mix of stocks and bonds, it’s also understanding how having tax diversity can impact you. The decision to invest money into tax free accounts or looking into Roth conversion strategies should involve more than, “Should I pay taxes now or later?” One important factor most everyone overlooks is the effect this has on their social security income. The difference between taking money from a taxable vs tax free account could mean paying tax on up to 85% of SSI.

Bottom line, there are a lot of variables and you have to be diligent. Do your homework and lots of it.

Honeymoon:
The Honeymoon phase is where you allow 30+ years of stress to proverbially roll off your back. You did it! You’re the boss now, your time is yours again. Everything’s new, fresh, and exciting. Your dreams become possibilities and hobbies. You’re also the healthiest you’ll be throughout your retirement (assuming one of your hobbies isn’t a health make over). I encourage folks to plan for an increased budget during this initial phase because hopefully you’ll take advantage of it. Travel, start a new hobby or business, finish your bucket list because unfortunately there’s no telling just how long we have left.

For those that retire prior to social security or pension benefits, this can be a time when you pull significant amounts from your savings. I suggest allocating your accounts into 3 separate buckets (figuratively or literally depending). Funds you’ll use the first 1-6 years in retirement. Funds from 7-15, and money you’ll need 15 years and beyond. The reason is of course you would invest these accounts in a very different manner. If you have 15 or 20 years until you need to use a certain account, you may be able to tolerate a few more fluctuations with the goal of receiving higher average returns along the way.

Disenchantment:
I hope this phase doesn’t happen for you or at the very least that being aware of it will help to shorten its stay. Disenchantment comes when we become stagnant. Feelings of let down or uselessness can creep in. For some, and I’ve seen it happen to my very own clients, unhealthy spending can occur here. We may tend to impulse buy or depression shop to find our self-worth or to just flat out make us feel better. It is vital to recognize this and stick to your plan…you know that one you created last week! 

Reorientation:
Thankfully the letdown phase doesn’t last forever, at least not for you right?! You’re resilient, you’re a boomer for Pete’s sake! With the help of time, friends, family, or a combination thereof we ultimately discover our purpose of who we are now that we’re not working. We find and settle into routines. This may also be when we downsize our home if necessary, or simply start accepting a different outlook. This is probably the truest test of our plan thus far and the best time to revisit its vitals and make sure it’s still healthy and preforming in a way that will support you.

Legacy:
This is something that comes naturally to some. “How do you want to be remembered?” Let that sit for a moment. If we’ve done a good job with other phases, chances are you have some tough decisions to make. How will you leave what you have in the simplest, most tax efficient way that will preserve your legacy? There are so many ways to accomplish this that I could write posts for 6 weeks and still not cover them all. Just know that you want your financial planner to have a good working relationship with an estate planning attorney so they can collaborate to identify all possible avenues for you to accomplish this. Whether it be charitable interests, passing wealth to your grandchildren, or meeting the maker with your last nickel, chances are the US government wouldn’t be a choice.

AgeSmart would like to thank Jason Stroede of Clarus Wealth Management, in Fairview Heights, for this weeks blog.

Diabetes and Older Adults

Diabetes is a serious disease. People get diabetes when their blood glucose level, sometimes called blood sugar, is too high. Diabetes can lead to dangerous health problems, such as having a heart attack or stroke. The good news is that there are things you can do to take control of diabetes and prevent its problems. And, if you are worried about getting diabetes, there are things you can do to lower your risk.

What Is Diabetes?

Our bodies change the food we eat into glucose. Insulin helps glucose get into our cells where it can be used to make energy. If you have diabetes, your body may not make enough insulin, may not use insulin in the right way, or both. That may cause too much glucose in the blood. Your family doctor may refer you to a doctor who specializes in taking care of people with diabetes, called an endocrinologist.

Types Of Diabetes

There are two kinds of diabetes that can happen at any age. In type 1 diabetes, the body makes little or no insulin. This type of diabetes develops most often in children and young adults.

In type 2 diabetes, the body makes insulin, but doesn’t use it the right way. It is the most common kind of diabetes. You may have heard it called adult-onset diabetes. Your chance of getting type 2 diabetes is higher if you are overweight, inactive, or have a family history of diabetes.

Diabetes can affect many parts of your body. It’s important to keep type 2 diabetes under control. Over time it can cause problems like heart disease, stroke, kidney disease, blindness, nerve damage, and circulation problems that may lead to amputation. People with type 2 diabetes have a greater risk for Alzheimer’s disease.

Pre-diabetes

Many people have “pre-diabetes.” This means their glucose levels are higher than normal but not high enough to be called diabetes. Pre-diabetes is a serious problem because people with pre-diabetes are at high risk for developing type 2 diabetes. If your doctor says you have pre-diabetes, you may feel upset and worried. But, there are things you can do to prevent or delay actually getting type 2 diabetes. Losing weight may help. Healthy eating and being physically active for at least 30 minutes, 5 days a week is a small change that can make a big difference. Work with your doctor to set up a plan for good nutrition and exercise. Make sure to ask how often you should have your glucose levels checked.

Symptoms

Some people with type 2 diabetes may not know they have it. But, they may feel tired, hungry, or thirsty. They may lose weight without trying, urinate often, or have trouble with blurred vision. They may also get skin infections or heal slowly from cuts and bruises. See your doctor right away if you have one or more of these symptoms.

Tests For Diabetes

There are several blood tests doctors can use to help diagnosis of diabetes:

  • Random glucose test—given at any time during the day
  • Fasting glucose test—taken after you have gone without food for at least 8 hours
  • Oral glucose tolerance test—taken after fasting overnight and then again 2 hours after having a sugary drink
  • A1C blood test—shows your glucose level for the past 2–3 months

Your doctor may want you to be tested for diabetes twice before making a diagnosis.

Managing Diabetes

Once you’ve been told you have type 2 diabetes, the doctor may prescribe diabetes medicines to help control blood glucose levels. There are many kinds of medication available. Your doctor will choose the best treatment based on the type of diabetes you have, your everyday routine, and other health problems.

In addition, you can keep control of your diabetes by:

  • Tracking your glucose levels. Very high glucose levels or very low glucose levels (called hypoglycemia) can be risky to your health. Talk to your doctor about how to check your glucose levels at home.
  • Making healthy food choices. Learn how different foods affect glucose levels. For weight loss, check out foods that are low in fat and sugar. Let your doctor know if you want help with meal planning.
  • Getting exercise. Daily exercise can help improve glucose levels in older people with diabetes. Ask your doctor to help you plan an exercise program.
  • Keeping track of how you are doing. Talk to your doctor about how well your diabetes care plan is working. Make sure you know how often to check your glucose levels.

Your doctor may want you to see other healthcare providers who can help manage some of the extra problems caused by diabetes. He or she can also give you a schedule for other tests that may be needed. Talk to your doctor about how to stay healthy.

Here are some things to keep in mind:

  • Have yearly eye exams. Finding and treating eye problems early may keep your eyes healthy.
  • Check your kidneys yearly. Diabetes can affect your kidneys. A urine and blood test will show if your kidneys are okay.
  • Get flu shots every year and the pneumonia vaccine. A yearly flu shot will help keep you healthy. If you’re over 65, make sure you have had the pneumonia vaccine. If you were younger than 65 when you had the pneumonia vaccine, you may need another one. Ask your doctor.
  • Check your cholesterol. At least once a year, get a blood test to check your cholesterol and triglyceride levels. High levels may increase your risk for heart problems.
  • Care for your teeth and gums. Your teeth and gums need to be checked twice a year by a dentist to avoid serious problems.
  • Find out your average blood glucose level. At least twice a year, get a blood test called the A1C test. The result will show your average glucose level for the past 2 to 3 months.
  • Protect your skin. Keep your skin clean and use skin softeners for dryness. Take care of minor cuts and bruises to prevent infections.
  • Look at your feet. Take time to look at your feet every day for any red patches. Ask someone else to check your feet if you can’t. If you have sores, blisters, breaks in the skin, infections, or build-up of calluses, see a foot doctor, called a podiatrist.
  • Watch your blood pressure. Get your blood pressure checked often.

Be Prepared

It’s a good idea to make sure you always have at least 3 days’ worth of supplies on hand for testing and treating your diabetes in case of an emergency.

Medicare Can Help

Medicare will pay to help you learn how to care for your diabetes. It will also help pay for diabetes tests, supplies, special shoes, foot exams, eye tests, and meal planning. Be sure to check your Medicare plan to find more information.

For more information about what Medicare covers, call 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227) or visit their website, www.medicare.gov.

For More Information

Here are some helpful resources:

American Diabetes Association
1701 North Beauregard Street
Alexandria, VA 22311
1-800-342-2383 (toll-free)
www.diabetes.org

National Diabetes Education Program
One Diabetes Way
Bethesda, MD 20814-9692
1-888-693-6337 (toll-free)
www.ndep.nih.gov

National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse (NDIC)
National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases
1 Information Way
Bethesda, MD 20892-3560
1-800-860-8747 (toll-free)
1-866-569-1162 (TTY/toll-free)
www.diabetes.niddk.nih.gov

For more information on health and aging, contact:

National Institute on Aging
Information Center

P.O. Box 8057
Gaithersburg, MD 20898-8057
1-800-222-2225 (toll-free)
1-800-222-4225 (TTY/toll-free)
www.nia.nih.gov
www.nia.nih.gov/espanol

Visit www.nihseniorhealth.gov, a senior-friendly website from the National Institute on Aging and the National Library of Medicine. This website has health and wellness information for older adults. Special features make it simple to use.

Todays blog is from the National Institute on Aging
National Institutes of Health
NIH…Turning Discovery Into Health®
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

Death and the Warm Fuzzies – Not.

By Kim Sabella, CFSP, Licensed Funeral Director/Embalmer; Owner of Wolfersberger Funeral Home, O’Fallon, Illinois

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I’ll be the first to admit that considering my own death doesn’t exactly give me the warm  fuzzies. Even for me, where caskets, funerals, burials, and embalming are common topics at the dinner table (yes…for me these are common topics), while I find ease in the discussion; I still find great distress in considering my OWN demise. The older I get, the more obvious my mortality is becoming.

As a Licensed Funeral Director with over 25 years’ experience working with and guiding people through the various choices and paths when a death has occurred, I have yet to hear someone ever say “Gosh, I wish Dad hadn’t done all this work for me ahead of time.” Overwhelmingly, when faced with the reality of a death, those left behind are very grateful to learn that someone has taken the time to pre-plan their own funeral. Sometimes, the details are relatively simple; others are more complex. But all are appreciated.

I work with my husband. That means we spend a lot of time together—let’s say approximately 23 hours a day. We work at a funeral home. We talk about funerals. We attend them almost daily. We reflect on them often. Sometimes, when evening comes on, as we wrap up the workday, we conclude, “That was a good funeral.” I said that to a friend once, who chided me that certainly I must be kidding. After all, there are no GOOD funerals. Well, I’m here to say if you’ve ever seen a BAD funeral, then you know when you see a GOOD funeral.

So, the next obvious question: What makes a GOOD funeral?
In my opinion, planning is the key to a good funeral. An effective funeral director can help with ideas, can offer tips on how to make it more personal, and can assure the family of sound judgment, while offering accommodations that help make this happen. Most funerals occur within 3-4 days after death; in these few short days we often can provide a meaningful experience, but just think how much more meaningful it could be had we had a little head start.

Funerals are important; our society values the way in which we care for our dead. Our friends want and need a place to come—a place to offer kindness to the survivors, a place to sit and ponder the life that was lived, a place to feel secure to express one’s grief. We plan ahead for many big events in our lives; we plan for our wedding, buying our first home, our children’s education, family vacations and other significant life events. We even plan for unexpected traumatic events by purchasing home, auto, and medical insurance. Understanding the benefits of planning ahead has prompted many to take the next step in consulting a Funeral Director for guidance.

We believe it is important for EVERYONE to have a plan-no matter your age or your health status. For some, pre-paying for one’s funeral offers significant benefits as well. Please consider your preferred funeral director, give her a call and plan to spend a few minutes learning how you can have a GOOD funeral.

Suggested reading:
When the Sun Goes Down – A Serendipitous Guide to Planning Your Own Funeral by Betty Breuhaus (“A surprisingly delightful book on planning that final celebration of your life”)
The Good Funeral – Death, Grief, & the Community of Care by Thomas G. Long & Thomas Lynch

Getting Started- Living Healthy

Living healthy is a way of life, not a “quick fix” that can be bought at a local supplement store. There are many advertisements that lead you to believe their product will help you take-off weight and keep it off. If it were that easy wouldn’t we all be at our desired weight? When thinking of diets, individuals usually have an end goal in mind, such as hitting a goal weight; but when this goal is reached the diet usually ends. After the diet is over, we tend to return to eating the same way we did before and the weight gets put back on. This is one of the differences between being on a diet and healthy living. When an individual is focused on living healthy it is not all about weight loss, it is about maintaining a healthy lifestyle; weight loss is a product of changing your diet and increasing exercise.

The moto that I have adopted towards my diet is, “moderation, variety, and balance.” Cutting out the foods that we love, makes them even more desirable. So, instead of cutting them out, eat them in moderation. We get the same great food, just not as much of it. Variety is also important when planning your diet. Getting a variety of different fruits and vegetables ensures that the body has the vitamins and minerals that it needs to perform at its highest level. Last but not least, is balancing your plate with all of the food groups; fruits, vegetables, whole grains, protein, and dairy. MyPlate.gov is a great resource to identify different alternatives for each food group and to identify serving sizes. Eating healthy and exercise go hand in hand when talking about living a healthy lifestyle.

Exercise seems like a big leap if it is not already part of our routine. When starting out, doing anything is better than doing nothing. Taking a short walk or taking the stairs instead of the elevator are two great options to get started out. The CDC recommends 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity a week, for adults. This is just a little over 20 minutes a day, seven days a week. They also recommend strength training activities on two of those days for optimal benefits. While this is ideal, it may not be everyone’s starting point.

Making these changes may seem intimidating, especially if there is no end in sight, but these changes can start out small. It may be as simple as watching portion sizes and taking the stairs when you can. Make it something that is easy to fit into your daily routine or eating habits. The more easily the change fits into your already hectic life, the more likely the healthy habit will be continued. Remember it is not all about weight; it is about being healthy and maintaining that lifestyle.

 

This week’s blog is from Ashley Duffie.  Ashley is the Nutrition/Wellness and Transportation  Specialist at AgeSmart Community Resources.

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BEWARE: JOINT ACCOUNTS WITH YOUR CHILDREN CAN BE TRICKY!

Good estate planning should account for every possibility both prior to death and as a result of death. For example, what happens if the father dies first and mom is in a coma; what happens if both parents die at the same time, and then the minor children die; or just one parent plus the kids die or one child dies before the parent? There are all sorts of terrible tragedies and bad estate planning will compound any tragedy for a family.

There are advantages to having your children as joint owners of investment and bank accounts, as well as, real estate deeds. One advantage is on the death of one of the joint owners, the account or property automatically passes to the other joint owner thus avoiding probate and delay in access to the accounts. Additionally, in the event the parent becomes ill, suffers from dementia or incapacity, the child as joint owner would be able to pay bills and manage investments. Often the addition of children to bank accounts and real estate is for convenience, however the exposure to liability has greatly increased, with the addition of their name to the account.

There are several disadvantages to joint ownership in financial accounts and real estate property. First, the money in a joint account is now owned equally by the parent and child which means the child can draw out the entire balance of the account at any time for any reason. As much as parents trust children, circumstances in life may arise where the child uses the money in an unintended way, thereby putting their parent at risk.

Another disadvantage, includes creditors of all joint owners have access to these funds held in these accounts, as well as, the ability to place liens on real estate property jointly held. Therefore, putting a child’s name on a deed potentially opens your property, investment and bank accounts up to all current and future creditors of a child, including bankruptcy.

Another obstacle with joint ownership is how a parent intends to distribute the inheritance to their children after their death. If there is only one child and the parent’s desire is for the child to inherit everything, then joint accounts and joint ownership in real property would allow for easy transition of property and asset management. However, still taking into consideration the risk of your child’s creditor’s having access to these accounts and property while the parent is still alive. But if there are multiple children that a parent wants to inherit their estate equally, then you would have to put the children equally on all the accounts and property, again increasing the overall exposure to liability for the asset. The parent would need to be vigilant to ensure that each account is equal and this is next to impossible when you factor in unexpected future healthcare and long term care costs.

Therefore, planning for the unexpected, minimizing risk to seniors for their care needs and asset management and distribution is best done by utilizing a wide variety of planning tools such as durable powers of attorney, a revocable living trust, last will and testament and financial planning. Relying on joint ownership of property and assets by adding a child’s name to a deed, investment and banking accounts has limited advantages, increased risk and unexpected consequences of final distribution. Consulting with an Elder Law Attorney to assist in future planning for the unexpected is the best way to preserve your current and future assets.

AgeSmart would like to Thank Anita Ewing for this weeks blog.  Anita Ewing is an attorney with Harter, Larson & Dodd LLC whose offices are in Belleville and Mascoutah. The firm has an emphasis on intergenerational estate planning for people of all ages, and for the concerns of elders, those with special needs, and their families. This article is for information only and is not to serve as legal advice.

From the Collinsville Faith in Action Director’s Chair

Traveling for Pizza
By Lori Fry

A past episode of the popular sitcom “How I Met Your Mother” featured two main characters traveling a good distance to purchase pizza on a whim. When my hometown pizza restaurant closed due to retirement of the owner, I believe the show’s antics gave me the start I needed to embark on my own pizza journey. I can’t say I traveled as far as the main characters, but I did make a memorable trip to Southern Illinois.

My pizza place was one of those single owner with a dream kind of places. Every small town has one or maybe two. I am sure everyone in town was related to someone who worked there, the owner, or had some other direct connection to the restaurant. My connection was the owner was a friend’s uncle and we all heard about the place daily at school. My real reason for visiting the place so regularly was much more direct. I am sorry to say my mother was a terrible cook and we had a standing order for two large pizzas every Friday night to avoid the kitchen.

As in many small towns, any member of my family could walk in and pick up the pizza with or without cash. They knew us by sight. Record keeping was informal. The owner knew someone would come in eventually and pay the bill – or bills. A bad week found me there two or three times for comfort food. I could say it was my second home, but that would be stretching the truth. It was certainly my hideout from the world.

When I heard the place was closing, I spent a good deal of time on Facebook with high school friends determining the final day and who was available to meet me for dinner. I anguished for a week to make time for the “road trip”. The thought of missing out on one last pizza was pretty daunting. I am embarrassed to say I lost a little sleep mentally moving my schedule to fit this dinner in.

In the end, I made it there for one last pepperoni, mushroom and onions. My husband, mother and brother were with me for this milestone. I took pictures to paste online for my many friends too far away to make the trip. The longtime waitress, Ruthie, remembered me vaguely and was shocked that we had driven “from St. Louis” to eat pizza. Hometown folks were coming and going with their carry outs and I saw several customers that I knew. All in all it was a good day.

I can’t help but wonder why I put so much effort into some pizza. We have pizza of some sort at many restaurants in Collinsville. The pizza wasn’t nearly as good as I remembered it. The folks I ended up eating with I see regularly. I visit my hometown and friends there fairly often – so that’s not it.

Maybe it was just the memory of something good – happy times. I wonder how often simply getting out and about can bring up memories long forgotten. I’ve said for the last year that the Elder Connection “just ate at restaurants this year”. After this trip, I can’t help but remember all the stories Elder Connection members were telling over dinner -all the happy times. I guess I shouldn’t say the Elder Connection “just ate out”. I should say they made memories in the midst of old ones. I finally get why eating out together is so important. Let’s get some pie together. I bet one of us has a story to go with it.

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Glaucoma Awareness Month

awareness_logo

January is National Glaucoma Awareness Month, an important time to spread the word about this sight-stealing disease.  Thanks to the Glaucoma Research Foundation for providing all of the valuable information in this blog.  You can learn more about the Glaucoma Research Foundation at www.glaucoma.org.

Currently, more than 2.7 million people in the United States over age 40 have glaucoma. The National Eye Institute projects this number will reach 4.2 million by 2030, a 58 percent increase.

Glaucoma is called “the sneak thief of sight” since there are no symptoms and once vision is lost, it’s permanent. As much as 40% of vision can be lost without a person noticing.

Glaucoma is the leading cause of preventable blindness. Moreover, among African American and Latino populations, glaucoma is more prevalent. Glaucoma is 6 to 8 times more common in African Americans than Caucasians.

Over 2.7 million Americans, and over 60 million people worldwide, have glaucoma. Experts estimate that half of them don’t know they have it. Combined with our aging population, we can see an epidemic of blindness looming if we don’t raise awareness about the importance of regular eye examinations to preserve vision. The World Health Organization estimates that 4.5 million people worldwide are blind due to glaucoma.

Help Raise Awareness

In the United States, approximately 120,000 are blind from glaucoma, accounting for 9% to 12% of all cases of blindness. Here are three ways you can help raise awareness:

  1. Talk to friends and family about glaucoma. If you have glaucoma, don’t keep it a secret. Let your family members know.
  2. Refer a friend to our web site, www.glaucoma.org.
  3. Request to have a free educational booklet sent to you or a friend.

What is Glaucoma?

Glaucoma is a group of eye diseases that gradually steal sight without warning. Although the most common forms primarily affect the middle-aged and the elderly, glaucoma can affect people of all ages.

Vision loss is caused by damage to the optic nerve. This nerve acts like an electric cable with over a million wires. It is responsible for carrying images from the eye to the brain.

There is no cure for glaucoma—yet. However, medication or surgery can slow or prevent further vision loss. The appropriate treatment depends upon the type of glaucoma among other factors. Early detection is vital to stopping the progress of the disease.

Types of Glaucoma

There are two main types of glaucoma: primary open-angle glaucoma (POAG), and angle-closure glaucoma. These are marked by an increase of intraocular pressure (IOP), or pressure inside the eye. When optic nerve damage has occurred despite a normal IOP, this is called normal tension glaucoma. Secondary glaucoma refers to any case in which another disease causes or contributes to increased eye pressure, resulting in optic nerve damage and vision loss.

Regular Eye Exams are Important

Glaucoma is the second leading cause of blindness in the world, according to the World Health Organization. In the most common form, there are virtually no symptoms. Vision loss begins with peripheral or side vision, so if you have glaucoma, you may not notice anything until significant vision is lost.

The best way to protect your sight from glaucoma is to get a comprehensive eye examination. Then, if you have glaucoma, treatment can begin immediately.

Glaucoma is the leading cause of blindness among African-Americans. And among Hispanics in older age groups, the risk of glaucoma is nearly as high as that for African-Americans. Also, siblings of persons diagnosed with glaucoma have a significantly increased risk of having glaucoma.

Risk Factors

Those at higher risk include people of African, Asian, and Hispanic descent. Other high-risk groups include: people over 60, family members of those already diagnosed, diabetics, and people who are severely nearsighted. Regular eye exams are especially important for those at higher risk for glaucoma, and may help to prevent unnecessary vision loss.

Learn more about Glaucoma Research Foundation.