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Open House and Ribbon Cutting

The O’Fallon-Shiloh Chamber of Commerce will join AgeSmart Community Resources as we open our 801 West State Street location in O’Fallon.  The open house and ribbon cutting ceremony will be on August 22nd from noon – 3:00.  The ribbon cutting will take place at noon and a caregiver panel is scheduled for 1:00 pm.

AgeSmart is your local Area Aging on Aging.  We are here to help you “Age Well Your Way” and help people be independent and successful in their community as they age.  AgeSmart assures that comprehensive services are available for older adults in the community should they need them and maintain a database of all the resources available. Programs provided by AgeSmart, like Meals on Wheels, Senior Health Insurance Counseling are cost effective and help keep older adults healthier and able to remain independent.  Twenty different services are available to everyone 60 plus of all income levels and their caregivers. There is no charge for services only a suggested donation.

AgeSmart also provides a Veteran Directed Home and Community Based Services Program. In collaboration with the two Area Agencies on Aging in Missouri, AgeSmart is part of the largest Veterans Directed programs in the country.  The program helps Veterans stay in their homes and provide them options on how to do so.

AgeSmart also works with communities to help them be a place that supports people as they age.  Stop by to see how AgeSmart can help you and your family.  Come to our open house and see what AgeSmart is about.

HEAT ADVISORY- Information and Cooling Sites

Heat indices for the Greater St. Louis Metro area are expected to be around 110 degrees today.  For a list of cooling centers in Illinois click one of the image below or go to http://www.211helps.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/07/MO-Cooling-Sites-w-KC-7.17.19.pdf,  this list includes cooing sites for St. Louis Metro East area.  For more information on what to do during the extreme heat read information below from ready.gov.

Please remember to check on older adults in your life and those working outside.

          

 

What to do in Extreme Heat From www.ready.gov/heat

Extreme Heat

Extreme Heat often results in the highest number of annual deaths among all weather-related hazards. In most of the United States, extreme heat is defined as a long period (2 to 3 days) of high heat and humidity with temperatures above 90 degrees. In extreme heat, evaporation is slowed and the body must work extra hard to maintain a normal temperature. This can lead to death by overworking the human body. Remember that:

  • Extreme heat can occur quickly and without warning.
  • Older adults, children, and sick or overweight individuals are at greater risk from extreme heat.
  • Humidity increases the feeling of heat as measured by a heat index.

IF YOU ARE UNDER AN EXTREME HEAT WARNING:

  • Find air conditioning.
  • Avoid strenuous activities.
  • Watch for heat illness.
  • Wear light clothing.
  • Check on family members and neighbors.
  • Drink plenty of fluids.
  • Watch for heat cramps, heat exhaustion, and heat stroke.
  • Never leave people or pets in a closed car.

HOW TO STAY SAFE WHEN EXTREME HEAT THREATENS

Prepare NOW

  • Find places in your community where you can go to get cool.
  • Keep your home cool by doing the following:
    • Cover windows with drapes or shades.
    • Weather-strip doors and windows.
    • Use window reflectors, such as aluminum foil-covered cardboard, to reflect heat back outside.
    • Add insulation to keep the heat out.
    • Use attic fans to clear hot air.
    • Install window air conditioners and insulate around them.
  • Learn to recognize the signs of heat-related illness.

Be Safe DURING

  • Never leave a child, adult, or animal alone inside a vehicle on a warm day.
  • Find places with air conditioning. Libraries, shopping malls, and community centers can provide a cool place to take a break from the heat.
  • If you’re outside, find shade. Wear a hat wide enough to protect your face.
  • Wear loose, lightweight, light-colored clothing.
  • Drink plenty of fluids to stay hydrated. If you or someone you care for is on a special diet, ask a doctor how best to accommodate it.
  • Do not use electric fans when the temperature outside is more than 95 degrees, as this could increase the risk of heat-related illness. Fans create air flow and a false sense of comfort, but do not reduce body temperature.
  • Avoid high-energy activities.
  • Check yourself, family members, and neighbors for signs of heat-related illness.

RECOGNIZE AND RESPOND

Know the signs of heat-related illness and the ways to respond to it:

  • HEAT CRAMPS
    • Signs: Muscle pains or spasms in the stomach, arms, or legs
    • Actions: Go to a cooler location. Remove excess clothing. Take sips of cool sports drinks with salt and sugar. Get medical help if cramps last more than an hour.
  • HEAT EXHAUSTION
    • Signs: Heavy sweating, paleness, muscle cramps, tiredness, weakness, dizziness, headache, nausea or vomiting, or fainting
    • Actions: Go to an air-conditioned place and lie down. Loosen or remove clothing. Take a cool bath. Take sips of cool sports drinks with salt and sugar. Get medical help if symptoms get worse or last more than an hour.
  • HEAT STROKE
    • Signs: Extremely high body temperature (above 103 degrees) taken orally; red, hot, and dry skin with no sweat; rapid, strong pulse; dizziness; confusion; or unconsciousness
    • Actions: Call 911 or get the person to a hospital immediately. Cool down with whatever methods are available until medical help arrives.

Telephone Check for Older Adults

 

Social isolation is a growing health epidemic, affecting more than 8 million older adults.
There are nearly 37,000 older adults living alone in the Metro East. 82% of the individuals who participated in AgeSmart programs in last year lived alone among those are Meals on Wheels participants are frail and many need assistance to live safely at home.

To address the need of older adults who are socially isolated, AgeSmart is developing a Telephone Reassurance Program. A telephone reassurance call is one of the most effective means of reducing isolation. AgeSmart will be collaborating with a faith-based organization in East St. Louis to provide Telephone Reassurance program. East St. Louis and its surrounding communities have high concentration of low-income minority population. 25% of AgeSmart’s Meals on Wheels participants are provided in East St. Louis and 85% of the meal recipients live alone. Due to decreasing number of volunteers and increasing costs of preparation and delivery of meals, the meal provider currently provides frozen meals only through a weekly delivery, which limits their opportunity to check on the wellbeing of the clients.

The proposed telephone reassurance program will be built upon the existing volunteer-based model, which serves a limited area in East St. Louis. To get on the list for a call contact AgeSmart at 618-222-2561.

How to Talk to You Employer about Your Caregiver Support Needs

Caring for your dad is becoming more difficult. You’re exhausted and struggling to keep up with your workload. Maybe it’s impacting multiple areas of your life.

Majorities of respondents in a survey of North American working family caregivers, conducted by Home Instead, Inc., franchisor of the Home Instead Senior Care® network, report caregiving has put a strain on multiple aspects of their lives including:

Finances (60 percent)
Physical and mental health (74 percent and 81 percent, respectively)
Career (65 percent)
Ability to manage work/life balance (83 percent)

Not only do you like your job, you need it to pay the bills. So how do you broach the subject of family caregiving without the fear that you could be jeopardizing your job?

“Do you know I am taking care of my dad? I would love to tell you a little about him and what I am doing to care for him. I am looking for ways to ensure I am always doing the best I can at work and at home.”

“I hope you know how much I value my job. That’s why I would like to make sure that my work is covered in the event of a family emergency. I would love to learn about any services our company has that could help me. And then, it would be great to work with you to put together a plan.”

“My dad needs to spend a week in the hospital next month and I would like to be with him since I am his caregiver. I have jotted down some ideas for how I could cover my job and my work while I’m gone. Could I schedule some time to discuss this with you?”

“A flexible start time would help me so much in ensuring that my father’s needs are covered before I leave for work. I believe that would help me be more productive on the job. Can I count on the company’s understanding?”
Think about ways to make the most of the time you have with your boss.

It is important to suggest ideas that work for both your employer and you, and to provide an opportunity to test out your plan to make sure that it does, in fact, work.

 

Learn More at: DaughtersintheWorkplace.com

 

 

Help Change Someone’s Life

It is amazing what a handful of caring and giving individuals can do. With gifts to AgeSmart Community Resources you can assure that older adults have services they need to stay well, healthy and in the community. With your help this year Mr. D was able to come back home after a long nursing home stay.   Listen to his story……..

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zfyIMtG-naA&feature=youtu.be

 

 

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AgeSmart Community Resources in on the Move!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In Spring of 2019 AgeSmart Community Resources, the Local Area Agency on Aging will be moving to 801 West State Street in O’Fallon, IL. In the past ten years the programs AgeSmart provides for older adults, caregivers and veterans have expanded and they have outgrew their current space. The new location will better support the services and the people served by AgeSmart.

With the move AgeSmart will be adding an Education Center which will host a multitude of informative and interactive programs for the community. Some of these activities are health and wellness programs such as A Matter of Balance, a fall prevention program and Tai Chi others include New to Medicare seminars, Fraud Prevention, Aging Well and more. Activities will be listed on AgeSmart’s website www.AgeSmart.org.

The current home to AgeSmart is on the market. Check it out at: https://barbermurphy.com/properties/744-2365-Country-Rd-Shiloh-Illinois-62221-St-Clair-County/

Visit AgeSmart in the Spring of 2019!

5 Facts About Social Security from ssa.gov

5 Facts You Might Not Know About Social Security

Most people know at least something about Social Security. For decades, Social Security has been providing valuable information and tools to help you build financial security. Here’s your opportunity to find out a little more, with some lesser-known facts about Social Security.

1. Social Security pays benefits to children.

Social Security pays benefits to unmarried children whose parents are deceased, disabled, or retired. See Benefits for Children for the specific requirements.

2. Social Security can pay benefits to parents.

Most people know that when a worker dies, we can pay benefits to surviving spouses and children. What you may not know is that under certain circumstances, we can pay benefits to a surviving parent. Read our Fact Sheet Parent’s Benefits, for the details.

3. Widows’ and widowers’ payments can continue if remarriage occurs after age 60.

Remarriage ends survivor’s benefits when it occurs before age 60, but benefits can continue for marriages after age 60.

4. If a spouse draws reduced retirement benefits before starting spouse’s benefits (his or her spouse is younger), the spouse will not receive 50 percent of the worker’s benefit amount.

Your full spouse’s benefit could be up to 50 percent of your spouse’s full retirement age amount if you are full retirement age when you take it. If you qualify for your own retirement benefit and a spouse’s benefit, we always pay your own benefit first. (For example, you are eligible for $400 from your own retirement and $150 as a spouse for a total of $550.) The reduction rates for retirement and spouses benefits are different. If your spouse is younger, you cannot receive benefits unless he or she is receiving benefits (except for divorced spouses). If you took your reduced retirement first while waiting for your spouse to reach retirement age, when you add spouse’s benefits later, your own retirement portion remains reduced which causes the total retirement and spouses benefit together to total less than 50 percent of the worker’s amount. You can find out more on our website.

5. If your spouse’s retirement benefit is higher than your retirement benefit, and he or she chooses to take reduced benefits and dies first, your survivor benefit will be reduced, but may be higher than what your spouse received.

If the deceased worker started receiving reduced retirement benefits before their full retirement age, a special rule called the retirement insurance benefit limit may apply to the surviving spouse. The retirement insurance benefit limit is the maximum survivor benefit you may receive. Generally, the limit is the higher of:

  • The reduced monthly retirement benefit to which the deceased spouse would have been entitled if they had lived, or
  • 82.5 percent of the unreduced deceased spouse’s monthly benefit if they had started receiving benefits at their full retirement age (rather than choosing to receive a reduced retirement benefit early).

Social Security helps secure your financial future by providing the facts you need to make life’s important decisions.

This information is from the Social Security website at https://blog.ssa.gov/5-facts-you-might-not-know-about-social-security/

Southwestern Illinois Visiting Nurse Association Celebrates its 100th Anniversary

 

Southwestern Illinois Visiting Nurse Association Celebrates its

100th Anniversary

A walk through the last 100 years.

Southwestern Illinois Visiting Nurse Association (SIVNA) officially began on January 1, 1918 with a staff of five nurses and sixty-three patients transferred from the St. Louis Visiting Nurse Association.  Cash on hand was $600 in borrowed funds and a contract with Metropolitan Life Insurance Company to provide nursing care to eligible policy-holders. Currently SIVNA has a staff of 92 and serve just over 10,000 people in 2017.

Providing nursing care to the sick and injured in their home regardless of race, creed or their ability to pay and working with community organizations to improve the health of its residents was what drove their work in 1918 and still does today.  The great influenza pandemic of 1918 enabled the agency to provide a valuable service to the community.   During that epidemic between 50 and 100 million people are thought to have died, representing as much as 5 percent of the world’s population.  That was the beginning of a long tradition of caring for the SIVNA.

Many of the projects SIVNA pioneered have become the function of state and local agencies such as the Child Welfare Program.  In their first year 3,188 infants and children to age 6 were weighed, measured and given nutritional counseling.  This was a joint program of SIVNA, Red Cross and a child specialist.  These later became the infant welfare conferences and were continued by the East Side Health District when it was organized in 1937.

SIVNA worked closely with the Tuberculosis Society in providing nursing care to the tuberculosis patients.  During 1921, these two organizations working with a physician began school health examinations.  Also in 1921, assisted by the State Board of Health, four clinics for crippled children were conducted.  A special fund was established by the Board to pay for braces, casts and other corrective appliances.

The East St. Louis Journal assisted the agency in establishing a milk and ice fund for indigent infants and children.  This fund was established in 1921 and continued through 1945. Dental health was another concern in the early years.  Queen’s Daughters assisted in the purchase and distribution of toothbrushes for every school child in East St. Louis.

The 50’s and 60’s brought new organizations and additional community services.  In 1951, SIVNA began to work with the Cancer Society which furnished funds for nursing care of cancer patients, dressings and supplies.  In 1959, the George Washington Hi-12 Club began their hospital bed project with 35 beds.  This project was carried on by a special committee of the club.

January 1959, the SIVNA Board gave their approval to serve as the parent organization for the proposed home care program.  January 1960, rehabilitative restorative nursing was initiated.  One nurse attended a special course at the Rusk Institute in New York an on July 1, 1961, a homemaker program began on a three-year pilot basis with private funding administered by a Board of Directors.  The coordination of health services, home-helper, or home health aide services has been an invaluable supplement to the nursing program. On July 1, 1966, SIVNA became a provider under Medicare.  SIVNA was instrumental in working with the Medicare program in the early years as problems were identified and worked through.

A grant under the Older Americans Act of 1965 made it possible to extend services to cover all of St. Clair County.  The Illinois Department of Public Aid, St. Clair County Board of Supervisors, together with agency personnel and equipment, enabled SIVNA to qualify for these funds.  The grant was for a three-year period and provided nursing care to patients age 60 and over.  This program officially began January 1, 1967.

Changes in funding and Medicare services indicated the need for a merger of the Home Care Association and SIVNA.  The Home Health Aide Service became certified July 1, 1967 and final details of the merger were completed January 1, 1968.

During the 70’s and 80’s, the agency continued its growth and expansion of programs.  The hospital coordinating role was initiated to establish a closer working relationship with hospitals, physicians, and patients.  Under Title III, Home Health Service was expanded to Monroe County and a homemaker program was initiated.

In 1983, through a contract with the Illinois Department on Aging, and the Area Agency on Aging of Southwestern Illinois (now AgeSmart Community Resources), the agency became responsible for the Care Coordination Unit (CCU) and Title III programs.  Assessments for homemaker, housekeeping, chore, daycare, and pre-screenings for nursing home placement are performed by SIVNA care coordinators in our service area.

December 1990, a contract was signed with the Illinois Department on Aging to follow up on victims of adult abuse.  SIVNA’s team of Senior Protective Services was one of the first in the state established to participate in the program.

In 1996, the Choices for Care Program was initiated by the Illinois Department on Aging to provide early counseling to individuals seeking long term care services before being discharged from the hospital.  SIVNA’s CCU has experienced care coordinators who explain all available alternatives to those in need of long term care, including services that can be provided at home. In 2000 SIVNA’s Care Coordination Unit was awarded additional territory by the Illinois Department on Aging. The CCU now serves the Illinois counties of St. Clair, Madison, Monroe, Randolph, Washington, Bond and Clinton.

In 2013, SIVNA’s Senior Protective Services was expanded to serve disabled adults as well.  The program’s name was changed to Adult Protective Services.

Southwestern Illinois Visiting Nurse Association continues now as in years past to provide superior individualized care to residents in our service area.  SIVNA is uniquely able to meet all the needs of area residents who seek to maintain their independence and dignity. Congratulations on 100 years!

 

For more information about SIVNA visit their website at sivna.com or give them a call 618-236-5863

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