July 15th, 2011 at 10:13 am
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Dealing with hearing, vision & memory loss

by Kathryn Kilpatrick, M.A. CCC/SLP

Do you find yourself repeating messages? Is mom providing answers to questions that don’t fit the question or situation? Is dad taking longer to read the paper? Have you found yourself considering these interactions and situations as normal? Recognizing the decreasing abilities of elders–whether memory, vision or hearing–during my initial assessments, I often find that families or caregivers have absolutely no idea that dad wasn’t understanding what he read or mom was missing much of the conversation during family conversations.

Be flexible in your approach

Remember, it is important to be flexible with your strategies and approaches over time. For example, I recently re-evaluated a woman I had seen a couple of years ago and the treatment plan included strategies that worked at the time. Now, her confusion continues to increase and her memory is slightly more impaired. I suggested the following recommendations:

  • Adding printed names and photos next to speed dialing numbers
  • Adding a clock that includes the date, month and year
  • Adding a television channel cheat sheet to minimize fear of hitting the wrong button
  • Adding color coding to the television remote for the channel up and down buttons
  • Providing a memory board to improve recall
  • Providing family members with tips on how to better communicate with her

    These are just a few of the recommendations from her therapy sessions that helped maximize the quality of her day-to-day life.

    Tips for dealing with hearing, memory or vision issues

    As elders experience memory, vision or hearing difficulties, combining basic education with a personalized plan can make a difference. Here are some tips for dealing with the various issues.

    Memory issues. For the person with memory difficulties, the fast pace and complexity of conversations can trigger agitation or cause the person to shut down. Things to remember:

    • Reduce distractions
    • Eliminate background noises
    • Simplify information you present
    • Keep an eye out for information or stimulation overload

      Hearing issues. When hearing is a problem, consider the following action items:

      • Speak slowly and pronounce your words clearly
      • Address the person directly
      • Verify information by writing it down
      • Encourage repetition
      • Reduce background noises and interruptions as much as possible

        Vision issues. When vision is a problem, you may want to do the following:

        • Experiment with print type size until the person can read easily
        • Make sure written information is not complex
        • Enlarge copies containing important information

          In each of these situations, taking the extra time to go over details and writing down the key points may be an approach that prompts future discussions.

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