Many families have an elder who suffers some form of vision loss. This is especially difficult for everyone involved if the senior lives remotely from the family. Inevitable questions include: What can be done to help? Who can help? When is a good time to intervene? Our family is currently going through this process with a relative who lives in B.C. and suffers from macular degeneration (AMD). Here is what we are doing about it.
The five relevant areas in this type of situation are listed below. Our senior co-ordinated the first two on his own since he has been living independently:
Our relative has had this (AMD) vision condition for many years and is under the care of an ophthalmologist and a retinologist. He receives monthly eye injections and regular vision tests. This is the first area your family probably already has in place if your relative has AMD. The attention of a good General Practioner (MD) is very important in monitoring overall health.
A wide variety of people can help in this area including a CNIB volunteer, seniors-support volunteers, a local grocery store that offers food delivery, a home cleaner, kind neighbours (for transportation, shopping & meal assistance). However, this is not a permanent solution since it unfair to them to them and he needs help beyond their capability.
This is an area where devices, services and technical skills can help greatly with adaptations for limited vision. These include reading magnifiers, accessibility options within popular computer software & hardware, the Philips LifeLine for emergency response and RemotePC software for remote access to his personal computer. The latter program is one we have just put in place so that we can access his computer from our home whenever he has a computer emergency he can’t handle on his own. Display options such as zoom and large fonts have enabled him to manage basic emails, so far.
An isolated senior needs frequent calls, emails and visits to maintain good social balance, In our situation, we initiate the phone calls and he initiates email updates. He has regular visits from caring neighbours.
He has made a number of air-travel trips to see one of our other family members, with much assistance from Westjet Airlines. Despite our deep concern, he has been successful in doing so without any major incident. However, that won’t be necessary any longer since we are arranging to bring him back across Canada.
There comes a time when an elder family member is dealing with so many challenges simultaneously, that they can no longer handle them without intervention. Our senior has reached the point where living alone poses significant risks to the health and safety of himself and his neighbours. We put steps in place to transfer him from his current location to a retirement home near him in B.C. for respite care before moving him to a retirement home near us in Ontario. This is his downsizing stage since he will be transitioning from a two-bedroom apartment with a lot of stuff to a one-bedroom retirement unit.
All of these strategies are helping him avoid a possible “downward spiral” due to an in-home accident. This is illustrated in an all-too-common series of related changes I call “because steps”. (See below.) Fortunately, he has been successful in avoiding this scenario but is at risk of doing so.
A Common Scenario
Does this sound familiar to you?
- Because of poor vision, he tripped and fell in his home
- Because he had a fall, he broke his hip
- Because he broke his hip, he was hospitalized for an extended period
- Because he was hospitalized, he was bed-ridden for a time, lost muscle mass and energy
- Because he lost muscle mass, his mobility was reduced
- Because his mobility was reduced, his ability to live independently was compromised
- Because independent living was reduced, the number of required supports increased and socialization was reduced, etc.
The above incident could be called the “tipping point” (or possibly the “tripping point”) leading to a significant change in a person’s life. It is a good example of downsizing “by necessity” as covered earlier in a blog post titled: Why Downsize? and the related post titled: Who Can Help Me Downsize?
What challenges are you facing with your remote elder?
*You may notice some Canadian spelling in these posts. The words may look odd but that’s how we spell them. We’re used to it.
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Unless otherwise credited, all posts are happily authored with a quill pen …
Paul Ferri, Broker, ASA (Accredited Senior Agent)
RE/MAX Unique Inc. Brokerage*, Toronto, Canada
*Each office independently owned and operated.