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Published April 07, 2012, 11:30 PM

Bursack: Improve the life of recently blind

Dear Carol: My 76-year-old mother has lost her vision, and is easily bored ... I often read to her, which she enjoys. How else can I help stimulate her interest in life?

By: Carol Bradley Bursack, INFORUM

Dear Carol: My 76-year-old mother has lost her vision, and is easily bored.

She used to knit and read, but now she’s only able to listen to TV. Her thinking and reasoning abilities have decreased dramatically since losing her sight. I often read to her, which she enjoys. How else can I help stimulate her interest in life? – Karen

Dear Karen: Losing one’s sight is a difficult adjustment to make. If your mother hasn’t talked with her doctor about possible depression, that is something they should discuss. I hope you, too, will be part of that discussion. The doctor may also want to check for dementia issues.

As far as stimulating her interest and increasing her quality of life, here are some practical ideas that come to mind:

• Books on CD are available through many public libraries as well as state libraries for the blind. They can offer good entertainment. I’d look for a series so she’d get hooked enough to look forward to the next episode.

• Ask her to tell you and other family members her life story. You or a grandchild could write it down or you could record her voice. Give her your full attention, and since she can’t see your reactions, voice your reactions often. Let her know you are interested in what she has to say.

• Ask her opinions about daily events. Age, itself, doesn’t make a person wise, but many thoughtful people do develop wisdom over the years. Feeling that her opinions matter to you could help her feel needed.

• Mild exercise would likely be good for her. Will she take walks with you on nice days? Since your mother was once sighted, she will remember colors, shapes and perhaps the look of the neighborhood. As you walk, describe to her how the sky looks, how the trees are budding, any details that will help her fully experience the time together. Help her use her imagination. Of course, you should let your mother’s feelings lead the way. If she shows signs of distress, this may not be the right approach.

Again, if she enjoys being told about her environment, when you are around the house, pull out your descriptive techniques at home. Help her touch and feel textures as you describe new clothing or household items.

Engage her in daily life.

Encourage her to maintain old friendships by asking her friends to visit. If your mother likes to be the hostess, help her as she wishes, but let her take the lead.

Be careful not to inadvertently treat her like a child. It’s important that she be your guide. Losing one’s sight at any age is a huge challenge. But your mother likely has a huge store of memories. Work with those memories to make the most of them.

Carol Bradley Bursack is the author of a support book on caregiving and runs a website supporting caregivers at www.mindingourelders.com. She can be reached at carol@mindingourelders.com.

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