Navigating The Holidays With Low Vision

Holidays should be a time of fun and relaxation, but for some people, they are also a time of stress. If it is difficult for you to change your routine or navigate new spaces, the holiday parties, visiting guests, and unfamiliar foods can take some of the joy out of special activities. For people with low vision, these factors can make it harder to enjoy the holidays, but it doesn’t have to keep you from participating with your friends and family.

Cooking For A Crowd

Everyone has a different comfort level with cooking. Some people find it a major accomplishment to do anything beyond warm up a microwave meal. Others enjoy being an amatuer chef. No matter where you fall on that spectrum, it is likely that at some point during the holiday season you will be asked to cook something. Whether it’s a full meal or just a batch of cookies, you’ll feel better if you’re prepared to work in the kitchen.

Low vision doesn’t have to affect your culinary skills. Our article What’s Cookin’: Kitchen Aids for the Visually Impaired goes more in-depth about your options. There are apps, appliances, and kitchen gadgets available that make cooking easier. Videos of the show, Cooking Without Looking, are available online to give you tips and tricks.

Adjusting The Lighting

If you are traveling over the holidays, it can be difficult to make sure other people’s homes are arranged in a way that is optimal for navigating with low vision. While you can’t control everything, one thing you can adjust is the lighting.

First, speak to your host about their lighting situation. If they are able to add extra lighting to your room or other areas of the house you will be using, then that might be helpful. Floor lamps can be easily moved for temporary lighting. You may also want to consider packing a few extra night lights to help find your boundaries in hallways and bathrooms. And try to reduce disorienting glare from TV or computer screens by turning them out of the way of direct sunlight.

Reducing Clutter

We all want our homes to be clutter-free, but it is especially important for those with low vision. Clutter can cause them to be overwhelmed, visually, or it can cause physical danger by posing a tripping hazard. If you are going to be at a party or family function, talk to your host ahead of time to make sure there isn’t anything in the space that may accidentally cause you harm.

Rugs, cords, and low tables can all be tripping hazards. These things should be moved to the side or eliminated from the common areas you will be sharing. Surfaces should be cleared of everything but essential items. Keep items such as TV remotes or toothpaste in the same consistent spot. This will help you find them later on.

Providing Visual Contrast

Asking your host to provide visual contrast can also help you find your way in unfamiliar places. One example of using visual contrast is hanging dark towels in a light bathroom. The contrasting towel color will make it easier for you to find the hand towel, and less likely you will fumble around, searching with wet hands.

When at the table, use placemats to designate the seating areas and add contrasting colored plates to help with locating your meal. Light plates on a dark mat would make a nice contrast, and reduce the likelihood that you will put your fork down on the linens, which might be more likely to happen if you have a white tablecloth paired with a light colored dish set.

Difficulties during the holidays can be avoided with a little planning. Think about the tasks that give you the most trouble and start putting helps in place to address those issues before the hustle and bustle of the holiday event arrives.


Arthritis Flares In Cold Weather

The effect of cold weather on arthritis is a topic that is still up for debate. It’s been established that cold weather (or sometimes rainy weather) does change how arthritic joints feel. You will also hear similar stories from those who have old injuries such as breaks. In fact, as I am typing this article, I’m experiencing that exact scenario in my left hand. The office is cold, and a 20-year-old metacarpal break doesn’t want to leave the past in the past. But when you look up the reason behind these weather-related aches and pains, you’ll find that the scientific community is still wearing its thinking cap.

Arthritis And Weather

According to Robert H. Shmerling, MD, of Harvard, “There are many potential factors — humidity, temperature, precipitation, and barometric pressure among them. Even if we could precisely identify what about weather affects arthritis pain and stiffness, we’re still not sure why — biologically speaking — weather should have any impact on joint symptoms.”

Previous studies have yielded conflicting results. However, two newer European studies may be giving us a clue. A two-year Dutch study seemed to show that osteoarthritis was worsened by higher humidity and barometric pressure. A similar more extensive study of Europeans from six different countries appeared to link higher humidity with increased pain, especially when paired with cold weather.

Robert Jamison, Professor at the Harvard Medical School and chief psychologist at the Pain Management Center at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Chestnut Hill, said  “67.9 percent of the people surveyed responded that they were sure changes in the weather had an effect on their pain. Most of the patients reported that they can feel a change in their pain before rain or cold weather occur,”

So while no one has all the answers, medical science is getting a little closer to figuring out what might be causing this phenomenon.

Preventing Arthritis Pain Through Hydration

One way to prevent arthritis pain in cold weather is to make sure you are well hydrated. This may come as a surprise since it is not an intuitive way to combat the cold. But being dehydrated can make your arthritis pain worse.

A study in 2016 showed that participants in the cold pressor test (CPT) had increased perception of pain when they were even just slightly dehydrated. For the CPT, participants were asked to submerge their feet in cold water and rate their level of pain. Their pain levels were also monitored physiologically by the measurement of heart rate and blood flow.

What the study found was that mild dehydration modifies the cerebrovascular response to the CPT. This, in turn, increases the perceived pain. So even if you’re cold, you may want to lay off the coffee and pick up a bottle of water instead.

Preventing Arthritis Pain By Bundling Up

Another way to help prevent arthritis pain is to bundle up. Staying warm during the transition from inside to outside will help relax your muscles and also reduce any sudden changes in the temperature or pressure of joints.

Regular cold-weather clothes such as hats and gloves are fine, but sometimes you need extra layers to block out the chill. Long underwear can be an option, or you can try something as simple as putting on a more fitted shirt underneath your winter sweater.

For more targeted warmth and support, you can try warmers made specifically for certain body parts. Angora shoulder warmers are light, breathable, and seven times warmer than wool. Angora allows your skin to breathe while absorbing moisture. These warmers maintain a steady temperature at the surface of the skin without adding bulk.

So while the mystery of the connection between weather and arthritis pain has yet to be solved entirely, in the meantime, ILA is happy to provide options to help keep you warm.

Photo by Genessa Panainte on Unsplash

World Diabetes Day

One in every eleven adults has diabetes. And while diabetes is an equal opportunity disease, it does skew toward those with lower incomes. Three-quarters of people with diabetes live in countries that are primarily low or middle income. However, almost half of adults with diabetes are undiagnosed, which can lead to significant health problems or even death.

The History of World Diabetes Day

World Diabetes Day first began in 1991. It was created by The World Health Organization and the International Diabetes Foundation. The design was in response to growing concern about the impact of diabetes on global health.

In 2006 it became an official United Nations Day. In 2007 they adopted their current blue circle logo. The blue circle is the global symbol of the unity of the diabetes community in response to the disease’s epidemic status.

World Diabetes Day is now the world’s most extensive diabetes awareness campaign. Its message reaches over 1 billion people in over 160 countries. According to their website, World Diabetes Day’s goals are to:

-Be the platform to promote IDF advocacy efforts throughout the year.

-Be the global driver to promote the importance of taking coordinated and concerted actions to confront diabetes as a critical global health issue.

World Diabetes Day 2017

World Diabetes Day 2017 is focusing on women and diabetes. Gender roles, especially in less developed countries, can limit the access of women to proper healthcare and screening. Economic barriers also affect their ability to seek and receive treatment.

This makes diabetes the ninth leading cause of death in women, globally. And because two out of every five women who have diabetes are of childbearing age, the disease accounts for more difficulties in both conception and pregnancy.

Currently, over 199 million women live with diabetes, and that number will likely increase to 313 million by 2040. Coronary heart disease is ten times more likely in women with type 2 diabetes, and women with type 1 diabetes have a much higher risk of having a baby with congenital disabilities or even suffering a miscarriage.

What Can Be Done?

The International Diabetes Federation also believes that women can be key agents in improving the health of future generations. Since 70% of the cases of type 2 diabetes can be prevented through healthy lifestyle changes, it is possible to stem the rising tide of cases of diabetes.

As mothers, women have significant influence over the health habits of their children, which means they can establish healthy lifestyles for their families. Starting children off on the right path is statistically significant because the majority of cases of premature death are related to behaviors that the individual adopted in adolescence. When women are given the tools to make good health choices for the young children in their families, they will be setting them up for continued success in the future.

For More Information

For more information on the world epidemic of diabetes, you can download a free copy of the International Diabetes Federation Atlas. The Atlas is a comprehensive, 140-page guide that covers the entire scope of diabetes research. After examining the data, it ends with a chapter on action items that can raise the global standard for care.

ILA hopes to be part of the solution by providing supplies and equipment that help make diabetes management more accessible to people of all abilities.

Tips For Med Management At Home

About 30% of hospitalizations for seniors are related to mismanaged meds. Missed doses and overdoses of prescribed medications are the most common mistakes made. Other problems can occur when possible drug interactions are not clearly understood or when patients are not aware of the degree to which their balance or cognition may be affected when using certain medications. This is why it is essential to have a good medication management plan for home. Taking the time to organize and understand your medications can prevent serious complications.

Pill Sorters

One of the simplest things you can do is purchase a pill sorter. Pill sorters come in different configurations. The most basic ones have two compartments, one for morning and one for night. Other sorters come with three or four separate compartments that cover other times of day.

All sorters are not created equal as far as ease of use. Better quality ones are easy to open, have markings that will not rub off or fade, and allow you to separate the individual days. For example, the Jumbo Portable Pill Box has both tactual markings and braille to mark the times. The individual days are also removable, and it has a ridge on the lid that helps with leveraging the compartments open.

Organizing The Month

If possible, it is helpful to organize more than one week at a time. Organizing a month in advance saves time in the long run. Once you have all the supplies out, you can quickly fill up a few more weekly rows. Organizing a month in advance also allows you to see when you might run out of certain medications and helps you plan for calling in refills or consulting your doctor if you need a medication change.

While you could buy several smaller pill sorters and add them all together to complete your month, one great option is to use the MedCenter Talking One Month Medication Organizer. This organizer has 31 individual boxes, each with four compartments for the day. They all fit neatly into one big display, with a special place to put that day’s box. This organizer also has a talking alarm that reminds you to take your medications.

Auto-Refill Programs

While organizing a month in advance can help you plan your dosing and avoid problems like forgetting to refill your medications, another great way to prevent missing medications is to enroll in your pharmacy’s auto-refill program.

Not all pharmacies will have an auto-refill program, but if they do, you should consider it for any medications you take regularly. Typically the pharmacy will set their computer system to automatically refill your prescription at the time you should only have a couple of days left. Sometimes these programs will require you to respond “yes” or “no” to a text or automated phone call to confirm that you want to refill. Other programs just go ahead and refill it without confirmation. The details vary from pharmacy to pharmacy.

Stick With A Pharmacy You Love

If it’s possible to get all of your medications from one pharmacy, then try to do so. Using multiple pharmacies can be confusing, time-consuming, and possibly even dangerous. When using more than one pharmacy, you will have to keep track of which pharmacy to call for what refill. You may also waste time each month driving to different locations to pick up your medications.

The biggest problem with using multiple pharmacies, however, is that the pharmacist may not be familiar with all of your medications and will be less able to advise you on possible drug interactions. Your pharmacist needs to see the big picture to give good advice on dosing or potential side effects. If all of your medications are entered into the computer at one location, this becomes much easier.

Using Timers Or Alarms

Technology is your friend when trying to stay on schedule with your medications. Find a timer or alarm system that is easy to operate and works best for your lifestyle. Some people just set a timer on their watch or phone. Other people find that they can too easily shut these off before completing the task of taking their meds, and then they still forget to do it.

The Your Minder Personal Alarm Clock was designed to avoid that pitfall. This clock can record your voice with a personal alarm or reminder up to six times a day. The alarm is compatible with the MedCenter One Month Organizer by nestling onto the front of the pill sorter. Having to walk over to your medications to shut off the alarm will help prevent you from wandering away without actually taking them.

Ask For Help

If you continue to struggle with medication management, it’s important to recognize what a serious issue this could become. Forty percent of seniors enter nursing homes because they can’t self-medicate in their own homes. Your independence is valuable, and asking for help may allow you to continue living in a less restrictive environment.

The first place you can seek help is from relatives or close friends. They may be happy to come and organize your medications for you or to check to make sure you have taken your medications each day. If this is not an option, you may qualify for in-home nursing care. Nursing care can oversee the task of medication administration as well as assess your overall health.

The average senior takes between eight and fifteen medications. That is a lot to remember. ILA is happy to help you stay healthy, safe, and independent by offering products that make managing your medications easier.