Managing Medictions

Never really thought about it in quite this way, but VisionAware has a series of ‘getting started as a visually impaired person’ posts. Sort of like a starter kit for a hobby. Instead of scrapbooking or constructing terrariums, we get visual impairment. “Oh, yes, did I tell you? I’m taking up visual impairment. This book says that in just six easy lessons ($19.99 each) I can have the start of a very promising visually impaired person. And the book says I can do this at home in my spare time!”

Uh, yeah. Really did not need another hobby…especially THIS one.

That is not to say, however, that a ‘how to’ series for vision loss newbies is not a fine idea. It is such a fine idea I am going to borrow shamelessly from them in writing this, and perhaps another page.

The page I am borrowing from is entitled Products and Devices to Help You Identify Your Medications. In that article they cover all sorts of clever ideas for trying to make sure we don’t poison ourselves. I vote for that!

Some of the suggestions in their article are as simple and low tech as keeping a black tray in the bathroom so you can have contrast to see your pills. Others are more high tech. The one I am going to focus on is a high tech option: audio description.

The VisionAware article mentions several different options for audio description devices to use with your medications. There is one manufactured by AccessaMed and there is another one called Talking Rx. But the one I want to talk about is ScripTalk. Why? Can’t write about everything in 500 words.

According to a disabilities lawyer (lflegal.com), many pharmacies are now offering talking labels and label readers for medication bottles. The lawyer’s website gives kudos to a number of chains. (We will ignore the thinly veiled attempt to drum up litigation business.)

I will get back to offering some chain names in a minute but first let’s talk about how this works. Apparently your pharmacist reads the label information into a device that digitizes the information and puts it on a little label that he attaches to the bottle. When you get it home, you have a reader that will allow you to hear what the pharmacist said.

Now, ScripTalk is offered through CVS, HEB, Walmart and Humana. It is a free service to satisfy the requirements of ADA. Of those four corporations, however, the article lists only the customer service numbers for CVS and WalMart. Got a pen? The CVS number is 800-746-7287. The Walmart mail-order pharmacy number is 1-888-237-3403.

Just because you are not in the States and subject to the ADA, does not mean you cannot get medicine bottle labels that talk to you. I have it on pretty good authority (the Vancouver Sun online from 10/07/2016) Shoppers Drug Mart was sued under Canadian accessibility laws and now offers ScripTalk, and free use of a ScripTalk reader.

In the United Kingdom Boots started offering talking medicine labels in 2006. (My, but the Colonies are Johnny-come-latelies on this!) Not exactly sure what is happening on this issue in Australia. Most of what I found there was about a general relabeling of all pharmaceuticals. Anyone know?

Call your pharmacy and see what they offer in the way of audio description labels and readers for your medications. If they have nothing it might be good to remind them this is an accessibility issue. Nothing then? I heard of this disability rights attorney….😱

Have a great evening. Don’t accidental poison yourself.

Written August 11th, 2017

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Keep an Eye on Your Eyes

I gave up trying to be perfect a long time ago. Too much like work. That is the reason I get it when people let things lapse. You meant to call the doctor about the vision change you think you are seeing but another day is gone and you never got to it.

Or how about this one? You don’t want to bother such a busy guy (or gal) with a silly, little worry. Then there is the forever popular, if I don’t think about it, it will go away!

Yep, dozens of ‘good’ reasons for not monitoring your vision and keeping your doctor in the proverbial loop. My reason for seldom if ever monitoring? (Come on! At least I own it.) My macula is so far gone I am back on biannual visits. I have it on good authority I will most likely not progress to wet AMD. Relief, yes, but I still sort of wish there was enough left I had to worry.

But that is me. There are plenty of you who are still at risk for developing wet AMD. There are also plenty of you who wish they had responded to early warnings before they lost vision. Since that second group are living testimonies to the fact things happen when we are not paying attention, how do we pay better attention to the progression of our disease?

For years the only game in town has been the Amsler Grid. This being the age of technology it is certainly understandable there are suddenly all sorts of machines and apps that not only do the job of monitoring but also narc on you and call your doctor! (Big Brother is even watching your eyes!)

I did a page on myVisionTrack a while ago. I downloaded it but could not play with it because it needed a script from my doctor. It was also for pay. So far this year we have replaced the washer and the dishwasher, rehabbed the pool and had Beastie Baby to the puppy doctor a few times; forgive me if I don’t invest in some of these things. If you use the service, please comment.

The new one I just discovered is ForeseeHome. This is manufactured by Notal Vision, an Israeli company. The company provides an electronic device that is connected to a telecommunication system. Everyday the patient takes three or four minutes to test her vision. If there is a significant change both the patient and her doctor are notified of the need for an immediate appointment.

ForeseeHome is again by prescription only. The frequently asked questions on the website suggest the unit and service are Medicare covered if you meet the eligibility. Apparently you have to be “dry AMD at high risk of progressing to wet AMD”. Am I sure what that means exactly? What I think it means is someone may have to jump through hoops to get Medicare to actually pay for it, but you can get one with a good argument.

If your doctor wants you to monitor much more closely than you are, one of the new electronic systems may be for you. Spend three or four minutes once a day. Eliminate the guesswork. Eliminate feeling guilty for ‘bothering’ the doctor. Help save your sight.

Written August 9th, 2017

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Fighting the Mess

Morning. I am officially overwhelmed. I have said it before: my life is cluttered. My house is cluttered. Sometimes even my mind is cluttered. On one level I realize this is not good for someone with visual impairment. It means I lose things. Lots of things. More things that I ever used to lose.

On another level, dealing with the mess can be just plain overwhelming. I don’t feel like tackling it. Sometimes it is a lot easier to buy new or do without.

Generally, the mess wins no matter what I do.

This morning things reached critical mass – again – and I figured I had better do something about it before it blew up. Parts of my half-hearted effort were to sort laundry and get rid of articles I had printed out but never written a page on.

Laundry and vision loss articles…they may not be two great things that go great together, but one of the printed out articles I found from VisionAware was about blind people doing laundry.

Does that freak you out a bit when things come together like that? That cosmic convergence stuff? Does me.

Anyway, laundry is not that hard for me. I keep the setting the same (except for delicates) and stick a finger in the measuring cup to make sure I don’t run the cup over with detergent. Then I wipe my hand on a piece of clothing so I am not all detergent-y. If I have to change the setting, I use a light to make sure it is right. My handheld reader has a light and that works well.

What I liked were the suggestions they made for ironing. I admire you people who are organized enough to get things out of the dryer and hang them instantaneous. I know this avoids a lot of wrinkles. I am great for leaving the house with the dryer running or going to bed with it on. Clothes have sat in the dryer for days. Meaning? I iron every morning.

VisionAware has some really good ideas. Since we all know contrast is a good thing when you are low vision, having a solid color ironing board cover is good. They also suggest you get a heat-treated pad to set your iron on when you are moving the clothing, etc. That will allow the hot part to be down and you don’t burn yourself when you reach for it.

Those are the two things you might have to purchase. Ideas that involve things you probably would not have to purchase include using a funnel or a turkey baster to put water in the iron. Personally, I just use an old Febreze bottle and squirt things. Marking the proper setting so you don’t scorch things can be done with that raised marking stuff or even nail polish. [Lin/Linda: I think when Sue says ‘raised marking stuff’ she means bump dots.]

The last idea I liked was finding the iron by grabbing the cord first. If the contrast of the cord with everything else is poor, tie a ribbon on it! After all, safety first.

OK, back to the fight. Personally, I think I am going to lose again.

Written August 6th, 2017

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Put the Savor Back in Life

As my father got older I really started to worry about his nutrition. Left to his own devices Daddy would prepare a lunch of canned peaches in heavy syrup, a couple of cookies and a bowl of ice cream. It was like dealing with the tastes of a six year old! Sugar, sugar and more sugar!

I eventually learned taste loss comes with old age. Since sweet is the last flavor we can still taste, many of us go to a high sugar diet. Not all that great.

Lost of taste is just one of the sensory losses we experience. Science Digest in February of 2016 ran an article reporting 94% of older Americans have at least one sensory loss. 38% have losses in two senses and 28% have three, four or five sensory losses. Some of these deficits were mild but many of them were serious. The study found 64% of their sample ages 57 to 85 suffered with a significant deficit in at least one sense. 22% had major deficits in two or more senses.

Yikes! This is scary stuff!

Sensory loss takes the savor out of life – literally. It is one of the main reasons people may report a reduction in the quality of life.

Alright, now that we have had the stuffing scared out of us, what can be done about this? Most sources suggest getting any potential sensory loss evaluated medically. Some sensory problems cannot be treated but there are some that can.

Just because some of us have a vision loss that is currently not treatable does not mean the same holds true for other sensory loss. Don’t be fatalistic! Go for help.

Then, of course, there are rehabilitation services. I would like to say rehabilitation services and assistive technology is universally available, but I know better. If you cannot get services funded, use resources such as this website. We regularly try to find things that are free or relatively inexpensive that can help you cope with your vision loss. I expect there are websites for hearing impaired although I am less optimistic about sites on taste, smell and touch loss.

And speaking of smell and taste loss…

In Betrayed by our Bodies – Sensory Loss and Aging Dan Orzech suggests the use of odor detecting technology so we can avoid burning up in a fire (smoke detectors) or being asphyxiated by leaking gas.

Orzech suggested using a little butter or gravy to make the odor and flavor of food more chemically available. (A man after my own heart!). He also reported dehydration can make it harder to taste so make sure you drink your fluids.

Although not being able to see colors well is a hallmark of AMD, do what you can to make foods bright, colorful and visually appealing. Intensely colored foods are rated as more flavorful that dull colored foods.

Given the number of readers and FaceBook members we have, I would suspect more than one or two of you are experiencing multiple sensory losses. Don’t ignore them. There really are ways to put some of the savor back into life!

Written August 4th, 2016

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Behind the Wheel: Part 2

continued from Behind the Wheel: Part 1

In talking about why Yvonne drove after three years, she mentioned independence. Speaking personally, I would love the freedom of driving. The shared ride service here is a pain. The other night I was picked up at the Y and had to ride along to a local restaurant. We waited half an hour for the second passenger to get his ‘stuff’ together and get it on the road.

You have heard me scream plenty about rolling out of bed at the crack of dawn to get 10 miles down the road ‘only’ an hour early.

Unfortunately, shared rides come with many indignities and inconveniences.

Right now I have started ‘jonesing’ for a chocolate milkshake. The drive-in restaurant is only a mile away but it is on the other side of a busy road. I’m thinking that trying to get across that road for a milkshake – even a large! – may not be a good idea. Shared rides and going by foot may not leave a lot of room for spontaneity, either. (Yes, I do have a husband. He is dieting!)

I would love the freedom of driving. After all, this is the woman who renewed her license so she could feel like a big girl! But I don’t drive. The eyes in this head are too far gone.

Yvonne did her homework. Good idea. I did my homework for my bike riding. I know my routes pretty well. Today the Children’s Museum next to the Y had a street fair. The road was blocked. Detour ahead! On my bike, I just dismounted and walked through the fair. In a car, I would have been rerouted to a road I rarely travel. Things happen. The best laid plans of mice and men and all that. You cannot always count on doing what you planned to do.

Yvonne mentioned problems with family members using the car, not transporting her and not doing basic maintenance. Without the family members she is on her own. Maintenance? I used the same garage for nearly 40 years. I think if I asked, they would have come for me. I find it is always good to inquire. You don’t know what people will do for you until you ask.

My license has not been pulled. A few weeks back I went and had it renewed. No one questioned me. No one threw me behind bars. I can legally drive but I don’t.

Many states are not good about making sure people who should not drive don’t. And even if they pull licenses, the roads are full of unlicensed drivers anyway. Driving or not driving is the decision each of us must make for himself.

Would I ever drive? Perhaps. With a very sick husband or a very sick dog or if I had fewer resources, perhaps. I have said it before: I am blessed with resources. What would I do if truly stuck? Dunno. Maybe, but right now, my answer would still have to be no.

But what did the Yvonne do?

written August 6th, 2017

Continue reading “Behind the Wheel: Part 2”

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Behind the Wheel: Part 3

continued from Behind the Wheel: Part 2

Did we leave you with a cliffhanger? Silly, of course: Yvonne drove! I am relieved to say she got home without injuring herself or others. The car still has all its pieces…but what did she say about it and will she make a habit of it?

If this were a TV show, we would have gone to commercial break, but since we have no sponsors, there will be no words from our sponsors…just returning to what she said:

Yvonne could not see any gauges – including the speedometer. Her dark glasses caused that problem. The lighting and shadows would change along the route and it was bothersome. She planned a route that took her a bit out of her way but allowed all right turns.

Yvonne felt a bit exhilarated she had accomplished the trip. She admitted she had been scared and said she would not make a habit out of it. Many places she has to go are in congested areas and she does not want to drive there.

So successful experiment for our reader. She tried it and I will not. I see waaay too many problems with it. What is the difference? And more importantly, should you try it yourself??????

I have no idea of how much vision loss Yvonne has. I know my loss pretty much precludes driving. But if no one ever said not to drive, how do we make that decision? [Lin/Linda: Yvonne lives in Alabama where they never check a driver’s vision. Also, her doctor never tells patients NOT to drive.]

I found a resource at AAA. That is the American Automobile Association. They have a special website SeniorDriving.aaa.com.  AAA suggests we try the informal driving self-assessment tool 65 Plus to start. If the informal assessment suggests we have problems, a professional driving skills evaluation can be conducted. This can be done at a driving examination site for your state DMV or by a trained driving instructor. AAA also suggests you might want to spend some time with an occupational therapist driving rehabilitation specialist.

Some of these services can be pricey. The OT evaluation may be between $200 and $400 according to AAA. If you need lessons, it may be $100 an hour. Rather doubt any of this is reimbursable by insurance but you can try.

When I tried to find the website for 65 Plus I came upon a number of things that look kind of cool. The self assessment is 15 questions. Also offered are videos with tips for dealing with physical changes that come with age and a site that will tell you how your medications may affect your driving.

Other resources are offered through AARP, American Association of Retired People. The AARP website page Driver Safety suggested there is a driver’s program only 12 miles away from me. Amazing.

My research also suggested some states do driver’s training for ‘mature’ drivers. Check in your state for information.

So, going back to my original statement. Specifically, I am supposed to be the only bad influence on this website.

Please, please, please do not try to drive just because one reader had a successful jaunt. Think you might be able to drive? Have your hunch tested by a professional.

Been told you should not drive? For your sake, my sake and everyone else’s sake, listen, for crying out loud! You don’t want to ruin lives.

And if you are being pigheaded and driving in Pennsylvania? Tell us where you are. I want to stay far, far away.

written August 6th, 2017

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Behind the Wheel: Part 1

TGIF! Happy Friday! In real time it is the beginning of August, 2017. As usual, Lin and I have been pleading for ‘audience participation’ in the website and we actually got some! One of our readers who is also a Facebook group member has been sharing some of her experiences with Lin. Yvonne submitted a comment on one of the recent website pages.

Now a little background on how things work with comments. As I said when we started, Lin and I retain the right to refuse anything we do not think is appropriate. Advertisements are a no no. Anything too private or salacious may have us twittering over it but it does not get to the website🙈🙉🙊. Also, I reserve the right to remain the only bad influence for the site!

That said, Lin got Yvonne’s comment & did not publish it but asked her if we could share parts of what she wrote. She gave her go-ahead.

The topic? Driving with vision loss.

Why just pieces? First reason is this: it scared the bejesus out of us. Second reason: Yvonne outlined how she was going to try driving and we do not want any of you getting any ideas! We will not be responsible.

Yvonne said she was getting behind the wheel for the first time in three years. Oy vay. I would be afraid to get behind the wheel after a year and a half. I have asked my husband to let me drive in a huge empty parking lot and he has refused. He’s afraid of me behind the wheel, too.

I know riding my bike at 7 or 8 miles an hour there are some things I don’t see until I am right on top of them. At 4 times that speed I would be running right into them. Also, coming back from kayaking the other day my friend stopped for an accident. The cop was directing traffic but I could not see his hand signals. What would I have done if I were driving? Gotten out of the car and asked him what he wanted me to do?!?! Don’t think so.

Yvonne said she is not able to see the dials and gauges. Not sure what kinds of gear display her car has but I know I used to have one with the gears on the dash. Putting a car in drive instead of park or reverse instead of drive could be the last mistake I ever make….or ever want to make.

And even if a driver believes he is happily in control at 20 miles an hour in a 35 mph zone, what about the person driving behind him? Could he guarantee he is not going to pass on a double yellow and have a head-on collision? Or how about when he starts blinking his lights, honking his horn and screaming at you? Could someone even hope to maintain composure?

Another point: Yvonne was driving in a neighborhood. While I know kids don’t play outside as much as we did, some still do. Kids are unpredictable and do not follow the rules. Kill or maim a child? Kill me now because I am not sure I could live with that.

So those are my initial thoughts on that. Why did she want to drive? What happened? Tune in next page!

written August 5th, 2017

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