Health
December 4, 2020
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Wonder what it’s like to lose your senses?

By: Julie Ann Soukoulis
February 28, 2020

We often take for granted how our body works, until it doesn’t. Have you ever considered what it is like to lose your senses?  Does your aging loved one often says “WHAT?” and you find yourself yelling or constantly repeating yourself? Or your mom says to you “nothing tastes good anymore?”  These DIY activities can help you understand their position and more often than not- understanding is the key to acceptance and compassion.

1. Blurry or low vision – Imagine being unable to see the world clearly or living with blind spots or no peripheral vision. Approximately one person in three has some form of vision-reducing eye disease by the age of 65, according to the American Family Physician.

Try this at home:

You can out Home Instead Senior Care’s  vision loss simulator at  www.agingsenses.com/vision-loss-simulator-cooking-cataracts to discover what it might be like to bake Grandma’s favorite cookies if you have cataracts. This simulation can help you understand what it may be like to cook with limited vision. According to the National Eye Institute, by age 80, most people either have cataracts or have had cataract surgery.

Try this suggestion from the Weigel Williamson Center for Visual Rehabilitation, University of Nebraska Medical Center, to get a feel for what it’s like to experience vision loss such as cataracts. Fold a plastic bag four times and hold it in front of your eyes, then attempt to make out words on a paper or images in front of you.

Place Vaseline on eyeglasses to recreate the cloudy vision of those who have cataracts.

Stick masking tape on each half of an eyeglass lens to help empathize with someone who has glaucoma.

2. Muffled sounds – Consider being unable to hear a television show or conversation. Approximately one in three people in the United States between the ages of 65 and 74 has hearing loss and nearly half of those older than 75 have difficulty hearing.

Try this at home:

Try to have an interactive conversation wearing earplugs.

Check out a hearing loss phone app to simulation the experience what it’s like to be living with hearing loss.

Say the phrase: “The five senses tend to decline with senescence.” Next, remove f, s, c and th and say it again. All you will likely hear is “e ive en e tend to de line wi ene en e.” This exercise shows just how easy high-frequency hearing loss might lead to delusion and confusion.

3. Loss of feeling – Contemplate what it would be like to experience numbness and tingling in the hands or feet. More than 20 million people in the United States have been estimated to have some form of peripheral neuropathy, nerve damage that often affects hands and feet.

Try this at home:

Put corn kernels in socks and try walking to better understand what it’s like to experience neuropathy.

Place cotton balls in the tips of plastic gloves. Now put slender wooden sticks or coffee stirrers in each finger and try to handle everyday tasks such as opening a pill bottle.

4. Tasteless meals – Think about your favorite food, how it melts in your mouth and what you enjoy most about the texture and taste. Now, imagine that you couldn’t taste that culinary favorite, or you couldn’t chew. By the age of 65, 50 percent of taste buds are lost by the average adult.

Try this at home:

To simulate what it would be like to face dental challenges, place two unsalted crackers in your mouth and drink an unsweetened drink mix, colored water or weak lemonade. Eat the cracker without chewing to illustrate the decrease in dental health.

Smell an onion while eating an apple to experience how it changes the taste. Loss of taste can be an issue for those on multiple medications or being treated for diseases such as cancer.

5. Lost scent – Reflect on the smell of your favorite candle or the aroma of a much-loved recipe. AgingCare reports that 30 percent of Americans between ages 70 and 80 have a problem with their sense of smell.

Try this at home:

Since smell and taste are so closely aligned, try eating your favorite food or milling around your favorite candle while wearing nose plugs.

Cut up foods similar in texture such as apples, carrots and potatoes. Then hold your nose or wear nose plugs. Close your eyes and ask someone to put the foods under your nose. Try to identify those by smell.

Compassion, grace and understanding often come from a shared experience. My hope is that what you learned here today will help you to understand what your aging loved is living with and in the future improve your communication and relationship.

 

Julie Ann Soukoulis is the owner of Home Instead Senior care office in Rohnert Park, mother of two and passionate about healthy living at all ages. Having cared for her own two parents, she understands your struggles and aims, through her website, www.homeinstead.com/sonoma to educate and encourage seniors & caregivers. Have a caregiving or aging concern?  She’d love to hear from you at 586-1516 anytime.