Continuing story/update - newly blind person (now age 92)

Continuing the discussion from Help/resources for a person newly blind at age 91:

Mary Lou will be turning 92 on Dec 10. Her vision has improved ever-so-slightly to where she can sort of see large areas of something. In the beginning, everything was completely black, so this is good, as she is no longer likely to walk straight into a wall. However, she is still functionally blind. We hope she may eventually improve enough to be called “low-vision.”

When this first happened, they hired around-the-clock caregivers. Now they’d like to cut way back on their hours or dispense with them all together, for economy reasons as well as just because they aren’t needed for so many hours. Mary Lou is able to navigate in the house on her walker.

Here are the two things I want to ask about:

*A medical alert/fall alert system. I know there are lots of them out there. Currently her husband is sleeping in another room because she has to sleep with the light on, as waking in the dark is scary and disorienting for her. So they still have the caregivers around the clock. With a fall alert system, hubby could be summoned from down the hall at the same time that a dispatcher is notified. Hubby would not be able to lift her by himself. [I have made suggestions for how he can move back into the bedroom, which they may or may not heed, but this post is going to be long enough as it is…]

What alert systems do y’all have experience with? Cost is not a major item, as whatever the cost, it will be less than paying a person to sit up overnight. What are tips and tricks when shopping for an alert system?

*Meal preparation. This is a tough one. Mary Lou was/is a great cook. She also has multiple food allergies, however. The current caregivers really aren’t capable of following her cooking instructions. Mary Lou can’t manage at all in the kitchen now, and hubby is not someone who can pick up the slack.

Meals on Wheels is an option. My mother used them when she was still in her apartment in California. But she got tired of the food and started shoving the packages in the freezer until the MOW delivery person reported that and they stopped delivering. I need to call the local MOW office and find out what the meals consist of. Mary Lou, as I said, had allergies. Her husband is a health nut (and going strong at 91!) so the Standard American Diet will not be acceptable to them. Do home health agencies do any cooking? I’ll research that.

How have y’all dealt with the food issue for homebound elderly family members?

More later.

P.S. I’m in the thick of this situation for as long as it lasts. I’m the one here in town, so that makes sense. It’s okay.

Ultimately, (months from now, probably) Mary Lou and hubby will have to move to a facility, and we know of an excellent one, but in the meantime, these things need to be dealt with.

Sorry to hear Thelma. It’s rough. My mother was barely mobile and sight impaired. Living on her own. We had her all set up for assisted living (I was going to have to force that on her) but then COVID struck.

I leased office space near her house in September so I could keep an eye on her. I would just sleep at her house and split time between that and home. I live a 100 miles away. I never moved into that office because she died.

I got a Bay Alarm system for her. .It’s a personal button that you can ware around your neck, on a wrist band anything. My mom absolutely refused to wear it. She would keep it on her walker. I had the discussion again, and again and again. She claimed she wore it when I was not there. Bullshit.

She fell October 19th, and did not have the emergency button. As best as I can surmise, she was on the floor for 20 hours. Exactly what I thought would happen, happened. When she fell she could not get to the walker that the alert system button was on.

She died in a hospice a few days later.

My mom was an OK cook. But she could no longer handle it. Due to other issues, she had to eat slowly kind of all day long. Kind of ‘snack’ all day. And she seemed fine with frozen meals for her ‘big’ meal of the day.

Oh @enipla I’m so sorry. It’s a grown child’s worst nightmare. That is a heartbreaking story.

ETA: I’ll look into that system.

Would it be possible to use a meal-kit delivery service such as HelloFresh or some such? They can be tailored for allergies and so forth, and the caregivers could do the simple preparation needed.

The only elderly homebound person in my life ordered delivery once a day from the diner across the street. Food came hot and the accompaniments were saved for breakfast the next day (rolls, fruit cup, etc.).

The fall alert system is a MUST too. I wish you luck and strength in this journey.

Locate the Area Agency On Aging that serves your friends. Here’s a zip code locator:

It will be a one stop shop for all your questions~save you from reinventing the wheel. My local agency manages the Meals On Wheels program, yours will surely have a link to the local one, including sample menus. I am sure you will find that the meals are a a very ‘homogenized’ plain vanilla generically lower in salt and fats selection, but not customizable for allergies or health food preferences. I think of the menu as being like Lutheran church basement potluck comfort foods of decades past. A homemaker might be found through that non-profit agency who will come in and do several outs of custom menu-planning, grocery shopping and cooking for several hours once or twice a week. I had several clients who did that when I worked as a home health nurse.

That aging agency probably also runs a program for the fall alert/messaging services. Mine does. I used one for about 18 months after my brain injury. Got rid of it because there were too many false alarms, which piss off emergency services and my family contact got terminally fed up with 3am false alarms. Most of them have a monthly service fee after you purchase/lease the hardware. Before investing I would be very sure the user and their respondent would actually wear the equipment 24/7. Very few people are compliant with that. I’d estimate that only one in ten of my home nursing clients actually wore the alarm pendent or wristband. Compliance was right up there with giving up driving. Look into a smart watch set up that she could use to summon her husband, it looks normal so there is less of a tendency to leave it on the nightstand or the coffee table. Most Apple watches, for instance, can be set up to call if a fall is detected.

Wishing you luck~The local Commission For The Blind will also be a comprehensive source for one stop assistance specific to low vision needs. Here’s the one for Texas:

They are excellent with technology as well as training and support services.

Thank you ThelmaLou.

Is Mary Lou a relation? I said before in other threads that things like Power of Attorney (POA), financial and health is very important for someone to have. It’s a difficult time, but having things like that lined up makes it easier for everyone.

She’s not a relative. She’s the mother of a guy I lived with in the early 70s. He and I broke up but she and I stayed close. He’s in the picture WRT her caregiving, but he lives in New England-- he and I are in touch constantly now.

Thanks. We do know about some of those. Right now I’m like the trained bear who is spinning multiple pizzas on sticks…

Best of luck ThelmaLou, and be cautious. I sort of have the same thing going on with my brother.

Oh dear…take care. :hugs:

I don’t really have any first-hand advice, but congrats to them for hanging on this long together, and thank you for trying to help them.

I would second the suggestion to look into a meal kit service. The amount of end-user preparation and cooking varies from company to company so that’s something to look into but it’s a good idea. It sounds like they are ready for the facility right now, so the sooner the wheels can get turning on that, the better.

You know, if she doesn’t really need medical attention, nor her husband, how about just hiring a standard housekeeper - cleaning, making meals. And then get one of the visiting nurse bunches to come in once a week for a general checkup? Say 5 days a week, and leaving some prepped meals in the fridge for the weekend?

That’s a good idea!

My son’s MIL (who is still fairly capable wears a watch with a fall alarm app. Once she swatted a mosquito and the watch asked if she had fallen. If she falls, the watch calls 9-1-1. She had a special lock installed on her apartment that the 9-1-1 people can open. Of course she actually wears the watch. If a person refuses, there is not much you can do.

A colleague of mine had a stroke and could not get up. He finally managed to get to a phone and call 9-1-1. But they could not get into his apartment. Before breaking down the door, he suggested they try to call his ex, who did have a key and came over to open the door. Although I would worry somewhat about the 9-1-1 people having access, the alternative can be worse.

I suppose it is pointless to ask the 91 yo husband to learn to cook.

In one area where I’ve lived the fire department has special key safes free for the asking. It’s a small safe with a combo lock on it that will hold 2 or 3 keys. The FD will come out and install it adjacent to your door. By law rented apartments must allow the installation. I don’t recall now whether the FD has a master key or a master combo that will open any safe on any door, or whether when they install it you select a combo, they program the safe to accept it, and record your combo in their central database.

But once the safe is installed and your keys are in it, the problem of EMS getting inside to help whoever is completely solved.

He would be willing, as he adores Mary Lou, but I think it’s beyond him.

My mother had a personal alarm, but she hung it on the wall instead of wearing it. :roll_eyes: One time she fell and managed to crawl to the phone and call 911. But the ambulance people had to come in through the window. The alarm people had a lockbox outside with a key to her apt in it. I told her, “If you’re not going to wear it, at least keep it on the floor so you can get to it if you fall again.”

Before my moms death, I put a lock box with a key in it on a back door. Also gave my cousin a key since she lives close. A trusted neighbor got a key too.

I called the fire and police station in her district and gave them the code to the lock box.

Not much else I could do.

But since my mom would not wear the ‘call 911’ button, all of my preparations where useless.

It’s crazy really. I’m 62yo now and work home alone. I keep my cell phone with me always, all it takes is one misstep.

Smart. As do I.

What is psychologically different is that we’ve all spent the last 20-ish years in constant electronic contact with the outside world. A situation utterly foreign to our parents’ generation.

Every so often there’s a thread here about mobile phone usage & folks’ attitudes to them. A current one is:

One of the interesting observations (to me at least) in each of these threads is the small minority of folks our age who hate the idea of a mobile, whereas I find it the most convenient and most-used gizmo I own. Far handier than my microwave oven or refrigerator. To them it feels confining.

Most all our parents probably thought that way. If you’re not connected while a middle-aged person, becoming forcibly connected later feels like being nannied. It’s a very tangible reminder of growing irreversible infirmity. Me, I feel sorta naked when not connected.

I think our generation will have lots less of the stubborn “won’t wear an alarm” thinking. Though we may need that alarm disguised in the form of a simplified mobile with bigger, brighter, easier to read buttons.

Yeah, but.

Mom was on the computer every day. She had a hard time seeing it, so I upgraded it to a new machine and with a 32" monitor. Adjusted the display. Lighted keyboard. She had a cell phone too. A flip phone. She would not have been able to use a smart phone. No way with poor sight and essential tremors. She would never hit an icon on a smart phone.

But she would not wear the 911 button. She got mad at me for constantly bringing it up. She was fine with tech, except the emergency button. I was getting close to installing security cameras inside her house, but that’s way too intrusive for anyone.

I wonder why the emergency alert button bothered her so much?

I wonder if she was afraid she might fall and be found in a particularly embarrassing or undignified position? Like if she was in the bathtub or something. The idea that strangers might find her naked or dirty before she could clean up or get dressed might have been so unthinkable that, well… the alternative seemed acceptable. I mean I was raised in the school of “make sure you’re wearing clean underwear in case you have to be taken to the ER.” So what if you’re mortally injured, the important thing is clean panties.