This week on “Discover The Dale”, Sara sat down with Vision and Hearing Coordinator, Nancy Smith, to discuss the work she does with her group.
The program was founded in 2005, as a joint effort between The Dale and Niagara County Office of the Aging with the goal to help people remain independent in their own home, even with limitations. As Nancy put, this isn’t just a program goal, but really a goal of the whole organization.
Nancy helps people that have lost some or all of their vision or hearing, even just by giving basic information. People go to the eye doctor and get a diagnosis and are then sent home to a completely altered life and don’t know what to do or where to go. As an example, Nancy talked about her first client, a retired university professor. Though retired, he still did a lot of reading and research, and his vision loss made it difficult to do the things he loved, leaving him depressed and stuck in his house. Nancy introduced him to some of the at-home aids that are available:
- Magnifiers, specifically geared to your vision level
- Pocket-sized magnifiers
- TV glasses that bring the TV closer to the viewer and can be worn over regular glasses
- Polarized sunglasses in various colors
- White and black or yellow and black special lined paper with markers to help when writing
- Letter and signature guides for signing paperwork or filling out an envelope
- Bump dots that can mark on/off buttons
These items are used for a lot of small, every day tasks, showing how much someone’s life can change just from losing some of their vision. The loss weighs heavy on people and often results in depression and isolation. With the help of Nancy and all the fun gizmos and gadgets available, people are able to hold onto some of their independence, stay connected with loved ones, and continue to do the activities that bring them joy and comfort.
Nancy also talked about some local organizations other than The Dale that can help those facing vision loss:
- LS&S catalog contains most of the above products and much more! (including a talking microwave -how cool?!)
- Veterans Administration has services for veterans with similar resources
- Olmsted Center for Sight/ VIA is a low vision clinic that has hours at The Dale’s Administration offices, 20 Lock St. To make an appointment call 888-4556
The big question is – does someone need a diagnosis to reach out and take advantage of these services?
Anyone can stop in or call Nancy with questions or to ask for information. If she suspects that you might need more help, she can refer you to great specialists in the area!
The Vision and Hearing Program also works closely with the Lions Club. When working with a client that had a difficult time reading, the Lions Club donated a “Vision Machine” to help her. The machine looks like a computer with a platform that you place the reading material on, while the screen allows you to enlarge the print and change the background color so that you can read with ease. Thanks to The Lions Club, we were able to get the machine to the client for FREE.
Services like this allow people to continue to live their lives in ways that they thought they had been stripped of. At the Senior Centre, we see people struggle with these major life changes and wonder what they are going to do. Having machines like this and all of the other aids Nancy discussed makes their increased time at home more normal and allows them to hold onto pieces of independence.
Nancy also runs a support group that is finally back to meeting after the pandemic. The group hones in on socializing, but also sharing information. It makes people feel better to know that other people are facing the same issues and helps to make them feel less alone in their journey. When you talk about what you’re going through, you know that someone is understanding you on a deeper level.
The program is available to help relieve the stress and give support for all of Niagara County, 60 or older.
Not sure if these services are meant for you? Nancy runs screenings to help you determine where you are at and what help you might need! Vision screenings are usually done at The Dale’s health fairs and hearing screenings are once a month September through May. Local audiologists, including Diversified Hearing and Buffalo Speech and Hearing Center come to The Dale to provide a preliminary hearing test and the opportunity to really talk about your hearing loss and what you need to do.
We see a lot of people hesitate to do a screening, assuming they’ll need a hearing aid and can’t afford it. If a hearing aid is the answer for you, many health insurance plans cover low-cost hearing aids, so ask your rep today! While hearing aids are great, there are other types of tools you can find to help navigate your hearing loss:
- Pocket Amplifier that has an earbud and amplifies the sound around you
- TV Ears to help with TV audio
- Phone with enlarged numbers and an amplifier
- Clear Captions phone where you can read what is being said on a screen, which is FREE through the Americans with Disabilities Act (internet connection required)
This fall, Nancy is hoping to have a program where vision and hearing experts come in and explain the gadgets, do screenings, and even teach people how to use Alexa! Keep an eye on our website and Facebook for more information!
On top of all of that, Nancy also runs our C.A.R.E. program. We have seen, more than ever, how important the Call And Reassure Elderly program is throughout COVID. Trained volunteers call isolated individuals to check in and give a friendly call. Though the name says elderly, anyone 18 and over can sign up for the program. Some people are homebound and have lost touch with friends while others have lost a spouse – whatever the reason, when you sign up for C.A.R.E. you know you’ll be checked in on and maybe even make a new friend!
There are OPTIONS – you don’t have to be stuck at home and suffering. The Dale is here to help!
If you or a loved one would benefit from any of these services, give Nancy Smith a call at 433-1886 ext. 108!
To watch this episode, go to: LCTV On Demand