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Information & Caregiver Resource Corner

Be a friendly driver to pedestrians who are legally blind

October is White Cane Awareness Month

White Cane imageMonday, October 15, 2018, is White Cane Safety Day.President Lyndon B. Johnson recognized the first White Cane Safety Day in 1964 to raise awareness for pedestrians, cyclists and motorists to use special care for people who are blind and carry a white cane.

Q: What is a white cane, and what should I know if I see a person using one?

A: According to the Braille Institute, “the white cane is a tool of independence for many people who are blind or severely visually impaired. It affords people who are legally blind the opportunity to travel safely and efficiently in the community.”

October 15, 2018, is White Cane Safety Day. All states and many other countries have White Cane laws, which allow pedestrians who are legally blind the right of way at street crossings.

Motorists can follow these guidelines to support white cane safety:
  • Don’t stop your car less than than five feet from the crosswalk line.
  • Don’t yell out, “It’s OK to cross.”
  • Don’t get impatient when waiting for a pedestrian who is visually impaired to cross. If the pedestrian places the long cane into the street, it usually indicates he or she will begin a street crossing. If the cane traveler takes a step back and pulls back the cane from the curb, it usually indicates the person will not be crossing at that time.
  • Don’t consider a “rolling” stop as a complete stop.
  • Don’t turn right on red without coming to a full stop and looking for pedestrians. The Right on Red Law requires drivers to come to a complete stop prior to making right turns.
  • Don’t fail to stop for pedestrians at all crosswalks whether or not there is a traffic signal or stop sign.
  • Don’t stop your car in the middle of the crosswalk.
  • Don’t pass another car, stopped, waiting for pedestrians to cross the street.
  • Don’t wave to pedestrians who are using a white cane or dog guide to indicate that you are waiting for them to cross. They may not be able to  see you.
  • Don’t honk!

Most people who are legally blind have some usable vision. When in doubt, ask if the person needs assistance. Do not grab the person, cane, or dog guide! Do not pet a dog guide. Most dog guides are working and should not be petted since it can be distracting for the dog.

Learn more on the Massachusetts Commission for the Blind website or from the Braille Institute.

What you need to know about pain

Sept 2018 ICRC Column pain awareness photo WEBThe Chronic Pain Self-Management workshop helps people build self-confidence to assume an active role in managing their chronic pain. The next workshop starts in October. Learn more by contacting the Healthy Living Program.September is Pain Awareness Month. Pain Awareness Month was developed to help increase awareness regarding pain and its effects and to educate people about treatments that are available to relieve pain. According to Johns Hopkins University, by understanding more about what causes pain, we can improve treatments to help relieve suffering.

Q: What do I need to know about pain and its effects?

A: It is important that you know that there are two types of pain:
  • Acute pain is usually a result of an injury, illness, surgery or inflammation. Acute pain generally is resolved within a short period of time (one to two weeks).
  • Chronic pain is pain that continues for months or even years.

Untreated pain can affect your quality of life.

Here are some facts about pain and its effects:
  • Pain affects more people than diabetes, heart disease and cancer combined.
  • Workers lose on average of 4.6 hours per week of productivity due to pain.
  • An estimated 20 percent of adults report that their sleep is interrupted by pain or discomfort a few nights a week or more
  • 80 percent of people will experience back pain at some point
  • Back pain is the number one reason people visit their family doctors
  • 83 million people indicate that pain affects basic functioning in their everyday lives
  • Pain is a warning sign that indicates a problem that needs attention
  • Living with pain can be debilitating and adversely affect everyday life
Medication is not the only way to manage pain!

There are many pain intervention and management options available that do not rely solely on prescription opiates. Seek the advice and assistance of your primary care physician to find a pain specialist right for you.

The Healthy Living Program at LifePath can help you manage chronic health conditions and pain management as well as learn ways to eat healthier, exercise more, and develop healthy habits. There is even a workshop series specifically for chronic pain. For more information, contact the Healthy Living Program.

Safe driving resources for folks who are getting older

Although getting older doesn’t mean your driving ability will get worse, it’s important to be aware of how age-related factors and health conditions may affect your driving skills.

Q: How might my age affect my ability to drive?

A: According to AAA, the automotive motor club association things that might affect your driving safety as you age include:
  • Physical changes: such as mobility, alertness, coordination, and response times.
  • Vision changes: such as the way your eyes focus, can have an impact on driving safety.
  • Hearing changes: Inability to hear ambulance or police sirens, car horns, motorists, or pedestrians could have an impact on driving safety.
  • Cognitive problems: According to AAA, our ability to process information tends to slow down as we get older. People with certain conditions like dementia might not be able to react appropriately to traffic situations and might not react properly to traffic signs and pavement markings.
  • Medications: Some prescription drugs may have side effects, such as drowsiness, that make driving dangerous. Read the labels carefully.
Be proactive:

Schedule regular appointments with your physician to monitor pain or stiffness in your joints, any chronic conditions, fatigue, and stress. In addition to visiting your physician for general health checkups, vision and hearing screenings also need to be performed regularly.

Here are a few things to keep in mind when you are out on the road:
  • August 2018 ICRC Driving photo WEBThough safe driving may become more challenging with age, there are many adjustments you can make to better ensure the safety of your vehicle and those around you.If you wear glasses or contact lenses, ALWAYS have them while driving.
  • Be aware of conditions that might be affecting your vision, such as:
    • Cataracts
    • Glaucoma
    • Macular degeneration
  • If you feel like your vision is worsening, consult with your optometrist.
  • Recognize signs of trouble seeing at night.
  • If you have problems hearing other vehicles or emergency sirens when you drive, consult an audiologist.
  • Keep the noise inside the vehicle to a minimum.
It's important to be aware of any limitations that you find yourself up against, so that you can make necessary adjustments to ensure safety for yourself and those around you.

Some of these adjustments can include the following:

  • Increase your following distance.
  • Use the brakes early.
  • Avoid busy areas.
  • Try to anticipate rather than react.
  • Keep the steering wheel at a comfortable distance from your chest.
  • Raise the height of the seat so that your eyes are above the steering wheel.
  • Move your side mirrors to avoid blind spots.
  • Raise or lower the headrest so that it is directly behind your head.

There are certain times when senior drivers will be more at risk. For this reason, try to avoid driving in inclement weather, at night, or during rush hour when possible.

Brushing up on your driving skills is one way to help you stay safe while driving.

Consider taking a mature driver safety course. AAA’s “Roadwise Driver” is a course to help you with:

  • Extending your safe driving career
  • Distractions, drowsiness, aggressive driving & road rage
  • Managing visibility, time & space
  • Alcohol & medications
  • Comfort & safety tips
Finally, be prepared for the unexpected.

If you have the right items in your emergency roadside kit, such as reflective triangles, you can safely deal with any problems that arise. A basic roadside emergency kit should include some of the following items:

  • Jumper cables
  • Flares or triangle reflectors
  • A quart or more of motor oil
  • A gallon of coolant
  • First-aid kit
  • Blanket or space blanket
  • Flashlight and extra batteries
  • Tool kit with screwdrivers, pliers, adjustable wrench, pocket knife
  • A can of tire inflator and sealant
  • Tire pressure gauge
  • Paper towels
  • Spray bottle with washer fluid
  • Ice scraper
  • Pen and paper
  • Granola or energy bars
  • Bottled water

Learn more safe driving tips online at SeniorDriving.AAA.com.

Stay safe during days of extreme heat this summer

It’s summertime, and with that comes heat-related illnesses and heat emergencies.  

Extreme-heat emergencies are caused by exposure to extreme heat and sun. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “Heat-related deaths and illnesses are preventable. Despite this fact, more than 600 people in the United States are killed by extreme heat every year.”

Q: What can you do to avoid extreme heat emergencies?

A: First, it is important to know that there are some people who are more at risk of developing a heat-related illness than others.
  • Older adults (age 65+)
  • People with chronic medical conditions
  • Outdoor workers
  • Infants and children
  • Low-income households
  • Athletes

Don’t forget pets are also at risk.

Second, know the different types of heat related illnesses and learn the symptoms and what to do if you show signs of having a heat-related illness.  

man 1464787If you go outside in extreme heat, pacing yourself, staying hydrated, and wearing light, protective clothing and sunscreen can help you to stay safe.Here are two heat related illnesses, their symptoms and what to do:

Heat stroke

Symptoms:

  • Hot red, dry or damp skin
  • Fast strong pulse
  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Confusion
  • Passing out

What to do:

  • Call 911
  • Move the person to a cooler place
  • Apply cool cloths
  • Do not give the person anything to drink
Heat exhaustion

Symptoms:

  • Heavy sweating
  • Cold, pale and clammy skin
  • Fast, weak pulse
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Tiredness or weakness
  • Dizziness
  • Headache
  • Passing out

What to do:

  • Move to a cool place
  • Loosen your clothes
  • Put on cool, wet clothes
  • Sip water

Other heat related illnesses include heat cramps, sunburn and heat rash.

Third, here are some tips for preventing a heat related illness.  
  • Keep cool
  • Drink plenty of fluids
  • Wear lightweight, light-colored, loose-fitting clothing
  • Wear sunscreen
  • Pace yourself
  • Stay cool indoors
  • Schedule outdoor activities carefully

Don’t forget to check on those at risk.

To learn more about LifePath and the programs available, contact us, and remember: a resource consultant at LifePath can provide resource information on this and many other topics.  

The best defense against extreme heat is to be prepared.

June is National Safety Month

June 2018 ICRC National Safety Month graphic

Observed annually in June, National Safety Month focuses on reducing leading causes of injury and death at work and in our homes and communities. According to the National Safety Council, injuries are the leading cause of death for Americans ages 1 to 40. The good news? Everyone can get involved to help prevent injuries.

No one gets hurt

Q: What can I do to prevent injuries?

A: You can join the National Safety Council and thousands of organizations nationwide as they work to ensure No One Gets Hurt.

During National Safety Month, LifePath is working on spreading the word to help reduce the risk of injuries. This June, we encourage you to learn more about important safety issues like preparing for the unexpected, preventing slips, trips, and falls, and prioritizing your wellness.

First for general safety preparedness:

Emergency situations can happen at any time; it is important that you are prepared for the unexpected long before it happens. Here are some ways to help reduce the risk of many safety issues.

  • Research and prepare for natural disasters common to your area, such as severe thunderstorms or tornadoes.
  • Have an emergency kit for both your home and car.
  • Have a home emergency plan with your family.
  • Know your employer’s emergency plans and what is expected of you.
  • Participate in emergency drills at work and pay attention to lessons learned.
  • Store important papers and personal information in a fireproof safe or safety deposit box.
  • Check your smoke alarms monthly, change the batteries yearly and replace the alarm every ten years.

Emergency kits can help you prepare for the worst, but only if they are properly stocked and regularly refreshed. Learn about emergency preparedness and emergency kits and what they should contain.

At home, remember to change the batteries in your smoke alarms at least once a year. According to the National Fire Protection Association, three of every five home fire deaths resulted from fires in homes with no smoke alarms (38%) or no working smoke alarms (21%). Smoke alarms save lives. Smoke alarms that are properly installed and maintained play a vital role in reducing fire deaths and injuries. If there is a fire in your home, smoke spreads fast and you need smoke alarms to give you time to get out. 

Second for slips, trips and falls:

One in four older adults falls each year. Many falls lead to broken bones or a head injury. Falls are the number one cause of death for those 65 and older, according to the National Safety Council.

Be proactive! Remove clutter or other tripping hazards from walkways, stairs and doorways. Use nightlights in the bathroom and other areas to prevent tripping and falls at night. For older adults, install grab bars in the bathroom to help prevent falls when showering. Also older adults can take balance classes, get their vision and hearing checked each year and talk with their doctors and pharmacists about fall risks from medications.

LifePath’s Healthy Living Program offers a workshop to help older adults reduce their risk of falls. “Matter of Balance” has been shown to significantly reduce the fear of falling in those who take the workshop, as well as to increase their sense of control over potential falls.

Third for prioritizing your wellness:

We ask a lot of ourselves, and over time this can put a strain on our wellness. Prioritize your wellness. Get regular medical checkups, such as an annual physical with age-appropriate tests, exercise, and eat healthy. Get plenty of sleep to avoid fatigue. Fatigue is more than just being tired. If you are missing out on the recommended seven to nine hours of sleep each day, you could become sleep deprived and be at higher risk for the negative effects of fatigue such as depression and other serious health issues. According to the National Institutes of Health, 70 million Americans suffer from sleep disorders.

The Healthy Living Program at LifePath can also help you manage chronic health conditions like heart disease and diabetes as well as learn ways to eat healthier, exercise more, manage pain, and develop healthy habits. For more information, click here or call Healthy Living Program Manager Andi Waisman at 413-773-5555 x2297 or 978-544-2259 x2297.

By being prepared you can make a difference and ensure No One Gets Hurt.