Aging and the Senses: How to Deal With Loss
It usually starts to become noticeable as middle age approaches — hearing clearly in conversations becomes more difficult; reading requires more effort and glasses become essential for adequate vision. The diminishment of hearing and vision are common for everyone, but these changes are generally accepted as a natural part of the aging process. And most people navigate through the changes successfully, adapting to life and making the necessary adjustments, often with the help of loved ones and others. Unfortunately, it isn’t just hearing and vision that diminish as a person grows old. In fact, the loss or diminishment of multiple sense is quite common among older individuals: some estimates indicate that up to 94% of older people experience the loss of at least one of the five senses.
New Information Sheds Light on Sensory Loss
A recent study performed by the National Social Life, Health, and Aging Project in conjunction with the University of Chicago looked at 3,000 adults in the United States aged 57-85. The findings were eye opening:
- 64% of those studied have experienced the diminishment of at least one of the senses
- 38% experienced the diminishment of two senses
- 28% of those studied experienced the diminishment or loss of three, four and even all five senses
Even the sense of taste, which we all tend to take for granted, tends to diminish in older age. Nearly half of the respondents from the study rated their sense of taste as “poor.”
We take our senses for granted, but the diminishment of our ability to taste, for example, can lead to some serious negative consequences.
Dealing With the Loss or Diminishment of the Senses
If an individual has lost even some of his or her sense of taste, it could lead to an inability to determine if food has spoiled. It can also lead to a loss of appetite.
The loss of the ability to smell can also lead to potentially dangerous situations if an individual fails to notice the smell of food burning or the scent of deadly chemicals.
The losses and diminishment of the senses can make living less safe, so what can seniors, their loved ones and their caregivers do?
The most important thing caregivers can do is remain mindful of the senior’s experience. Are they experiencing difficulties with noticing aspects of the world around them? Do they seem to be eating less? Are losses of certain senses becoming noticeable?
Once you are able to determine that a senior is suffering from a loss of the senses, it’s possible to take action in many cases. Hearing aids, for example, can work wonders for those who have lost the ability to hear clearly. Glasses and certain types of surgery can improve vision. Other senses can also be improved through various technologies and techniques, so be aware and be proactive when seeking out help so that a senior loved one experiences the best of what life has to offer!
If you’re interested in finding out more about how you can care for a senior loved one who may be experiencing a loss or diminishment of the senses, Always Best Care can help! Give us a call today at 1 (855) 470-CARE (2273) for more information. We look forward to your call!