Category: Research

Low Vision and Children

Guest Blogger, Melody Bettenhausen, Development Director with Ensight Skills Center.

Visual cues are central to most early childhood education systems. Consider the number of school lessons that revolve around students writing on the whiteboard or reading off of photocopied handouts or even tiny text in books! Every subject, from math to spelling and even geography, requires reading and writing.

That’s why whether visual impairments are moderate, severe or profound, they often interrupt a low vision student’s ability to participate in regular classroom activities.

What is low vision? Children and adults with low vision are not considered legally blind, they simply have reduced vision at or lower than 20/70. Students who are blind have vision that is at or lower than 20/200. Nonetheless, only 15% of students with visual impairments are considered to be completely blind, with no light or form perception ability. That means even legally blind children may have some useful vision.

Low vision in the classroom
In a school environment, visual impairments can cause difficulties when it comes to traditional reading and writing activities, reading at a distance, distinguishing colors, recognizing shapes and participating in physical education games which require acute vision, such as softball and kickball.

Children with visual impairments often start off learning to read and write with the assistance of low-tech solutions, such as high-intensity lamps and book stands. Sometimes screen magnification and computer typing and reading programs are used. In other cases, low vision students will learn to read using the Braille system over text, or a combination of the two.

Typically, children work within the school district using teachers for the Visually Impaired (TVI) who introduce tools and skills that will benefit them in the school environment. Outside of the schools, these students work with a low vision rehabilitation team to access tools and skills that will benefit them in their home and work environment.

There are many modifications and assistive technologies that can allow children who are visually impaired to thrive in their education and personal endeavors. If you have any questions about programs or resources, please contact the Ensight Skills Center at 970-407-9999 or email at info@ensightskills.org.

Glaucoma & the value of Occupational Therapy

Glaucoma is a common eye disorder and there are more than 3 million cases per year in the United States alone. What is it? Pressure build up in the eye that can result in a functional visual impairment, impacting a person’s daily life.

Occupational therapists are in the business of function and purpose. They support people in most everything involved in a person’s day: bathing, driving, toileting, paying bills, working, home safety….the list goes on. The overall goal is to keep people involved and engaged in their environment, at home or in the community.

For people living with glaucoma, occupational therapy can offer modifications (i.e. equipment, lighting) for their home environment to make them safe, new techniques like visual scanning and tracking and training on low vision tools. But most off all OT’s look at things in a holistic approach to ensure people are able to participate in the things they want and need to do.

To learn more about occupational therapy and low vision support contact Covell Care at (970) 204-4331. We would love to share how we are impacting our clients’ lives.

Massage Therapy and Anxiety

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, over 40 million adult Americans suffer from anxiety disorders. Young and old, people are living with anxiety due to stress, illness or aging.

The art of physical touch, massage therapy has been around for years and known to help decrease the symptoms of various physical and mental illnesses. Below are some of the ways massage can positively impact a person’s life.

  • Increase a sense of calm/reduce anxiety after surgery.
  • Reduce anxiety pre-surgery.
  • Reduce trait anxiety with a course of treatment providing benefits similar to psychotherapy.
  • Reduce the psychological and physiological anxiety levels in patients having cataract surgery.
  • Increase neurotransmitters associated with lowering anxiety.
  • Decrease hormones associated with increasing anxiety.

There are many different massage techniques today and may be covered by insurance. Make sure to always ask questions of your massage therapist and ask about techniques. you know your body best and what you are comfortable with.

Contact Covell Care with any questions about our massage therapy program. We would love to share what we are doing in the community and how we have helped clients through massage. (970) 204-4331 or https://www.covellcare.com/massage-therapy/

In Home Fall Prevention Exercises and Strategies

Blog written by Galen Friesen, past Covell Care Intern and CSU Graduate.

In 2014, 28.7% of community-dwelling adults 65 years or older reported falling, resulting in 29 million falls [1]. Luckily, exercise is one of the most effective interventions for falls, and there are many modalities of exercise to pick from. The minimum requirement for exercise in elderly populations is 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week to see benefit [2]. Many individuals who have suffered a fall find themselves worried that if they engage in exercise they will fall again, however, it is more beneficial to begin a supervised exercise program than to completely avoid activity altogether.

First and foremost, always consult your primary care provider before starting a new exercise program; see if they have any recommendations as to what exercises would be most beneficial. Simple exercises that can be done at home include (use a chair or wall for extra stability if needed): single leg balancing, sit-squats, floor bridges, step-ups, bird-dogs, and planks. Explanations and pictures for these exercises can be found here: https://blog.nasm.org/fitness/exercise-tips-fall-prevention%E2%80%8E/. Another great resource would be your physical or occupational therapist, and they might even know a personal trainer or fitness class that they could refer you to.

Along with exercise, a great way to reduce the risk of falls in the home is to
reduce the number of obstacles in your environment – removing decorative rugs, keeping a clear floor, and providing space around corners and in walkways reduces the likelihood of environment induced falls. Take your time while transitioning from seated to standing and while entering rooms or turning corners to make sure you have a constant mindfulness about your center of balance.

[1 Grossman, D. C. (2018, April/May). Interventions to Prevent Falls in Community-Dwelling Older Adults US Preventive Services Task Force Recommendation Statement.
[2] Exercise – the Miracle Cure. (2016, June 16). Retrieved from http://www.aomrc.org.uk/reports-guidance/exercise-the-miracle-cure-0215/

Home Hazards…Are they related to falls?

A 2018 study titled, The Potential to Reduce Falls and Avert Costs by Clinically Managing Fall Risk, by Judy A. Stevens, PhD and Robin Lee, PhD, MPH estimated the prevalence of seven fall risk factors and the effectiveness of seven evidence-based fall interventions.

Stevens & Lee defined a “fall risk factor as an attribute or characteristic of an individual that increases the likelihood of a fall occurring”. They go on to say that many fall risk factors are potentially modifiable (e.g. poor balance, mobility problems, impaired vision, and insufficient vitamin D). Contributing factors increase the chance of falls such as the side effects of medications and the presence of home hazards.

Lets take a focus on home hazards. Most of us feel our homes are the place we feel most safe and comfortable. But does that mean our home is truly “safe”. Here are some questions to ask your self to determine where your home sits on the safety spectrum and some techniques you can use to enhance safety.

Can you safely enter and exit your home? 
Do you have stationary chairs with arm rests that do not rock or glide? 
Does every room have a night light? 
Can you read your medication bottles? 
Can you enter and exit your shower or tub without a loss of balance?
Can you transfer to and from your toilet without difficulty? 
Do you have clear pathways throughout the home? 
Are your kitchen goods stored between the height of your knees and your shoulders? 
Are you able to retrieve items from under your bathroom sink with ease? 
Do you have throw rugs picked up? 
Do you know how to use your microwave correctly? 
Do you remember to turn off the stove or oven when finished? 
Are cords clear from being in the walkways? 
Do you know how to use your thermostat? 
Have you been free from falling in the last year?  
Do you take your medication on time consistently? 
Is there a table next to your bed for a light and to set items on? 
Is your carpet and flooring free from tears and ripples? 

Home Safety Strategies:

  1. Remove all scatter rugs, repair frayed carpet, tape or tack down loose carpet edges.
  2. Arrange furniture to allow adequate space for safe walking between and within all rooms.
  3. When using oxygen, do not smoke or use an open flame.
  4. Do not overload circuits – unplug appliances when not in use.
  5. Wear close-fitting sleeves to prevent spills and burns that could happen with loose, long sleeves.
  6. Clean up spills immediately.
  7. Use a step stool or reacher to reach high shelves – do not stand on chairs or stools.
  8. Place safety strips or a non-skid mat in bathtub/shower and install grab bars – do not use soap dishes or towel racks for support when sitting or standing.
  9. Keep closet doors and drawers closed to prevent bruises or tripping.
  10. Keep walking aids within reach and keep a nightlight on or flashlight within reach of your bed.

If you are interested in having an occupational therapist conduct a home safety assessment in your home please contact our office at (970) 204-4331. And keep in mind, most insurance plans cover the visit.

The Potential to Reduce Falls and Avert Costs by Clinically Managing Fall Risk Judy A. Stevens, PhD,1 Robin Lee, PhD, MPH2