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Optician doing an eye examination

Caring for someone with hearing, vision and oral health difficulties

Tips for caring for someone with poor hearing

When caring for someone who has hearing loss or is deaf, it’s important to:

  • make sure you have their attention and stand in front of them when speaking
  • look at the person as you speak
  • speak slowly and clearly, but do not over-emphasise or distort your lip movements as this can make it hard for people to read your lips
  • not shout – although sometimes you may need to speak louder
  • remember that shouting can make it hard for people to lip-read
  • use body language and facial expressions when you speak to help give some context to the person you are speaking to
  • write messages so they can read them
  • remember that beards, moustaches, chewing and putting hands in front of your face can obscure communication
  • avoid talking in a noisy environment, or try to reduce background noise when possible
  • speak directly to the deaf person and not to the interpreter if an Auslan (sign language) interpreter is present
  • make sure that hearing aids are functioning, being used properly and checked regularly
  • install visual smoke detectors in the house
  • investigate other visual alerts such as alarm clocks and front door alerts
  • install assistive-listening devices such as volume-controlled phones for contacting people in an emergency.

For more information about hearing loss, visit the Hearing Services Program website.

Tips for caring for someone with vision loss

Older people often have poor vision or blindness. This can cause frustration or depression, especially if their vision loss affects their independence, mobility and ability to drive.

When caring for someone who has vision problems:

  • say your name when you arrive
  • use a clear natural voice when speaking
  • say what you’re doing if you’re moving about the room or leaving
  • tell them if there’s food in front of them, including what it is and where it’s placed on the plate, perhaps using the idea of a clock face (for example, beans are at 12 o’clock)
  • warn the person about the temperature of food or drink when you’re giving it to them
  • leave everything as you found it in their home. If you need to move something, tell them where you have moved it to
  • be especially careful when the house is being cleaned. Vacuum cords, wet floors and a mop and bucket are all potential tripping hazards
  • shut doors completely or leave them fully open. A half-open door is a hazard
  • let them take your arm and walk slowly, and make sure you remove or describe any obstacles in their way when guiding them around.

Tips for caring for someone with oral health problems

When caring for an older person, it’s important to make sure they continue to look after their oral health. Help them do this by making sure they:

  • visit the dentist as recommended for their dental condition and age to check for dental disease and more serious diseases of the mouth
  • tell the dentist about any general health problems and medications they are taking as this may affect their dental health and treatment
  • brush their teeth twice a day, especially after meals, and use dental floss to remove plaque which causes gum disease
  • use a fluoride or sensitive toothpaste
  • eat a healthy, balanced diet and avoid sweet foods and drinks between meals
  • clean their mouth and/or dentures well each day and have both checked regularly by the dentist.

Last reviewed: 3 May, 2018.