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Optician doing an eye examination

Caring for someone with hearing, vision and oral health difficulties

Caring for someone with hearing or vision loss can mean finding out how to communicate effectively with them. This is because communicating can be difficult and it takes a lot of patience to ensure that you're both understood.

Caring for someone with oral health issues may also mean managing difficulties such as dental disease.

Some of the tips below may help you to look after a person with hearing, vision and oral health difficulties. They have worked for other carers so why not give them a try?

Health care advice

How do I manage difficulties with 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 difficult for people to read your lips
  • not shout – although sometimes it may be necessary to speak louder
  • remember that shouting can make it hard for people to lip-read
  • try to use body language and facial expressions when you speak as this helps give the person you are speaking to some context in case they missed part of what you said
  • write messages down so they can read them if it's appropriate
  • understand 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 effectively 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 others in an emergency.

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

How do I manage difficulties with loss of vision?

Older people often experience low vision or blindness. This can cause frustration, depression and grief as they mourn the loss of life as they knew it, especially their independence, mobility and the freedom to drive.

When caring for someone who has low vision or blindness, it's important to:

  • 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 of the temperature of food or drink when you're giving it to them
  • leave everything as you found it in their home. If something has to be moved, 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 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.

How do I manage difficulties with oral health?

When caring for an older person, it's important to make sure they maintain high standards of oral health. You can help them do this by making sure they:

  • visit the dentist at recommended intervals that suit their dental condition and age to screen 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 at least twice a day, especially after meals, and use dental floss between the teeth to remove plaque which causes gum disease
  • use a fluoride toothpaste (the dentist may be able to recommend a special toothpaste for sensitive areas on the teeth)
  • eat a healthy, balanced diet and avoid sweet foods and drinks between meals
  • clean their mouth and dentures thoroughly each day if they have dentures and have both checked by the dentist regularly.

Support for you

When you spend most of your time looking after other people it's easy to forget to look after yourself too. It is very important to take time to look after yourself, to help you stay fit, healthy and relaxed. Here are some tips to help you take care of your own health and wellbeing. There are also counselling and other support services available to help you.

To learn more about hearing, visit the Office of Hearing Services website.

Last reviewed: 30 June, 2015.