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Caregiving for the Aging Senses Part 3: Hearing

Hearing is a degenerative sense, meaning that it naturally deteriorates with age. The tiny hairs in our ears (called stereocilia) that process sound become damaged with age and exposure to noise. However, some aging people lose their hearing more quickly or profoundly than others.

Hearing loss has significant emotional and physical effects on aging people; it can be not only isolating and depressing, but also dangerous. As a caregiver, it is important to understand these hearing-related changes so you can make accommodations that improve quality of life.

The Effects of Hearing Loss on an Aging Person

  • Feelings of isolation, withdrawal from relationships or social interaction because of an inability to fully participate in conversations, especially in loud settings such as social gatherings.
  • Depression due to changes in social abilities.
  • Confusion when giving and receiving information, such as a doctor’s instructions.
  • Anger, frustration or irritability.
  • Embarrassment: Others will often assume that the presence of hearing aids is indicative of mental decline, and may talk down to or engage less with a person who wears hearing aids.
  • Dizziness and increased likelihood of falls (the inner ear plays a significant role in balance).
  • Inability to hear emergency alarms and sirens.
  • Cognitive decline: Isolation from conversation and entertainment can cause mental impairment in hearing-impaired people.


How can you help your hearing-impaired loved one be happier, more comfortable, and safer?

  • Make sure your loved one makes regular trips to a hearing specialist so that they can be given proper treatment (such as hearing aids).
  • Actively engage your loved one in stimulating conversation, and encourage family and friends to do the same.
  • Play challenging games with your loved one to keep them mentally fit.






  • Install rails and bars throughout your loved one’s living area to decrease the likelihood of falls. Also consider providing a cane or other stability device to offset dizziness and vertigo.
  • Install alarms and other emergency devices that have a visual component (such as a flashing light). Test these alarms around your loved one to see if they are loud and bright enough for them to reliably notice.
  • Plan social gatherings that are small, low-key and fairly quiet. This will allow your loved one to continue actively engaging socially without being overwhelmed by loud sounds








  • Have a health advocate who is not hearing-impaired attend doctor’s visits with your loved one. This will ensure that they have full understanding of whatever medical information they are given.



Veterans Share Meaningful Experience at “Dunkirk”

Bob had a simple request of his hospice team: to see “Dunkirk,” a 2017 World War II film, in theaters after it was released. His preference was to view the movie with a fellow veteran.

“I was not in the service during the era this movie took place, but I did serve during the Korean War as a young man in the Air Force and thought I would be able to relate to this movie,” said Bob. “I was only in the service a few years, and afterwards I never wanted anyone to make a fuss about it.”

Hospice and Palliative Care of Greensboro (HPCG) believes it is never too late to thank veterans for their military service. The Vet-to-Vet volunteer program at HPCG matches veteran volunteers with veteran patients. In doing so, patients have the valuable opportunity to discuss their service with someone who understands.

Bob was partnered with an HPCG Vet-to-Vet volunteer named Joe. “It is truly an honor to serve as a volunteer with an organization that values the unique experiences of our veterans,” shared Joe. “The service members we serve come from all walks of life, but they all share several fundamental qualities. They possessed courage, pride, selflessness, dedication to duty and integrity—all the qualities needed to serve a cause larger than one’s self.”

Veterans often carry experiences from their military service that present unique health care challenges. By recognizing the needs of veterans who are facing a life-limiting illness, HPCG staff are better able to guide them and their families toward a more peaceful ending.

Joe felt privileged to be Bob’s volunteer. He too was interested in seeing “Dunkirk” and was honored to take Bob to see it.

“As the movie credits rolled and the people cleared the theater, we both sat quietly at first. Then Bob broke the silence and started discussing his own military experiences. And I just listened. That discussion was important for both of us that day, and it embodies our efforts to capture moments that really matter.”

Click here to learn more about the We Honor Veterans program at HPCG. 

Hospice Offers Free Lunch & Learn Series to Public

Presenter and guests

(GREENSBORO, NORTH CAROLINA)– Hospice and Palliative Care of Greensboro (HPCG) is excited to announce the new season of Lunch & Learn at the Lusk Center, a free lecture series designed to help participants with a variety of complex care and health issues. The 2018 lineup features presentations on several repeat topics from last year, such as advance care planning, as well as new subjects like navigating the caregiver experience.

Each hour-long workshop is presented by topic experts and held at the Lusk Center, a state-of-the-art facility with ample parking on the HPCG campus. Lunch is provided, along with practical, community-focused resources.

Each event is free and open to the public. All workshops take place from noon – 1 p.m. with check-in beginning at 11:30 a.m.

The program is made possible through generous support from Beverly and Patrick Wright, Pat and Gordon Soenksen, as well as the John A. Lusk, III Endowment Fund for Hospice and Palliative Care Education.

Visit for more information and to register.

Lunch and Learn at the Lusk Center
2018 Schedule

Palliative Care vs. Hospice Care:
What’s the difference?
Thursday, March 15
Discover the difference between hospice and palliative care, how these services can help and who pays for them.

Advance Care Planning:
How to plan for end-of-life decisions and talk about it with loved ones
Thursday, April 12
Learn about advance directives, why and when they’re used and how to start a conversation with family.

What Really Matters:
A meaningful discussion on changing priorities
Thursday, May 10
As the end of life nears, we have opportunity to reflect on what truly matters. Join us for a thoughtful, interactive discussion about the end-of-life journey and how to capture meaningful moments along the way.

The Caregiver Experience
Navigating Rough Waters
Thursday, June 14
Caring for a loved one can be the most demanding job we’ll ever have. Join us for a look at some ways caregivers can maintain—or regain—balance and hope.

Dementia Talk:
Why do they do that… and what can I do about it?
Thursday, September 13
Receive guidance in dealing with the four most difficult dementia behaviors: bath wars, social problems, aggression and agitation.

Beyond the Casserole:
How to Truly Support Grieving Friends and Family
Thursday, October 11
What gives real comfort to those who are grieving? Hear what deeply grieving persons wish others understood, and learn how to be of support to friends and family in grief.


About HPCG
HPCG, a nonprofit organization serving Guilford County and surrounding areas since 1980, is situated on a 14.75 acre campus at 2500 Summit Avenue. HPCG provides physical, emotional and spiritual support for children and adults faced with a life-limiting illness, as well as their caregivers and families. For more information, call 336.621.2500 or visit

Download PDF of press release. 

Caregiving for the Aging Senses Part 2: Touch

A tight embrace from a loved one. The soft warmth of a newborn baby on your chest. The soothing comfort of petting a dog.

Touch is our physical connection to the world, and more importantly, to those with whom we share our lives. When speech, hearing and vision begin to deteriorate with age or illness, touch is a powerful tool for communicating support and presence. Just holding someone’s hand can be the most effective support you offer near end of life.

As the body ages, so do our nerve cells, decreasing our ability to sense touch. These physical changes can manifest in a wide array of symptoms that range from uncomfortable to potentially dangerous. Being aware of how your loved one perceives touch as they age ensures that you are providing them with the care that they need, both emotionally and physically. For example, loss of fine motor skills, dexterity and reflexes mean that it may be more difficult to grasp objects, dial a phone or safely operate a vehicle.

Not feeling the sharpness of a knife or the heat of a stove can result in injury.

CAREGIVER TIP: Provide assistance with and/or close supervision of tasks such as cooking, cleaning or driving. Use your best judgment to determine whether it is safe for your loved one to continue doing these activities independently.

Decreased sensitivity also makes it hard for older adults to tell the difference between common surface types and temperatures. For example, being unable to tell that the shower floor is slippery increases the likelihood of slipping and falling. Lack of temperature awareness can result in burns. With all of these changes in the sense of touch, normal daily activities such as cooking may become dangerous.

CAREGIVER TIP: Ensure that all surfaces are safe for your loved one. This could mean using a rubber mat or stool in the shower, regularly icing walkways during winter, laying down carpet on bare floors or providing shoes and socks with good grip.

Muscle deterioration, poor circulation, fat loss and decreased nerve sensitivity impact the body’s ability to regulate temperature. As our bodies age, hypothermia can develop at temperatures as high as 65 degrees.

CAREGIVER TIP: Pay close attention to the temperature of your loved one’s primary residence. Try to keep it around 70 degrees or above year-round. If they live in an assisted living area where you can’t control the temperature, be sure to provide warm clothing and blankets.

Older adults may be unable to discern a difference in temperature unless it is greater than ten degrees.

In addition, lack of sensitivity to changes in temperature means that fever or hypothermia can progress without the sufferer’s awareness. An older person can develop an advanced infection and not be aware that they are even ill until it is a medical emergency.

CAREGIVER TIP: Pay close attention to your loved one’s body temperature so you quickly detect changes requiring medical intervention.

It is equally important to consider the emotional and psychological impact these changes may have on your loved one. Older adults can suffer from “touch hunger,” which is a feeling of desperation for physical contact. Just as we become hungry for food, we can also feel deprived of our primordial need to connect to another being through touch. Insufficient frequency or intensity of touch (both of which are common as we age) are risk factors for developing touch hunger.

CAREGIVER TIP: Provide plenty of soothing touch to your loved one (hugs, holding hands, foot rubs). Consider bringing in a therapy pet volunteer or a professional masseuse to provide further comfort.



Caregiving for the Aging Senses Part 1: Vision

It is no secret that eyesight tends to deteriorate with age. The age-old trope of a grandma with thick-lensed glasses is so ingrained in society that we practically expect our elders to have poor vision.

For people who have had good vision for most of their lives, losing the ability to rely on sight for interaction with the world can be extremely disorienting.

By understanding why and how the eye ages, caregivers can make small environmental adjustments that drastically improve the lives of their loved ones.

Loss of Focus

Simulation: 30 years vs. 80 years


As the lens of the eye ages, it loses elasticity and begins to harden.  In a young eye, the lens will bend when viewing something up-close, thus bringing the object into focus.

As it becomes stiffer, the lens can no longer bend sufficiently to focus on objects that are too close. This condition, called presbyopia, makes it difficult to read and can cause persistent headaches.

How to help:

  • Most aging people will eventually require reading glasses, bifocals or contacts. However, because the condition of eyes can change rapidly, make sure your loved one has regular eye exams to monitor the progression of their presbyopia. They may need to get new prescriptions every one to two years.
  • Provide bright, even lighting for reading or other activities that require up-close focus, such as knitting. Using light that is too concentrated (a single bright bulb) can cause glare.
  • Make sure your loved one has glasses or other corrective lenses specific to their daily activities. For example, playing the piano or using the computer might require a different lens than reading, as/because the object of focus is slightly farther away.


Darker Vision

Simulation: 30 years vs. 80 years

Aging pupils are decreasingly sensitive to changes in light, in addition to becoming smaller. Because older eyes cannot respond quickly to changes in light levels, turning a light on or off suddenly may impair vision for several minutes. Smaller pupils also absorb less light, meaning that an older person has a darker field of vision overall.

How to help:

  • Provide adequate lighting for your loved one’s entire living environment. The light may be brighter than you think is necessary, but remember that your loved one’s vision may be 10-40 percent darker than your own.
  • Keep bright (possibly even motion-activated) nightlights in bedrooms, hallways, bathrooms and any other areas that your loved one uses at night.
  • Be particularly attentive to your loved one when you are out with them at night, or even a dark place such as a movie theater. Keep in mind that they might not be able to see obstacles, changes in their walking surfaces, stairs or even other people.


Yellowing of Vision

Simulation: 30 years vs. 80 years

With age, and the resulting lifelong exposure to irritants, the lens of the eye gradually yellows. This can cause several distressing problems for your loved one, including trouble differentiating colors, dulling of color, and even changes in their circadian rhythm.

Blue light (think of bright daylight) triggers our body’s production of serotonin (a chemical that wakes us up), while yellow light (such as the soft lighting in your home) triggers the production of melatonin (a chemical that helps us sleep). Thus, as the eye’s lens yellows, it absorbs less blue light. The resulting drop in the body’s production of serotonin can adversely affect the circadian rhythm, and consequently, interrupt healthy sleep patterns.

How to help:

  • Install fluorescent or LED lighting, both of which emit blue light. By increasing the amount of blue light in your loved one’s environment, you can counteract some of the yellowing of their lens so that they see colors more accurately. This can also help restore normal circadian rhythm.
  • Assist your loved one with color-sensitive tasks, such as picking out an outfit.

If necessary, consult with a sleep specialist, who may be able to improve the quality of your loved one’s sleep.


For more information on age-related vision problems and how to help compensate, visit:




Tickets Now on Sale for Corks for Kids Path

(GREENSBORO, NORTH CAROLINA)– Hospice and Palliative Care of Greensboro (HPCG) will hold the 11th annual Corks for Kids Path fundraiser on Friday, February 23 at the Cadillac Service Garage in Greensboro. This wine-tasting event benefits Kids Path, an HPCG program supporting seriously ill and grieving children.

With a ticket purchase of $80, guests can sample a variety of handcrafted wines exclusively selected by Zeto Wine and Cheese shop, as well as locally crafted beer, hors d’oeuvres and decadent baked goods. The event also features an extensive silent auction.

Exciting changes are planned this year—most notably the venue. Cadillac Service Garage, a restored 1920s Cadillac showroom in the heart of downtown, promises to be a fitting space for the nearly 600 attendees.

Yet returning guests will find much of the fundraiser remains the same, including the many sponsors who make the event possible.

“We are so thrilled to have Crumley Roberts return as the presenting sponsor,” said Kristen Yntema, president and CEO of HPCG. “They have such a heart for Kids Path.”

Since its inception more than a decade ago, Corks for Kids Path has raised more than $1 million for Kids Path. This generous support means Kids Path can provide quality hospice care for children, along with counseling, camps and workshops to children who are grieving.

Tickets sell out quickly. Visit to purchase.

About HPCG

HPCG, a nonprofit organization serving Guilford County and surrounding areas since 1980, is situated on a 14.75 acre campus at 2500 Summit Avenue. HPCG provides physical, emotional and spiritual support for children and adults faced with a life-limiting illness, as well as their caregivers and families. For more information, call 336.621.2500 or visit


Download PDF of press release here.

Download high-resolution photo. 

Seasonal Depression: It’s More than the “Winter Blues”

Undiagnosed, untreated, unrecognized Seasonal Affective Disorder could be making the tough times tougher

As if it weren’t sufficiently challenging to face the holiday season after the loss of a loved one, changing seasons can create, contribute to or deepen feelings of depression in 20 percent of people (Mayo Clinic, 2017).

In the winter months, shorter days mean less daylight, while colder temperatures mean limited time spent outdoors. The resulting drop in exposure to vitamin D (which our bodies absorb from sunlight) can contribute to a condition known as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).

According to the Mayo Clinic, reduced exposure to vitamin D can lower the amount of serotonin (a chemical that strongly influences mood) produced by the brain. As a result, many people feel depressed, tired or otherwise “different” in the winter months.

For those struggling with the death of a loved one, SAD can intensify the feelings of depression they’re already experiencing as a normal side effect of grief. It may also negatively affect those in caretaker roles or struggling with illness themselves.

In addition to the drop in serotonin caused by lack of exposure to sunlight, SAD can be intensified by environmental factors. For example, being cooped up in the house on a dreary day or unable to get outside and exercise limits participation in activities that might bring relief or joy during warmer weather.

Luckily, there are several things you can do to alleviate SAD. Taking a vitamin D supplement, spending more time outside (despite the cold!), buying a light therapy lamp or exercising indoors are all potential ways to alleviate some effects of SAD. For those with more severe SAD, your doctor may decide that antidepressant medications are an option.

Dealing with grief, illness or the stress of caretaking is emotionally draining enough; there’s no reason why you should have to suffer through additional depression as a result of changing seasons! Seasonal Affective Disorder is an extremely common condition that affects up to one in five people, with five percent or more experiencing severe changes in mood or behavior. Luckily, the prevalence of SAD in the population means that doctors, psychiatrists and therapists are well-versed in its treatment and prevention.

If you have noticed a change in your mood, well-being or energy that coincides with the changing seasons, you might be experiencing SAD. If you feel that you might be suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder, be sure to speak with your doctor.

Mayo Clinic. (2017, October 25). Seasonal affective disorder (SAD). Retrieved December 12, 2017, from

Grief: What to Expect – January 22 and 23

In the early days after the loss of a loved one, life can feel overwhelming and disorienting. This hour-long program is designed to help newly grieving persons gain a better understanding of common grief reactions, strategies for coping and resources to increase your confidence and knowledge during these challenging times.

Choose the date and time that works best for you:
Evening: Monday, January 22, 6 – 7 p.m.
Daytime: Tuesday, January 23, noon – 1 p.m.

To reserve a place or for more information, please call
336.621.5565 or email

register now button 5-2014

Loss of Spouse Support Group – January, February, March and April

Finding Our Way After the Loss of a Spouse or Constant Companion

For many, the death of a spouse or partner is the most difficult loss they have ever faced. If this is true for you, you may benefit from connecting with other bereaved spouses who are on a similar journey. A grief support group offers a safe setting to meet and talk about your experience, share ideas and give each other courage.

Choose the group that works best for you:

  • Daytime group (2 – 3:30 p.m.): Thursdays, February 1, 8, 15, 22, March 8, 22 and April 5
  • Evening group (6 – 7:30 p.m.): Mondays, January 29, February 5, 12, 19, March 5, 19 and April 2

To RSVP, please contact the Counseling and Education Center at 336.621.5565, or click the button below. Registration must be received by January 22.

There is no fee for this event, but donations are encouraged to keep programming accessible.

register now button 5-2014

Your Holiday Grief Toolkit: Piecing Together a Holiday without your Loved One

There is perhaps no milestone so daunting for the newly bereaved as the holiday season: a time typically spent celebrating family and enjoying the company of loved ones.

Getting through your first holiday season without a loved one is difficult, but certainly not impossible. Just as you have weathered the grief process so far, rest assured that you will also weather the holidays. Ryan Colgan, a grief counselor at Hospice and Palliative Care of Greensboro (HPCG), says that the biggest misconception people have about holiday grief is that it has to be difficult. “Anticipation is usually so much harder than the actual day. Most people end up coming back to me and saying ‘I don’t know why I worried so much.’”

You can make preparations for the time ahead by building your own “holiday grief toolkit”, which is comprised of four main steps. The worksheet attached below will guide you through all four, but they are summarized as follows:

  1. Identify your authentic wishes. The first (and most important) step is being honest with yourself about how you want or need this holiday to look. Grief is an intensely personal process, so whether you feel you need to be alone watching movies all day or out celebrating as you usually would, you have every right to do so. Start by asking yourself the question, “In a perfect world, what would I do on that day?” If you’re unsure of what you want, try to think through (or write out) several different scenarios to see which feels best to you.
  2. Drop your expectations. Don’t force yourself to do anything you’re not up for. Remember: it’s only one year! It’s okay to do something different. Give yourself grace, and don’t feel like you need to be rigid.
  3. Make a plan. Even if you anticipate spending the day alone, planning out the day ahead of time can help you know what to expect. When you make a plan, even if it’s something as simple as going and renting a Redbox to watch, you are giving yourself something concrete on which to focus. Picturing the day ahead of time will make it less intimidating.
  4. Find an outlet. Many find that talking to someone, be it a counselor or a close friend, helps them process and understand their feelings. Your outlet can be talking or anything else that helps you work through your emotions (yoga, journaling, running, cooking). If you don’t know what helps, try a few different things and see what feels best.

The toolkit worksheet can be downloaded below, in addition to other materials and resources that you may find useful.

If you would like to speak to one of our bereavement counselors, please feel free to call our Counseling and Education Center anytime at 336.621.5565.

Click Here to Download your “Holiday Grief Toolkit” Worksheet


Additional Resources:

Helping Yourself Heal During the Holiday Season

Coping with Holiday Grief as a Family

Griever’s Bill of Rights

Help for the Kids

You DO Have a Choice