We help blind and visually impaired individuals stay in their homes and out of institutions.

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Sierra Services for the Blind

Newsletter  July - September 2017

"Knowing is different from understanding, and experience is only the path to wisdom." ~A. Nonymous

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New Programs at FREED

Our founder, Marilyn Beckwith, created Sierra Services for the Blind in 1981 when Sacramento Society for the Blind closed their Auburn office.  A couple of years later she moved Sierra Services to Nevada County and Marilyn found there was a greater need within the disability community.  Along with Sam Dardick and others she formed an organization which serves all other disabilities known as FREED.  We have operated side by side for 31 years.  FREED hired a Blind Specialist a few years ago in part because they have a more direct access to the Department of Rehabilitation than we do.  They are able to offer equipment to the blind that we cannot afford.  We have been able to refer younger blind who would benefit from cane training programs that were far too expensive for us to provide.

Several years ago we worked with Congressman Wally Herger, who was then the Chairman of the House Allocation Committee.  He created a federal program to fund blind services for seniors specific to rural communities.  One of our problems is that we are too small an organization to attract large grants required to perform such services, and even small grants of $5,000 often require a $4,500 audit.  When the grants came to the State they developed additional requirements administered out of Sacramento which excluded us.  The money stayed in Sacramento.

That funding is finally available in our community.  Recently FREED has received these grants and have developed a relationship with Area 4 Agency on Aging to create the California Aging and Disability Resource Connection, ADRC.  FREED is now able to provide senior and blind services for a broader base in the senior community than we can, which allows us to make referrals to FREED for advanced programs.  Clients no longer have to go to Sacramento for cane training, computer training, equipment such as a CCTV and other services are now available at FREED.

Sierra Services is still providing human services such as escorted transportation to our program, medical and other critical appointments.  Also group and individual education and counseling programs, and community access, simple magnifiers and talking book support; as well as advocacy to individuals with specific issues and other services which are not generally included as a part of their expanded program.  We make every effort to not duplicate services beyond common sense.

It is new to both of us.  For more information you can call us at 265-2121, or FREED at 477-3333, or ADRC at (800)655-7732.

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Many Clinical Trials in Progress

Wet Macular Degeneration differs from the dry form in that the eye is prone to bleeding, and the loss of vision is more immediate.  For several years now Lucentis and other drugs have been injected into the eye to slow down, or halt the loss of vision.  It is not a cure.  A recent studies conducted by Bayer Phamaceuticals in California, South Dakota, Florida, Indiana and Massachusetts will test Angiopoietins which cause the leakage.  Known as anti-angiopoietin 2 Plus Anti-VEGF, it is their hope to find a single shot solution to the problem.

 Neurotic Pharmadeuticals is sponsoring a program for Encapsulated Cell Technology which delivers medications to the eye through a mechanical system which delivers a smaller and more regular dose rather than the Lucentis injections once every 8 weeks now being used.

An oral drug, X-82 is being developed by Dr. Arshad Khananai who is the Managing Partner of Sierra Eye Associates in Reno, Nevada.  If successful it will eliminate the need for injections to deliver medications for Wet Macular Degeneration and potentially other diseases of the eye.  Patients are being tested at three different levels of medication delivery, and a fourth with the Placiebo.

Medical trials with stem cells are also being carried out in several places and through several programs across the nation and they still are producing dramatic results.  In Europe both radiation and low voltage electric programs are also being tried.  Researchers at SciFlour are taking another approach with what they are calling the SFO166 program using fluorine modifications through eye drops.

Needless to say the war on eye problems is in full swing.  Most, if not all of these programs are showing some success.  Stem Cell seems to still be the one that will provide an actual and long term cure for a wide range of eye diseases and those trials are getting close to general acceptance.  The remaining problem will be the cost.  Presently if they offered the general public access to the stem cell program the cost would be in the neighborhood of $30,000 per eye.  And for obvious reasons like they do with cataracts, they only do one eye at a time.  Simply, if it doesn’t work on you they don’t want you to lose both eyes.  While it will still be years before these things become common, and that is little help to seniors.  However, tomorrow looks bright for blindness.

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Mexican Dinner set for September 22

The 2017 Mexican Dinner fund raising event is now set for Friday, September 22.  We will again be at the Horseman’s Lodge.  We will be serving a chicken enchilada with beans and rice, a salad and desert.  The bar will be open and coffee and lemonade will be available.  There will also be a raffle.  The tickets will again be $25, and the meal will come out of the kitchen at 6:00 P.M.

For those of you who have attended our dinners you know that no one goes away hungry.  All things are cooked on the site by our staff and seconds or even thirds are usually available.

We are becoming famous for these find raising dinners.  We hope you can join us.  Tickets are available at the office, 546 Searls Ave., Nevada City, or by phone at 265-2121.  They are also available at B&C True Value Hardware and Garden Center.

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Only during the worst of times do they take note the individual who has little but gives a little

more than they have, and does it in person.

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  Telephone Reader Service Reaches Nevada County

Society for the Blind in Sacramento has had what they call the Telephone Reader Service for many years.  When formed it required a certain type of switching system to be accessible and those systems only reached to Newcastle.  A few years ago it stretched to Auburn, and is now and finally available in Nevada County.  It is a service of the Braille Institute and Talking Book Library.

Blind and other disabilities can call the service and it reads newspapers, magazines, newsletters and other print media 24 hours a day.  Reading the Newspaper you can also have access to local sales ads announcing discounts and services at grocery, drug, discount and other department stores.

You can use your home phone, mobile phone or any other phone related device to access the system by calling 916-732-4000, or 800-665-4667.  To start the service you must sign up to be an Access News listener.  The local Union newspaper is presently available.  You can contact them either at, or call 916-889-7519.

Or, for more information call the Sierra Services office at 265-2121

Like the talking book library you can sign up for in our office, there is not charge for this service.

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"You only become a victim when you accept the idea that you are one,

and then do not make the choice to move on." ~ A Nonymous

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There are quotes by many famous people. Some are not famous at all. Did you know?

"If a cow has hoof and mouth disease they shoot it, then they dig a hole and bury it. If people do they seem to get elected."

"Just when you think you are special, a mosquito will let you know you are just another critter."

"The best way to keep from stepping in it is simply to watch were you are going."

If you wish you had what you once had, maybe you should look at what you have and hang on to it."

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 Travel and Cane Training for Seniors

One of the most important mobility tools available to the blind is the walking cane.  It is a long thin cane not used for support, but to find obstacles in the path such as a curb, a sandwich sign outside a store, follow up a staircase, find a wall to follow, or be assured you are on a sidewalk.  It is also something of a sounding device since the user can tell the difference between cement and pavement when crossing the street, or where a sidewalk follows the line of a lawn or fence.  There are still problems.  You must keep it to one side so if you hit something like the curb you don’t stab yourself.  It is easy to get your cane caught in a picket fence or a chain link fence.  You must be careful.

Nevada County has some places where knowing your surroundings is imperative.  The high sidewalk south of the bridge on Spring Street in Nevada City is very dangerous, as are the irregular edges of a rural road.  There are also the interesting unintended dangers like listening to traffic to know when you can cross a street.  You cannot hear an electric car coming.  One advantage, seeing the cane tells people you cannot see them and they move over.  Using two canes was common when the cane idea first started, one to guide and one to hold up and say here I come.  There is a lot to learn, and that is why if you are blind enough to need a walking cane it requires a formal program to learn the skills you will need.

For seniors there are other problems.  The most common is that the senior often needs a support cane rather than one to find what is in front of them.  Today, using two canes is not much of an option.  Hearing also means the sound aspect is also lost.  Seniors often also need to use a walker, and that requires both hands.

One of the aspects of our program is to help those who guide the blind.  First and foremost, do not grab them and make them follow.  Let them put a hand either on your arm or shoulder and stay a half step ahead.  If you step up a curb announce it like a staircase or other obstacle.  They will feel you step up before they get to it.  Feeling your movement tells them both where it is, and how high it is.  Pause at the top of a step and let them catch up.  On a staircase they also learn where the top is.

There is a big difference between legally blind and actually blind.  That is a where Sierra Services is the most effective.  As you lose sight you have adjustments to make.  Simple things often have simple solutions.  But the greatest danger seems to be in quelling the frustration.  Getting through the initial shock of hearing you will be losing your vision leads to depression, denial, anger and finally acceptance.  The important thing in getting around is to know the extent of your problem, and seek advice on what the solutions are.  At some point you will lose our driver’s license, and that means you will be walking more.  You need to learn new ways of walking safely.

Falling down at home, on the street or down a flight of stairs is not one of your options.

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Aging gracefully is in the art of trading our experience for wisdom and the realization that a country lane is measured not in how fast we can run, but how well we see the journey.

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Handling Medications

The loss of vision presents a number of changes you must accommodate.  Some of the recommendations are simple like pouring milk in a dark cup and coffee in a white cup to make it easier to see the level as you pour.  Some are frustrating, like finding the handle to open the door of a car you are unfamiliar with.  Some are dangerous like taking medications.  If you take one of these and three of these, mixing them can be very serious.

Keeping track of several medications has rules when you cannot see that well.  The simplest is to put a notch in the top of the bottle for each one you have to take.  One pill, one notch, two pills two notches.  Rubber bands can also work.  None for one, one band for two and so forth.  You can also ask your pharmacist to put things is different bottles, short fat for one, tall thin for two.  But you also need to ask someone to make sure you get them right.  If you can’t read the labels you can also get the bottle tops wrong.  Take your old bottle with you and have the person who gives them to you, or the one that took you to the store to pick them up make sure you have it right.  Reuse the lids and you don’t have to notch each time you get new bottles.

Also, if you tell someone who comes to clean or straighten out your home not to mess with the medications.  You have them in order, keep them in order.  Also, don’t leave them out where someone can get into them.  The abuse of prescription medications is a national epidemic.

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The opposite of common sense is nonsense.  It is for common sense to watch for that which is nonsense to know when something has a desired positive effect.  Nonsense does not have that limitation.  It is the source of unintended consequences.

Lately there has been a study that asked about head injuries in soccer players.  We have studied head injuries in football players wearing helmets for decades.  It took until now to wonder in a sport where a player kicks a ball as hard has he can and you can only make a play with your foot or your head.  They were surprised to find that some soccer players had concussion problems.  They also recently decided to have a head strap to limit movement in race driver’s helmets.  They had a study and discovered that if you run your car into a wall at 200 miles an hour you may suffer neck damage.

In an attempt to make a car that was easily recycled Ford made a car entirely out of corn.  It didn’t hold up well in an accident, and the engine didn’t last long enough.  They did discover pollution caused by manufacturing a zero emission car battery is equal to driving eight SUV’s for 100,000 miles.  If you are old enough you will remember that in the 1970’s scientists predicted we were entering another ice age cause by air pollution.

Have you ever noticed that it is during the dinner hour they advertise products for problems that involve going to the bathroom?  They also spend billions of dollars advertising medications you can’t have unless the doctor gives them to you, and they tell you about all the bad things that they can do to you.  Some even say if you experience a list of things, or death, call your doctor.  Isn’t that a little late?

We spent several millions of dollars creating a treadmill for shrimp and teaching mountain lions to use one.  Genetic research has discovered we can use DNA to create dinosaurs again.  We are also creating amazing examples of humanoid robots with artificial intelligence.  Would you go to a psychiatrist who was created with artificial intelligence, or a robot doctor who is doing surgery to get rid of something inside you it doesn’t like?  And who decides whose intelligence they are modeled after?  We have developed Swedish message for rabbits and we now know the gambling habits of monkeys.  Results for the study that asked golfers if a larger hole would improve putting are pending.

So we ask what we really need to know.  Where do all of those paper clips go?