Reading a book, watching television, writing a letter, preparing a meal…these seemingly simple activities can present major challenges on a daily basis for those suffering from low or reduced vision. Additionally, statistics for the frail elderly who are also visually impaired report an increased risk of depression. Unfortunately, one disturbing trend noted in recent years has been a tendency in our society to overlook or neglect the vision correction needs of elderly citizens.
Even though many people suffer from the effects of decreased vision (approximately one person in three has some form of vision-reducing eye disease by the age of 65) a loss of vision doesn’t need to mean sinking into depression or suffering a loss of independence. There are many ways to continue enjoying favorite hobbies and carry on with the daily activities of living, and low vision devices and outside assistance are readily available.
The most common causes of vision loss among the elderly are:
– Age-related macular degeneration (AMD), characterized by the loss of central vision
– Glaucoma, resulting in optic nerve damage and visual field loss
– Cataracts, a common cause of vision impairment among the elderly where surgery is often effective in restoring vision
– Diabetic retinopathy, which may be observed in the elderly at the time of diagnosis or during the first few years of diabetes
When trying to decide what kind of support would benefit the visually impaired person, it’s helpful to begin listing the day-to-day difficulties the person is experiencing. Make note of which difficulties are specifically related to vision loss, so as to better find appropriate solutions.
It is always important to keep a person’s feelings in mind when preparing to assist someone who is sight impaired. People coping with vision loss may be battling a cacophony of fears, including a reduced sense of control over their lives, fear of decreased independence, loss of privacy, and concern that others may view them differently. Remaining sensitive to these fears rather than dismissing them will make a significant impact.
Enhancing independence can be as easy as simple home modifications that make activities safer and more convenient. Evaluating and modifying the home does not have to be expensive or difficult. The key things to keep in mind are to reduce clutter and pay special attention to the basic concepts of lighting, color and contrast. Many useful adaptations are as straightforward as installing more and brighter light bulbs, reducing glare, marking edges of steps with brightly colored tape and using innovative labeling techniques for everything from medications to clothing.
There are many useful specialty products for people who have low vision as well. These products can enhance a person’s independence through simple assistive means. Adaptive equipment can help make a telephone with large numbered buttons easier to dial, help one to manage finances through adapted wallets and large print check registers, or read favorite books with the help of compact electronic magnifiers.
Following are some informative links to aid people in coping with low vision.