Having good eyesight is incredibly helpful in our daily life that losing this ability will impede with almost every activity we do. While most of use will not suffer from complete loss of vision, millions currently live with some form of visual impairment. The National Eye Institute states that older adults account for most of the visually impaired population in the United States.
While blindness later in life is common, it can be particularly tough for seniors to adapt as other senses like taste, smell, and hearing also tend to weaken with age. Use the following tips to ensure a loved one with low vision can stay safe and remain active in spite of their condition
Keeping An Eye On Visual Health
Low vision should not hinder a person from living a safe and active life. Routine exams will help uncover the underlying cause of vision impairment and improve visual health. The American Academy of Ophthalmology endorses a dilated medical eye test every year or two, or as prescribed by their eye doctor for people over the age of 65.
During the checkup, the ophthalmologist will assess the patient’s eyesight and evaluate the overall function and health of both eyes. Testing for new or worsening eye conditions is crucial for an optimal visual function at any age. Maintaining a current prescription for proper eyeglasses and/or contacts is just as important.
Vision loss is a gradual process for most people, so seniors, as well as family members, may not be mindful of how damaged their eyesight has become. Family members can keep an eye on a loved one’s vision if they are exhibiting the following more frequently:
- Knocking objects over or bumping into things.
- Squinting or tilting their head when trying to focus.
- Falling or walking hesitantly.
- Discontinuing daily vision-based activities like writing and reading.
- Missing objects when reaching for them.
If the family member drives, an increase in risky maneuvers and accidents may also indicate visual challenges. Discuss these noticeable changes with your loved one and book an eye checkup to ensure early detection and treatment of any disease that could lead to permanent damage in vision.
Accepting Visual Changes
Eye diseases like cataracts, macular degeneration, diabetic retinopathy, and glaucoma may cause a substantial impact on a senior’s quality of life and functional abilities. Some people with impaired vision even end up with depression, inactivity, and withdrawal.
According to Pris Rogers, program lead at VisionAware.org, an informational website for people living with eye problems, family members are often overwhelmed by their loved ones’ visual limitations. Some do not know how to help their elders or where to turn when faced with this challenge. Accepting these changes is key to coping with visual impairment Patients and caregivers need to know that there is hope, and life, after vision loss.
Helping A Loved One With Low Vision
The best approach to caring for a person with visual problems is to learn as much as you can about the condition. Here are suggested modifications to the patient’s environment and products that can enhance their mobility and independence.
1. Install Good Lighting Equipment
Glare is a common complaint among people with eye issues, so keep that in mind when installing more lighting. Keep surroundings well-lit with specialized bulbs/lamps to reduce glare and increase contrast. Cover reflective surfaces when possible and ensure that the right illumination is provided for all activities your loved one engages in. For example, direct task lighting works best for things like crafting, playing cards, or reading
Avoid having a bright lamp shining into a dark room, which makes for large discrepancies in lighting. The surrounding room lighting should adjust whenever the task lighting is used. Keep some lights on during daytime to balance the brightness from both indoor and outdoor sources.
2. Improve Household Organization
Make it easier for your loved one to find commonly used items around the house. Designate a spot for these objects and make sure to return them to the same place after every use. Using baskets and other types of storage to organize small items like electronics and keys can be of great help as well.
Allow your elders to navigate their environment more easily with tactile and visual systems. Tactile systems are especially helpful for those with limited or no vision. An example is placing felt, rubber bands, sandpaper cutouts, or raised plastic dots on objects to mark their placement or to differentiate them from similar items. Visual systems take advantage of the remaining vision to determine and organize things. These include labels or large colored stickers to differentiate individual items.
3. Minimize Fall Risks
Reduce the risk of tripping with nightlights along hallways, in bathrooms, and in bedrooms. Remove hazards and eliminate clutter such as electrical cords and throw rugs. Consider relocating or replacing furniture that is difficult to see like glass tables. Clear, wide walking paths are also safer for navigation around the house.
Magnification is a useful took for those with low vision. Magnifying devices range from simple to high-tech. Choose items that come with larger buttons/print, such as checkbooks, calculators, clocks, playing cards, and watches.
For items that do not come with low-vision versions, magnifiers are a great tool. Browse through low vision supply companies for electronic magnification units that will improve the size, degree of contrast, and color of prints and images.
5. Work With A Specialist
Vision loss specialists can devise a personalized solution for your visually challenged loved one. Eyesight rehabilitation can help with mobility training as well as methods of marking, organizing, and labeling household items. These doctors are also familiar with resources for obtaining low-vision aids and can instruct their clients on how to use them properly. Other programs also aid with depression and anxiety that come with vision loss.
Anyone who goes through worsening visual problems needs a strong support system. Encourage your loved one to stick to the hobbies they enjoy and stay active with their friends. There are many resources that can allow them to remain independent and improve their quality of life.