Part of our mission at OccuVision Therapy Services is to increase community awareness regarding vision loss while bringing hope to those living with low vision conditions. According to the National Eye Institute (NEI), 3 million Americans, ages 40 and older, have low vision and this number is expected to increase as people live longer. Thus, the need for low vision awareness is at an all time high.
What Is Low Vision?
Given vision loss can be “silent,” there is often confusion surrounding what it means to have low vision. Low vision is a condition that cannot necessarily be corrected by eyeglasses or eye surgery. A person living with low vision has some useable vision. However, the useable vision is impaired and interferes with completing daily living activities.
Factors that can put you at an increased risk for low vision are:
- Family history & aging
- Race: Caucasians are at a higher risk for macular degeneration. African Americans are at a higher risk for glaucoma.
- Tobacco use
- Heart disease & high blood pressure
- Poorly managed diabetes
- Poor diet consisting of highly processed foods & trans fats with low intake of dark-green leafy vegetables & fish.
- High sun exposure without protective eye wear
In the early stages, many low vision conditions have no warning signs or symptoms. Therefore, receiving a dilated eye exam on a yearly basis by an eye care professional is important for prevention and early detection.
What Low Vision Is NOT:
Low vision is not blindness. One cannot assume that having a low vision diagnosis will lead to blindness. Low vision does not mean an individual will require a blind cane for walking or braille techniques for reading. Most importantly, low vision does not prevent an individual from live fully while participating in meaningful activities.
Many times, family members and friends are eager to help those living with low vision but are unsure how. In honor of Low Vision Awareness Month, here are sixteen tips (Mogk & Mogk, 2003) to guide adjustment and communication:
1. Be Direct About Vision: Ask your friend or family member what they can & cannot see so that there is no confusion.
2. Identify Yourself & Say Hello: Take the initiative to say hello & identify yourself upon walking in a room. Don’t assume that others can see you.
3. Say Everything You Want to Convey: Give clear verbal directions & avoid vague replies such as, “It’s over there.” Don’t assume your friend or family member can read your facial expression or see gestures.
4. Use Black Felt-Tip or Bold Ink Pens: Always write notes, letters, and cards to your family member or friend using a bold, black felt-tip or ink pen for visibility. Avoid colored pens, ballpoint pens, and pencils. Print clearly.
5. Give Low Vision Gifts: Consider giving low-vision gifts such as talking devices, large button devices, filtered sunglasses, or gift cards towards electronic magnification. There are many low vision companies to choose from such as, but not limited to, LS&S Group, Maxi Aids, Cocoon glasses, NOIR glasses.
6. Keep the Environment Predictable: Help your friend or family member keep their home as organized and predictable as possible. Commonly used objects such as house keys, toiletries, & pantry items need to have designated spaces. If you are a guest, return any item you used to the exact place you found it.
7. Offer your Arm; Don’t Take Theirs: When walking with your friend or family member, offer you arm. Don’t take theirs as you may throw them off balance.
8. Don’t Just Do “For” Your Parent: Never assume that because of low vision, your parent or friend isn’t capable. Don’t take away anyone’s reason to be up in the morning and feel productive.
9. Share Activities You Both Enjoy: Call your friend or family member and make a date! A few suggestions are: Dine out, go to the symphony, visit a local garden, do a crossword puzzle together, get a manicure, attend church together, or volunteer.
10. Encourage Interests: Remember, when you lose vision, you do not lose physical or mental energy. Encourage your friend or family member to maintain old interests and develop new ones. Be active & encourage action.
11. Realize the Importance of Friends: Loneliness is not a good thing. Encourage community, especially when considering living arrangements. It is important for adult children to help their parents make or keep old friends.
12. Watch for Depression: Depression is very common among people living with low vision conditions, such as macular degeneration. Many people experience a short period of depression as they adjust to vision loss, but many others experience more prolonged periods of depression. Be aware of changes in your friend or family member’s emotions and make an appointment with his or her doctor if there is a concern.
13. Take Care of Yourself, Too: Look out for your own well-being by following the same steps you would for your loved one. Consider family support groups or attending vision rehabilitation with your loved one.
14. Participate in Vision Rehabilitation: Seek out vision rehabilitation services to live fully with low vision while fostering independence and well-being. Talk to your doctor regarding a referral.
15. Attend or Help Start a Support Group: Support groups are a great way to build community while offering solutions to daily living challenges. Speak to both your physician and vision rehab specialist regarding local groups.
16. Keep Your Sense of Humor: Don’t forget to laugh and try not to take life too seriously!
Click here to download a printable copy: Sixteen Tips for Family & Friends
Please leave a reply at the bottom of this page if you have other tips to share!
Source: Mogk, L., & Mogk, M. (2003). Macular degeneration: The complete guide to saving and maximizing your sight. New York: Ballantine Books, Random House Publishing Group