Help For Low Vision
Many people as they age have low vision. A number of factors can cause low vision including injury, disease and birth defects.
Unfortunately many aging people do not pick up on the early warning signs of eye disease until significant damage has been done.
People with low vision can have trouble doing simple things we take for granted. These problems occur even if a person is wearing regular glasses.
Low vision cannot be improved through surgery, the use of conventional glasses or contact lenses.
Signs of low vision include:
- Problems recognizing familiar faces
- Difficulty doing things up close like sewing, reading, writing
- Problems using household appliances
- Difficulty distinguishing colors
- Complaining that the lights are too dim
- Difficulty seeing hazards such as steps, curbs and uneven surfaces
Who can help with low vision?
A low vision assessment is different to other eye examinations and needs to be done by a low vision specialist. A low vision specialist is trained in low vision and can prescribe aids and show a person how to use them.
Low vision rehabilitation does not replace the use of medications, surgery or other ongoing treatments but looks at ways to optimize remaining vision.
It may include orientation and mobility training, use of adaptive technology like electronic magnifiers and prescription spectacles, or involve adapting the home environment.
Contact your optometrist for information or direction to your nearest low vision service.
Low Vision Aids
Low vision aids are simple tools and devices designed to help people with daily living tasks.
These aids do not require a prescription and can help make reading, writing and shopping easier. Handy home care aids for low vision include:
Large print TV remotes and appliances
Ask your optometrist or low vision service about low vision aids.
Caring for a person with low vision
If you are caring for an aging person with low vision you may have to organize some kind of home care. A person with low vision can have difficulty:
- Shopping, cooking and preparing meals
- Leaving the house without a license
- Attending social gatherings or hobbies
- Maintaining the family home
- Paying bills
Many people as they age find coping with daily life difficult. Low vision can create many daily obstacles. People who live alone or have other medical problems may require more assistance.
Ask a person how you can help. Look into any home care services you can organize or tasks you can help them with. Even collecting and reading the mail or shopping once a week can be useful.
If you are caring for an aging person with low vision adapt the home environment and encourage the use of low vision aids.
There are many practical things you can do to help a person remain independent in the home.
Adjust the Lighting
- Make sure the lighting is even in every room. Use fluorescent bulbs that diffuse light. Ensure kitchen and bathroom areas are well lit.
- Reduce and control glare. Ensure lighting comes from behind. Use curtains and blinds to reduce glare from windows. Wear a hat and sunglasses outside.
- Place reading lamps beside beds as opposed to above the head. Wide lamps with long adjustable arms are better for reading, needlework and near tasks. Position the lamp with the shade below eye level with the light shining onto an object at a 45 degree angle to reduce glare reflecting into the eyes.
- Keep flashlights handy in a handbag, car and by the bed.
Adjust the home
- Remove hazards like low tables and power cords.
- Use sofas and chairs with steady armrests for support and mobility.
- Highlight light switches, phones, keyholes and appliances with fluorescent tape or markers.
- Use contrast to make items stand out e.g. use dark colored towels in a white bathroom, dark chopping boards on a light kitchen bench top.
- Place a chair near the front door; it can take longer for a person with low vision to adjust their eyes to the dim light of indoors.
Place a chair near the front door
- Highlight step edges with contrasting tape or paint.
- Place certain items like clothes, food and appliances in specific spots in the house. Arrange things together, walking and feeling your way through the process.
Identify and organize objects
- Label food containers in large lettering with a highlighter.
- Sort items in cupboards using the clock method of placing tea at 2 o’clock.
- Reduce items in cupboards and place in specified areas.
- Keep items such as keys and money in one designated spot.
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- Place tactile markers such as Velcro on locks to help fit keys.
- Sort out notes into different sections in a wallet (use a coin sorter to identify between coins).
- Label medication bottles with a black marker.
- Keep a magnifying glass handy.
Make the most of vision aids
- A wide shade task light with an adjustable arm is great for concentrating on near tasks such as reading and needlework.
- Portable handheld magnifiers help with identifying fine detail can be taken to the shops for reading food labels and bills.
- Liquid level indicators hook onto a cup and alarm when the liquid reaches the top.
- Coin holders help identify and organize different coins. They fit easily into a handbag and help a person access small change.
There are many products available which can make daily life easier for those with low vision. Consult with a low vision specialist for advice.
I’d love to hear your hints and tips for making life with low vision easier; please comment below.
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