Helping a Family Member Deal with Vision Loss

Failing eyesight is one of the most frightening aspects of the aging process. Fearing that they will lose their independence, seniors often do not tell their loved ones, medical providers, or caregivers that they are experiencing vision problems. Recognizing some of the warning signs is the first step in helping a family member deal with vision loss or poor vision.

Are they:

  • Walking more cautiously than usual?
  • Falling?
  • Bumping into things?
  • Squinting more, or tilting their head to focus on objects?
  • Missing the mark when reaching for things?
  • Reading less than usual?

Within the next two years, the number of Americans dealing with age-related vision problems such as macular degeneration and other eye diseases will be in excess of 43 million. These are the sobering statistics reported by the American Academy of Ophthalmology.

The decline in vision may be gradual. Beginning in our 40s, focusing on printed material close up may require reading glasses. Between the age of 40-50 fine details may be hard to recognize, and after our 50s we become more susceptible to glare and low lighting. Other factors that contribute to poor vision can include:

  • Diabetes
  • Side effects of medications
  • Fluctuations in blood pressure

Speak with your family member’s health care providers to fully understand their current medical condition. Learning as much as you can about the limitations imposed by their eye disease helps you effectively assist your loved one to function safely.

Making a few simple adjustments to their living areas will go a long way in reducing the risk of injury and greatly add to the quality and enjoyment of life.

Control glare and increase contrast: Sunglasses may help. Polarized lenses keep eyes safe and reduce glare. Use sun blocking window treatments and provide a bright color contrast around door frames, light switches, and electrical outlets. A large-screen television that produces high-contrast images will make watching TV more enjoyable.

Pay attention to lighting: Survey the home to be certain that the kitchen, bathroom, and work areas are well lit with high-wattage bulbs. Provide sufficient task lighting.

Make safety a priority:  Remove any throw rugs and low furniture. Keep walk areas clear of clutter.

Make enjoying life easier: Discuss the use of low vision aids with your loved one.  Provide them with those things that will assist them in making the most of their remaining vision. Large-print books, audio books, customized magnifiers, large playing cards, and oversized telephones and clocks enable folks to enjoy some things that they thought they could no longer do.

Lend a hand: When on an outing, be a sighted guide.There are established guidelines for the best way to assist a person with visual impairment. It may take a bit of practice, but it’s well worth the time and effort.

Communication is key: Speak directly to your loved one; they can hear you. By asking, “Mom, what can I get you to drink?” you save her from being embarrassed by having to ask. When dining in a restaurant, quietly describe the place setting and arrangement of food on the plate in terms of a clock face. It is a simple thing that will help seniors feel more confident. When visiting an unfamiliar place, give clear verbal descriptions on how to locate bathrooms, and mention specific landmarks that can be used to help them navigate safely.

Helping a family member deal with vision loss can be a sensitive topic, but working with our skilled eye doctors can help. Throughout the years, our practice has grown and expanded, and we have gained the knowledge and experience necessary to help you or your loved one cope with the vision loss. Contact our office today for a consultation. Let us help you identify the right solution for your or your loved one’s vision problems.

Contact us at Michigan Eye Institute to learn more about how vision loss among seniors.




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