Some eye conditions are treated and maintained through healthy lifestyle choices, corrective lenses, and annual eye exams. Others come with the prognosis of long-term vision loss that may lead to legal blindness. The latter can feel overwhelming, but we have helped thousands of patients learn to cope with permanent vision loss.
Where To Start When Coping With Vision Loss
Patients who have permanent or progressive vision loss diagnoses have higher rates of depression and are prone to loneliness and isolation when the proper steps aren’t put into place.
Here are our recommendations for what to do after receiving a serious vision loss diagnosis (such as untreatable cataracts, macular degeneration, or diabetic retinopathy). These proactive steps keep you ahead of vision loss, so the next lines of defense and support are ready when needed.
Learn all you can from your ophthalmologist
Hopefully, you’re getting a tremendous amount of support from your ophthalmologist. If not, now’s a good time to find a new ophthalmologist you like and trust and who supports you through diagnosis, treatment, and the effects of progressive vision loss.
Your ophthalmologist should be the primary source of information, education, and continuing support, helping you learn all you can about the diagnosis and what it means for you. They should have prepared materials for reading (as well as audio files) and things you can share with family and close friends. Your ophthalmologist can also put you in touch with social programs and sight-supportive services in your area.
Reorganize the home and personal spaces
The key to maintaining a rich and independent life is having resources and support before you need them. This allows your brain to acclimate to all the changes or new resources while your vision is at its best, making it easier to depend on the systems you’ve put in place as your vision fades. Read Organizing & Modifying Your Home from AHP Vision Aware for more detailed instructions.
A basic rundown includes things like:
- Decluttering to minimize breakage, trip hazards, and things to take care of or manage.
- Ensuring there’s adequate safety and task lighting in place. Brighter lights make a big difference, so people with vision loss need more lights than normal, especially in areas where they spend the most time.
- Rearranging furniture and cabinets so everything you need is more or less within reach when you open or access them (minimizing any need for stepstools).
- Using large, high-contrast labels to label drawers, cabinets, storage containers,
- Change your phone to one with larger numbers/fonts
- Organize home office space with divided trays that separate the things you use most (paperclips, rubberbands, extra staples, erasers, sticky notes, etc.).
If you have a place for everything, and everything in its place, the home is far easier to navigate when vision loss becomes more significant.
Consider re-education classes and groups
There are so many different agencies, organizations, and non-profit groups that provide support for those with vision impairment. Again, your ophthalmologist should be able to provide you with a list. Some of these have low-vision rehabilitation classes, where specialists teach adults with vision loss tips and tricks on living life when you can’t see like you used to.
Re-education and support programs like these may teach you how to navigate the public transportation system once you can no longer drive, how to cook, navigate your environment, do laundry, and other daily tasks that become more challenging without clear vision. Get started by visiting brailleinstitute.com and looking for resources and support groups near you.
Meet with a counselor or therapist when coping with vision loss
It’s a good idea to schedule a few sessions with a counselor or therapist who can help you navigate the complicated feelings and emotions bound to come up with permanent vision loss. It’s understandable to feel angry, sad, and frustrated. Many people have a tremendous amount of grief as they begin saying goodbye to activities, hobbies, or a level of independence they loved.
Adults with progressive vision loss have higher risks of depression, anxiety, loneliness, and social isolation. However, none of those need to be a permanent state of being. Your counselor is there to help you through those feelings, provide personalized tools and coping strategies, and put you in touch with local vision loss or other applicable support groups. Ask your ophthalmologist if they have referrals for mental health professionals in the area who specialize in low-vision patients.
Create a safe plan to transition from driving to not driving
If you can still drive, you’ll need to create a safe plan for transitioning into passenger life. This is one of the hardest things most of our patients contend with. However, you’d never forgive yourself if the will to drive superseded safety, causing harm to a passenger or another motorist, cyclist, or pedestrian.
Learn more about the public transportation options in your area, including transit specifically designed for adults with low vision. Learning about them ahead of time, making connections, and learning more about their services means the ability to get out into the community safely.
Learn about the many vision-support technologies out there
Despite the emotional complications, there’s never been a better time to lose your vision. Innovative technology makes it easier than ever for those with low vision to navigate independently without sacrificing as much as they used to. This includes:
- Audio resources for virtually everything
- Apps that read out loud when you need them to, including signage or writing on menus when you’re out and about town.
- The ability to change screens to large font options
- Magnification devices as well as magnification apps (Mass Eye and Ear’s SuperVision+)
- Smart technology that creates a voice – rather than touch – activated life
- Free talking books/audible books for the visually impaired
Your ophthalmologist can provide sheet upon sheet of helpful descriptions of the visually supportive technologies that are best for you now and down the road.
And, if you love to read and know you’ll become legally blind, it’s never too early to learn braille. While there’s a learning curve at first, before you know it, you’ll be able to quietly read all of your favorites again.
Plan for emergencies
In the past, your plan for an emergency involved clear sight. Now, you’ll need to create new (and evolving) emergency plans accommodating your degree of vision loss.
- Make sure you have a three-day supply of food, water, batteries, pet food, etc., on hand.
- Place essential items in easy-to-find/grab locations in case you need to evacuate quickly.
- Learn about emergency support options for the disabled in your community, so you know who to contact if you need help leaving your home.
Also, speak to family and close friends about creating an emergency plan that includes your personalized needs.
Atlantic Eye Institute Helps Patients Coping With Vision Loss
Do you or a loved one need more support coping with vision loss? We’re here to help. Schedule an appointment or TeleHealth visit wit Atlantic Eye Institute. We’ll do all we can to assist you as you move forward in this new journey.