Coping with Vision Loss—Tips for Caregivers

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Losing sight can be scary, and losing the ability to take care of yourself is something none of us ever want to think about. Many of us don’t realize how much we rely on visual cues to accomplish everything we do in a single day. Even mild vision loss can be devastating and life changing.

Some conditions that cause slow vision loss include:

Whether it happens to you or someone you love, all kinds of emotions can be felt. The effects can be both physical and emotional, affecting not only the person experiencing the loss, but also their family and other loved ones around them. Normal everyday tasks such as getting dressed in the morning or cooking a favorite meal can become quite difficult or even impossible, leading to loss of independence and severe anxiety. Caring for someone with vision loss can also be physically and emotionally draining. Learning ways to help others cope with vision loss can greatly alleviate the fears and emotional turmoil that comes with it.

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Vision loss and bereavement

Some doctors compare the initial reaction to vision loss to the different stages of Kubler-Ross grief after the loss of a loved one. The person experiencing vision loss often goes through the same process. Grieving is a natural response to a significant loss. The stages of grief include denial, depression, anger, and finally acceptance. Understanding the feelings that accompany these stages can go a long way in allaying fears.

  • Denial: When someone receives news of a major loss, a feeling of disbelief comes over them. Even after a while, these feelings of disbelief can recur over and over again.
  • Depression: Feelings of sadness and isolation are hard to overcome. A person will feel alone, thinking that no one else could understand the impact of their loss. These feelings of sadness tend to cause people to withdraw from their usual social lives, leaving them feeling hopeless.
  • Anger: A person with vision loss may ask “why me?” As feelings of depression begin to lessen, additional energy is available to express feelings of anger. Anger helps people move forward and direct their grief and depression outward.
  • Acceptance: During the final stages of grief, a sense of hope begins to return. We are beginning to experience periods of optimism for the future. This hope is accompanied by the acquisition of new skills that allow a return to normal activities.

Vision loss and isolation

One of the most important ways to help someone with vision loss is to let them know they are not alone. Nearly 12 million American adults over the age of 40 are visually impaired, one million of whom are blind.

It’s important to let your loved ones know that they can contact other people living with vision loss, as well as professionals such as their eye doctor, low vision specialists, or someone who specializes in occupational therapy. In modern society, many resources are available to meet the challenges of adaptation.

VisionAware is a website sponsored by the American Foundation for the Blind and Reader’s Digest Partners for Sight Foundation. It offers a state-by-state directory of services for the visually impaired.

A return to normal

As a caregiver, assure your patient or loved one that if they are willing to make adjustments, it is possible for them to continue enjoying their favorite hobbies and activities. The more willing they are to continue participating in society, the easier it will be for them to pursue their favorite activities. Let them know they don’t have to stop working either. Although there are exceptions for some jobs, many people who develop vision loss continue in their current occupation. You have probably been in contact with people with low vision every day and you have not realized it because they function at a very high level, even with reduced vision.

Ask for help

When they are ready, you can consider enrolling your loved one in a course to learn new skills in order to regain their independence. Classes are taught by vision-mobility specialists who help teach alternative techniques to maintain independence. Occupational therapists also teach the mobility and motor skills needed to function with low vision.

Solutions and tools are available to help you cook a favorite meal in the kitchen safely, move around the house efficiently, pay your bills on your own, and perform other essential daily tasks. Technology has evolved to facilitate these activities. Computers and devices can be adapted to better suit a person with reduced vision.

Tips for coping

Those with significant vision loss can learn to continue leading productive lives. Here is a list of tips and tricks to help someone with reduced vision learn to cope with everyday activities:

  • High power spectacle lenses can magnify reading material. High power magnifying lenses with built-in illumination can be used for reading and other small objects that need to be seen clearly.
  • Digital magnification devices use videos or images to magnify certain items for viewing.
  • Many books, newspapers and magazines are available in large print.
  • Audiobooks allow you to enjoy books that are more difficult to read.
  • Removing clutter and repositioning furniture can make it easier to walk between rooms or climb stairs.
  • Increasing the number and brightness of lights and lamps around the house can help vision. Installing better direct lighting under kitchen cabinets and stoves will make it easier to cook and prepare meals.
  • Regular visits to the optometrist or ophthalmologist will monitor the health of your eyes and your vision. Correcting vision problems in addition to using low vision devices will make better use of your remaining vision.

A word from Verywell

If a loved one has experienced vision loss, there are some things you can do and say that will be very helpful. A family member or friend of someone who has experienced vision loss becomes an important partner in the vision rehabilitation process. They may feel a lot of stress and anxiety when they start to find writing, reading, or driving difficult or impossible. Here are some tips to help your loved one better cope with their vision loss:

  • Avoid being overprotective.
  • Helps develop self-confidence.
  • Acknowledge progress made.
  • Encourage autonomy.
  • Do not be afraid. Ask directly how you can help.
  • Ask before helping to encourage independence.
  • Let them know you’re available and always there if they need help with something specific.
  • Talk about their problems and don’t be afraid to work together to find solutions.
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