Simple and Effective Strategies for Coping with Vision Loss

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Close your eyes. Now go get a soda from the fridge. Are you sure you have the right thing? Maybe you wanted a diet and took it regularly. How do you know without being able to see what you are choosing? Now close your eyes and cook dinner, do laundry, or walk to the mailbox. It’s easy to realize how vision loss can impact every aspect of your life.

In the United States, more than 12 million people have vision loss, and the number of people with age-related vision loss is growing. But does loss of vision mean loss of independence and hope? NOPE! A few simple strategies and tools can help you maximize your vision and continue to lead an independent life.

Strategy #1. Use your other senses

Sight is our dominant sense. Usually it is our first choice to interact with our environment. But it’s not our only way to interact with our environment. We can also get vision from our ears, fingertips, and nose.

Hearing.-When reading, you can substitute hearing for vision by listening to audiobooks, which can be just as immersive as digging into a new paperback.

For newspaper readers, use the radio or podcasts to follow daily news. If you have difficulty reading mail, text-to-speech technology in a phone app or portable scanner/reader can help.

Touch. If you have low vision, it can be difficult to pour water into a glass and prevent it from overflowing. However, something as simple as placing your fingertip just inside the top of the glass allows you to use your sense of touch to determine when the glass is full. Remember to use this strategy only with cold or room temperature liquids; hot coffee or tea require a different solution.

Nail filing is a safer alternative to nail clipping and relies primarily on touch to assess the shape and smoothness of the nail. And with the shave, you can feel the coarse beard hairs to tell if you got a close shave.

Feel. Our sense of smell can be used to identify spices in the kitchen or to tell shampoo and conditioner apart if they have a different scent. Your nose knows. It can protect you from rotten food that smell bad or dangerous chemical.

Strategy #2. Make changes to your environment

Clear up clutter and throw rugs. We know you’ve probably heard this recommendation over and over again, but eliminating clutter really does make a home safer. Clutter and throw rugs are tripping hazards and can be especially dangerous for anyone with peripheral vision loss or using any type of mobility aid.

hold the railing. For people with stairs in their home, it is important to hold onto the railing whenever using the stairs. What about when your hands are busy carrying laundry downstairs to the laundry room? Consider investing in a durable laundry bag and tossing or pushing dirty laundry down the stairs.

Keep cabinet doors and drawers closed. Get into the habit of closing drawers and cabinet doors immediately after retrieving the item you opened them for. Leaving cabinet doors open, while seemingly handy if you might need something later, can be dangerous for anyone moving through the space and just too easy to forget.

Install grab bars at the entrance to the shower or bathtub. The most important safety feature in the bathroom is a sturdy grab bar that you can hold onto when entering the shower or tub. We recommend installing a grab bar drilled into the wall or a bath safety rail that can be attached to the edge of the bath. Grab bars held on by suction cups are more dangerous than having nothing at all, as they can easily detach from the wall during use.

Never rush to answer the phone. Running for the phone is a recipe for falling. If the phone is across the room or in another part of your house, it’s okay if the call goes to voicemail. The most important callers will leave a message. You can also consider having multiple handsets for landline phones and placing them in busy areas of the house.

Strategy #3. Have good lighting

The light is seen. Lighting plays an important role in carrying out daily activities. Good lighting can mean the difference between success and frustration. The two main types of lighting that can be manipulated, in any room and for any activity, are mood lighting and task lighting.

Ambient lighting. Indirect lighting from windows, ceiling lights, table lamps and floor lamps is crucial to help illuminate the environment. Adequate ambient lighting is important to illuminate the areas in which a person walks.

Work lighting. Direct zone lighting illuminates the materials and objects involved in an activity. Task lighting comes in many forms, including adjustable gooseneck floor lamps, desk lamps, under cabinet lighting, and flashlights.

Vision loss doesn’t have to rob you of independence. You can use your other senses and adapt your environment to accomplish tasks that will allow you to live independently. If you or someone you know suffers from vision loss and needs help, contact us at the Spectrios Institute for Low Vision. We help people living with vision loss find solutions and lead independent and productive lives.


Katrina Stratton is an occupational therapist at the Spectrios Institute for Low Vision. Katrina helps people achieve their goals and live life with vision loss. You can call 630-690-7115 to make an appointment.
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