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Savvy Living

Savvy Senior

Tips and Tools for Coping with Vision Loss

Can you recommend good resources for individuals with vision loss? My spouse was recently diagnosed with macular degeneration, and we are interested in information that can help us understand and adapt to the condition.

There are about 20 million Americans living with macular degeneration. Over time, this progressive disease can deprive people of their central vision, making everyday tasks like driving a car, reading or watching television extremely challenging. Here are some tips and resources that can help.

Low Vision Help

The first step is to make an appointment with a low vision specialist for a comprehensive examination. Low vision specialists are ophthalmologists or optometrists with additional credentials or specialization in low vision testing, diagnosis and treatment.

A low vision exam, which is much different from a typical eye exam, will explore how the eye condition is affecting the individual's day-to-day life, how that individual is adapting emotionally and if needed, can prescribe solutions to help regain as much day-to-day functioning as possible.

The next step is to find a nearby vision rehabilitation service. These services, which are run by state, nonprofit organizations, or private eye care clinics, help people with all types of uncorrectable vision impairments. Most state and nonprofit services are free or low-cost, while private clinics typically charge a fee or may accept Medicare.

While vision rehabilitation does not restore lost sight, it helps people maximize their existing sight. For those with no vision, rehabilitation can equip them with techniques and tools to help them maintain an independent lifestyle. Services offered by vision rehabilitation specialists can include counseling, training on performing daily living tasks with low vision, and how to use visual and adaptive devices and assistive technologies all aimed at improving the overall quality of life for those affected.

They also offer guidance when it comes to accommodating your home to make it safer and easier for the individual to maneuver. Additionally, they can help locate low vision support groups. Some agencies will even send a specialist to work with the person in the comfort of their own home. To find a vision rehabilitation service near you, ask a primary eye doctor for a referral.

Online Tools

Another convenient and beneficial way to get help is to search online for resources that are specifically designed for adults with vision loss. These websites provide information on eye diseases and disorders, along with dozens of practical tips and instructional videos on living with vision loss. Some of the resources include concepts for adapting your home to make it easier to navigate. They provide techniques for traveling safely outside the home, tips on how to manage finances, medications, cooking, cleaning, grooming, reading, writing and engaging in hobbies.

Online websites and directories also provide a comprehensive list of more than 2,000 low vision agencies and organizations across the country that are searchable by state or category. These directories list schools, agencies, organizations and programs in both the private and nonprofit sectors that provide a variety of services to those visually impaired and their families. The listings typically include the organization's contact information and a description of the services they offer.

For additional resources, research nonprofit organizations that partner together with the National Eye Institute and the National Eye Health Education Program. Many of these nonprofits offer online discussion groups and free online workshops to help empower the visually impaired.

Savvy Living is written by Jim Miller, a regular contributor to the NBC Today Show and author of "The Savvy Living" book. Any links in this article are offered as a service and there is no endorsement of any product. These articles are offered as a helpful and informative service to our friends and may not always reflect this organization's official position on some topics. Jim invites you to send your senior questions to: Savvy Living, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070.

Published July 21, 2023
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