An alarming number of older adults are aging with vision loss. Your loved one may be one of them and most certainly will have some unique needs. Unfortunately, social and rehabilitation agencies that serve people with visual impairment are often under-funded and overburdened, making it difficult to meet the needs of this growing population for services that could enable them to age in the place of their choice, usually at home in safety, with independence and dignity. These problems have been exacerbated by the pandemic.
Some Providers Serving Older People Lack Awareness of Vision Loss Issues
Furthermore, there is a lack of knowledge and awareness of vision related issues among the allied professions which serve older adults. Older people with low vision or severe vision loss need special supports and accommodations to remain healthy, engaged, and safe in their community. Many struggle to manage daily tasks like shopping, cooking, reading mail, paying bills, and safely taking their medications, although with training and guidance they can continue to live independent lives. Lacking this assistance, some with vision loss are ushered off to assisted living facilities prematurely for fear they can no longer take care of themselves. Families soon discover many facilities are ill-equipped and ill-informed to meet these residents’ special needs.
Caregivers Must Find Their Own Way
All of this means more family caregivers are shouldering more responsibilities and need to find their own way when it comes to securing what their loved ones need. VisionAware offers helpful resources and links to supports to help if you are currently in this challenging role including Ten Tips for Family Caregivers of Individuals with Vision Loss. These tips were excerpted from the Caregiver Action Network and edited to include information regarding vision loss. The tips are summarized below, but be sure to read the entire article and other information included in the family guidance section.
Tips for Family Members of People with Vision Loss
- Talk to your family member about their concerns and find services that address those needs including vision rehabilitation and support groups (many now available through phone and online)
- Take care of yourself by keeping up with your own medical needs and take needed respite breaks
- Set up a team of people who can help—such as providing needed transportation.
- Figure out how to communicate effectively with medical and other service providers. This may be harder with the pandemic but telehealth provides opportunities for communication.
- Be on the alert for signs of depression and seek help.
- Be open to using new technologies and the need to acquaint your loved one with it as well. This has become even more important during the pandemic.
- Help your older relative organize files such as medical, legal, and financial information and make sure that legal files such as durable and health care powers of attorney are set up properly.
Another valuable service for families is the APH ConnectCenter, which includes an information line 1-800-232-5463 and email Connectcenter@aph.org. The Center offers curated advice and resources.
Resources for Caregivers
- Caregiver Action Network or CAN Support group forum, videos, tip sheets and resources on all aspects of caregiving.
- VisionAware – find information and services for older adults with vision loss and A Guide to Vision Loss for Family and Friends.
- Additional Resources.