Readers Want to Know, Part 4: How Do I Help a Family Member Who is Visually Impaired?

Editor’s Note: To answer questions posed by readers,we have started a “Readers Want to Know” section of the Peer Advisors Blog. This is the fourth part of that series.


“How can I help my elderly family member accept her vision loss, and more importantly, accept help and advice on how to adapt and use resources to navigate and stay safe in her home?”

Peer Advisor, Lynda Jones

Peer Advisor Lynda Jones Offers Her Personal Perspective

This is a question near and dear to my own heart. For many years, I was reluctant to get help from vision rehabilitation professionals. I knew that I had difficulty doing many things, and at night or in a dark room, I was almost blind. However, as long as I could get by, I did. I think I believed if I got help I’d have to admit I was legally blind. Unfortunately, I missed out on several productive years of my life. Fortunately, I am now very independent, comfortable with my blindness, and work in the field of vision rehabilitation.

Fear and Frustration

My feelings were not much different than those of many adults who experience significant vision loss. Your family member may be experiencing many overwhelming fears and may be worried that she can no longer live in her home alone. Even the most mundane every day tasks initially seem frustrating at best. Her ability to drive to the grocery store, to visit friends and family, to get to a doctor’s appointment or hair appointment is gone. Not only can she not drive, but she may not feel safe enough to walk independently outside her home. This is devastating. Also, if your family member used a computer to stay in touch with friends and family, she may not be able to continue to use her computer unless she learns to use access technology.

Coping and Adjusting to Vision Loss

All of these issues can be resolved with vision rehabilitation services, but feelings are part of another very important aspect of vision rehabilitation, the coping and adjusting process. Each individual experiences different emotions, at different intensities, for different lengths of time. Your family member can’t be pushed through the adjusting process, but directing her toward people who are trained in vision rehabilitation services may help a lot. As the professional shows her new ways of doing every day tasks, she may begin to feel better about herself and hopeful about caring for herself and her home.

Investigate Services

It’s possible that your family member may not listen to what you have to say. His reaction to anything you say might be “what can you possibly know? You aren’t blind.” I recommend that you do a little investigating. Read our Getting Started Kit. Contact the closest office of the state agency or private agency serving people with visual impairments. Find out about their services. Then tell your family member what you have found out and offer to take him to the agency to talk personally with the staff about what they offer. Some agencies provide individualized training; others offer group classes or both. In group classes, your family member would meet other people dealing with many of the same problems he is having. Also, your family member might benefit from a support group, often run by these agencies or affiliated organizations.

If your family member does not respond favorably to your offer, remember you can’t push her. Wait awhile and try again. In the meantime, you may want to read our Guide For Family and Friends.