Steps to Take to Get Help for You and Your Family Member
“I know Dad is having trouble with his eyes. Every time I visit, he breaks a plate or a vase and blames it on other people ‘moving things around.’ But when I try to suggest that he get his eyes examined, he won’t discuss it. How can I get him to seek help?”
Vision loss inevitably has a strong emotional impact on both the person directly affected and those close to that person. Fear of change—and the possibility of appearing feeble or dependent—can lead some people with vision loss to withdraw socially and emotionally. In extreme cases, long-standing relationships may be severed altogether. There’s no reason for a close friend or relative to head down this path. You can become a source of emotional and practical support, and play a key role in helping your loved one resume a regular everyday life.
What Can I Do? Some Helpful Tips
“I want mom to be able to do things for herself, but I always have to fight the urge to intervene when a task seems too difficult or dangerous. I’m never sure what to do.”It’s hard to know when to step in, and when to stand back. There’s no set formula to tell you how much help is too much when it comes to a relative dealing with vision loss. In fact, it may be some time before your mother truly knows what she’s capable of doing. Patience and sensitivity to her desire for independence are essential. Here are some suggestions:
- Take the initiative. Ask directly how you can best be of assistance.
- Ask before acting. If you see your relative having trouble with a task, don’t step in before asking if it’s OK to help.
- Be available. Let your loved one know you are there when he or she needs you, and what kinds of help you can provide.
- Talk about it. Learn how to discuss and work out solutions to problems together.
Being Helpful Starts with Being InformedAnother way you can provide assistance to your friend or family member who’s experiencing vision loss is to learn as much as you can about their eye condition and the resources that are available to help.
Things To Know About Eye Examinations
- Make sure your friend or relative is examined by an ophthalmologist, a medical doctor who specializes in eye diseases.
- Also be sure to consult a low vision specialist, an ophthalmologist or optometrist with a specialization in low vision. A low vision specialist can help your loved one make the best use of remaining vision by prescribing hand-held magnifiers, task lighting, or electronic desktop magnifiers.
Things To Know About Vision Rehabilitation Services
- Vision rehabilitation services are provided by both public and private agencies for people experiencing vision loss.
- Rehabilitation services can include training in everyday living skills, orientation and mobility, and computers and assistive technology.
- Before talking to your friend or relative about these services, you can gather information by contacting your state or local private agency serving people with vision loss.
- See What Kinds of Services Will You Need to Maintain Independence After Vision Loss? for a “road map” that can help you navigate the vision rehabilitation process.
Things To Know About Supporting Your Friend or Relative During Rehabilitation
- Talk to your loved one about vision rehabilitation, share the information you’ve found, encourage participation, but always leave the final decision up to him or her.
- Get involved in your loved one’s independent living skills training. Learn as many of the adaptive techniques as you can. You can encourage others best by showing your willingness to take the journey with them.
- Learn about ways to make the home environment safer for a person experiencing vision loss. These can include rearranging furniture for greater ease of movement, improving lighting, and using contrasting colors for greater visibility—such as placing a dark chair against a light-colored wall or a light sofa against a dark-paneled wall.
- Remember, rehabilitation is a family affair. Encourage discussion about vision loss and its impact among all family members—including young children. This isn’t the time for anyone to feel left out.
- Support your friend or relative’s desire to continue daily activities and cultivate new interests.
- An older relative with vision loss can still babysit, help grandchildren with homework, or prepare meals. Look for opportunities for your relative to provide assistance, not just receive it.
- Ask your state or local agency about support groups for people newly experiencing vision loss and their families. If there isn’t one in your area, think about starting one.
Helpful Books from APH Press
- Making Life More Livable: Simple Adaptations for Living at Home After Vision Loss, Third Edition
- Aging and Vision Loss: A Handbook for Families | American Printing House (aph.org)
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