The following article discusses different ways that family members of people with low vision can assist their loved one, both in terms of the physical challenges as well as the emotional aspects of living with low vision impairment.
As a medical diagnosis, low vision refers to visual deficiency that cannot be corrected through surgery or with standard interventions. Such vision loss often occurs secondary to other medical conditions such as age-related macular degeneration, diabetic retinopathy, glaucoma, inoperable cataracts, retinitis pigmentosa, and many other disorders.
This visual impairment affects a person's ability to continue with their daily routine and activities. Additionally, the immense psychological stress of going from a condition of being fully functional to one where a person is reliant on loved ones, can take a tremendous toll on a person’s emotional well-being. In addition to the technical difficulties of coping with visual impairment, the emotional impact can be just as challenging.
Left unaddressed, vision loss may cause feelings of helplessness and a loss of confidence, as people struggle with everyday tasks. Studies have shown that the “stages” for coming to grips with low vision sometimes mirror those of other types of grief. It is important that all parties have tools for coping with the emotional aspects of this condition.
And it isn't only the one with the diagnosis who struggles. Family and friends struggle as they watch a beloved caregiver, mentor, sibling or friend, cope with challenges of visual deficiency. The age of the individual presents its own challenges. Assisting a young child differs from helping an older person.
It is a normal reaction for people with low vision to feel emotionally down about their diagnosis. The good news is that it doesn’t have to be this way!
There are so many options today to drastically improve the lives of people with low vision, and to enable them to resume their favorite activities and normal daily routines. This includes proper usage of vision aids and devices such as advanced optics, magnifiers, telescopes, digital aids, as well as a rehabilitation therapy program for learning to maximize skills and dealing with emotional challenges.
With the proper support system, both in terms of using appropriate visual aids, and even more importantly by receiving the necessary emotional support; people with low vision are thriving and enjoying fulfilling lives. The importance of having a strong family network for emotional support cannot be overstated.
Perhaps the most important thing to emphasize to a family member with low vision is to reassure them that you are there for them, and that you are willing to assist them. Vision loss can be frightening and many people are good at masking fear. Let them know that they can confide in you. People with low vision are at risk for developing clinical depression, anxiety disorders, and other mental health disorders. Psychological therapy and counseling provide effective coping tools for people learning to adapt to visual deficiency.
A good vision rehabilitation program addresses all aspects of low vision, including the critical issues of emotional well-being. A low vision optometrist not only can help the patient understand how to cope, but also give them new hope for regaining their independence.
Family members should be willing to assist with visual aid interventions, therapies, or other means of support. This may mean helping family members with various devices or driving them to their rehabilitation specialist. By taking steps to improve the physical and emotional welfare of a person with low vision, you will be assisting their everyday living.It is important that loved one’s accompany them to their eye exams.
Speak to our low vision optometrist about visiting a low vision occupational therapist who can help your loved one understand how to cope with the challenges of living with low vision. It is important to surround your loved one with a variety of resources and caring professionals who can help them understand that they can live a full and happy life after vision loss.
The emotional challenges for people with low vision and family members are often as great as the physical challenges of coping with the physical visual deficiencies themselves. Fortunately, there are many options today for attending to both of these challenges, which have enabled people with low vision to continue to enjoy their lives and participate in normal routines and their favorite activities.
One of the most important factors is having a strong family support system. Along with utilizing visual aids and therapies, the support of family is as critical in helping a low vision patient lead a fulfilling life.