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Wednesday June 19, 2019

Savvy Living

Savvy Senior

Tips for Living with Low Vision

What resources can you recommend to help individuals living with vision loss? My husband has macular degeneration that has progressed to the point that he is unable to perform many of his routine activities anymore, and has become very discouraged.

Unfortunately, there are around 15 million Americans, like your husband, living with macular degeneration. Over time, this progressive disease can rob people of their central vision, making everyday tasks, like driving a car, reading the newspaper or watching television, extremely challenging. Here are some resources that may help.

Low Vision Help

The best place to get resources for living and coping with macular degeneration is at a vision rehabilitation agency or clinic. Typically run by state agencies, nonprofit organizations or private eye care clinics, there are more than 1,500 of these services scattered across the country helping people who are living with all types of uncorrectable vision impairments. Most state and nonprofit vision rehabilitation services are free or low-cost, while private clinics typically charge a fee or may accept Medicare.

While vision rehabilitation does not restore lost eyesight, it may help people maximize their existing eyesight. If an individual has completely lost his or her vision, these services can provide techniques and tools to help maintain an independent lifestyle.

Vision rehabilitations services often provide counseling, support groups and various training programs. The training programs may include instruction on how to perform daily living tasks with low vision and how to use visual and adaptive devices and assistive technologies to help improve quality of life.

These services also offer guidance on how to make a home safer and easier to maneuver for those with vision impairments. Some agencies will send a specialist out to work with people in the comfort of their own homes.

To find a vision rehabilitation service in your area, call the American Foundation for the Blind referral line at 800-232-5463 or visit the VisionAware website. You can also download the VisionAware app to connect to various types of low-vision resources in your area.

If, however, you do not live near a vision rehabilitation service, you can also get help from an occupational therapist (OT), who can provide low vision training in your home. Medicare, if prescribed by your eye doctor or healthcare provider, may provide coverage.

Online Help

Another convenient place to find help for your husband is the VisionAware website. This is a free website designed to help adults who are losing their vision. It provides information on eye conditions, along with dozens of practical tips and instructional videos on living with vision loss. The topics include ideas on adapting your home to make it easier to navigate, techniques for traveling safely outside the home and various tips on how to manage things like finances, medications and other tasks like cooking, cleaning, grooming, reading and writing. It also offers a comprehensive list of low vision products and technologies that can help those who suffer from vision loss stay active and independent. It also includes product reviews that are published in their online magazine, "AccessWorld."

Other Resources

Some other good resources that can help include: the Hadley Institute (800-323-4238), which offers dozens of free online instructional videos to help the blind or visually impaired live independently; Ears for Eyes (800-843-6816) that provides free audio lessons that teach low-vision adaptive daily living skills; and Living Well with Low Vision (800-331-2020), which offers up-to-date information and free materials for people living with severe vision impairment.

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 June 15, 2018
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