As we age, our eyesight naturally declines. You know what that’s like if you wear glasses and are watching your prescription numbers steadily increase over the course of a decade. While natural vision loss in older people is to be expected, some disorders, including macular degeneration, create an even more rapid loss and, therefore, a need for new routines.
It’s not always easy to accept a disorder that causes vision loss. We use our eyes to navigate our world, and healthy eyesight contributes to our ability to remain independent as we age. For anyone with macular degeneration, reduced or blurry central vision means no more driving, increased chances of accidents or falls, and giving up hobbies that strain the eyes.
How caretakers can help
If you’re a care giver for someone with macular degeneration (or any number of other low-vision disorders), there are a few simple steps to take to ensure your loved one can live independently at home, even with eyesight problems.
Light it up. Good lighting is key for someone with vision loss, especially if they enjoy hobbies like reading, knitting, playing cards, or working crossword puzzles. Use specialized bulbs to keep rooms well lit while preventing the glare that makes it particularly difficult for people with macular degeneration to see. Reading lights or clip-on desk lamps also work wonders.
Minimize risks of falling. For people with vision problems, falling is a real possibility. Rugs, clutter, and other movable items on the floor should be picked up. Think about rearranging commonly used rooms so they’re more accessible, with wide, unencumbered paths. Nightlights in hallways, bathrooms, and bedrooms also mitigate the risk of nighttime falls.
Organize. Along with creating a minimalistic environment to reduce fall risks related to tripping, organizing frequently used items can reduce clutter and make living with macular degeneration more manageable. Keep daily-use items organized and in the same place, preferably on a low shelf. Baskets and other containers positioned on shelves or counters make great places to store electronics, remotes, house keys, and more.
Think bigger. A magnifying glass or other more tech-friendly sources of light and magnification can also help. Purchase books, calendars, cookbooks, and checkbooks in larger print. Increasing the magnification on all electronic devices—phones, computers, and tablets—and getting large-letter keyboards are also good ideas.
Get those baby blues checked regularly
Eyesight often declines slowly as we age, which makes it difficult to notice when certain tasks become more difficult. Check on your older family members and friends and talk to them about whether you can do anything to help them out. Regular vision screenings are a must to update prescription glasses or diagnose a low-vision disorder like macular degeneration. If you notice your loved one is exhibiting any of the the following signs, make an appointment with their eye doctor for a medical eye exam:
- Squinting or tilting their head when trying to focus
- Bumping into things or knocking over objects
- Discontinuing everyday vision-based activities like reading or writing
- Missing objects when they reach for them
- Falling or walking hesitantly
It can be difficult to distinguish the expected vision loss that comes with age versus a disorder like macular degeneration. Remind your friends and loved ones to get vision screenings regularly and, if they are diagnosed with a low-vision disorder, help them make changes around their home and in their life to create a safe environment. Vision loss doesn’t have to mean a loss of independence. If you have questions, check out the INDATA Project at Easterseals Crossroads, which can provides helpful technology and tips on accessibility.