Coping with Vision Loss
Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is one of the most common causes of vision loss in people over the age of 50, but that doesn’t mean getting the diagnosis is any easier. Being diagnosed with any medical condition can be hard, especially when it involves progressive vision loss. You might feel a variety of emotions – some people have described these feelings as similar to the stages of grief, including denial, anger, depression, and eventually, acceptance.1 As your vision loss progresses, you might feel cycles of these emotions all over again, as well.
How to cope with vision loss
Vision loss doesn’t automatically mean you’ll become dependent on other people. Many people with varying degrees of vision loss live independently thanks to a number of available assistive devices and low-vision rehabilitation. Assistive technologies can also enable you to keep your job and continue doing the things you enjoy. Vision loss doesn’t have to mean giving up everything you used to do; it might just look a little different.
There is no wrong or right way to feel when faced with vision loss – but there are things you can do to cope with the vision loss.
There are more than 6.5 million people in the US living with vision loss.1 Ask your eye doctor for information about local support groups, and don’t be shy about joining online communities for people experiencing vision loss. These groups, both virtual and in-person, can be a wealth of practical information, emotional support, and friendship.
Learn about AMD
The more we know about something, the less scary it tends to seem. Learn about macular degeneration, its treatments, and things you can do to preserve your existing vision. Talk with your doctor about your condition and see if she can recommend any trusted online sources for further information.
Talk with someone
Don’t be ashamed to seek professional help and talk with a counselor. Depression and anxiety are common in people with vision impairment and macular degeneration and occur at higher rates than in the general population.2 Depression and anxiety can be serious medical conditions of their own and may interfere with all aspects of your life. A professional counselor can be a trusted person with whom you share your feelings, and they can also provide an objective perspective and teach you coping skills to deal with vision loss.
Assistive and adaptive tools
Consider participating in some adjustment classes, seek out an occupational therapist or certified low-vision rehabilitation specialist, or look into the variety of assistive technologies and devices that are available. Things, like getting dressed or maneuvering around the house, can become more difficult as your vision decreases, and these classes and instructors can teach you adaptations that you can implement in order to remain independent and help make everyday tasks a little easier.3
Learning new behaviors is a skill, but trained professionals can help you with the process. Even if you don’t need the adaptations right now, it is reassuring to have them available should the time come when you need them. For devices, it’s good to know what exists before you actually need them as this can save you time and stress later on. Even as your vision declines, handheld magnifying devices and other adaptive tools for low vision can be incredibly helpful for everyday tasks such as reading the mail or using the computer.
Ask for what you need
Your family and friends can’t fully help and support you if they don’t know what you need. Be honest; talk with them about how you’re feeling, what you may be having difficulty with, and how they can make things a little easier. Some people might not know what to say or might think you need some space. Being open and honest about how they can help will be beneficial for everyone. At the same time, if they’re being overly involved, it’s okay to let them know that you’re fine, that you appreciate their help, and that you'll let them know if you need anything else.
You are not alone
If you have been diagnosed with macular degeneration and are experiencing vision loss, you’re not alone – and you don’t have to experience it alone, either. Talk with your eye doctor about local organizations that can provide you with practical assistance, seek out other people who have been through similar situations (either in-person or online), and don’t be afraid to ask for help. You can still have a full life and enjoy many things you currently do, even with varying degrees of vision loss.