Welcome to the Club
It’s not a club anyone wanted to join, but welcome. We have a very large membership. The latest numbers I could find were from 2014 and showed that there were expected to be around 196 million people with macular degeneration in the world in 2020.1 People who may not have any change in their vision, some who are slowly losing their sight, and some not so slowly. As the proportion of people age 65 and older grows larger more people are developing these kinds of age-related diseases.
Factors that can impact your eye health
It’s sad to say, but where you live, your economic status, your education, can all make a difference in how long or even if you maintain your eyesight. Some countries are better than others at helping those of us with this frustrating disease. Some are simply better equipped to do this; they have the finances, the medical schools, the doctors, even the research labs and scientists. Some have wonderful health systems, others may be struggling to just keep their populace fed. Treatments are expensive and may not be available to all patients in many countries.
How you react to your diagnosis matters
But how your own life continues after your diagnosis depends significantly on how you react to this change. Or should I say this challenge? You can say to yourself “Oh woe is me, why does everything happen to me?” You can be such a Debbie Downer that you push away your friends. Or say to yourself “Well this happened and I just won’t think about it. Perhaps it’ll never get to that point, and with luck, someone else will deal with it for me.” Or you can say to yourself, “OK, what can I do to live the best life I can with this?” That could mean doing your research, learning everything you can about AMD and making any necessary changes. It could be joining a support group, either local or online. If you’re reading this and have joined our wonderful community, you already have a good start! Educate yourself. Question everything you’ve heard. Be proactive. Start looking into ways you can enjoy life in your new normal. Plan for perhaps the possibility of a different future. Get your ducks in a row, if you even have ducks.
Taking care of our physical AND mental health
Finding the right doctor, taking care of your physical health, eating right, seeing your dentist, getting your flu shot, doing whatever it is your body needs is necessary as we age. But taking care of your mental health is just as important. Social support is a very important part of this process. We need to take the time to keep up with our friends, continue going to our favourite activities, or start a new one, talk to a therapist, if that’s what works for you.
Making the best of what we've been given
Allow yourself some time to grieve. But don’t let that grief overwhelm you. Get up, get dressed, get busy, as my mother used to say. Find out everything you need to know and do, to make the best of what you’ve been given. For a few of us, just the idea of macular degeneration will be an almost insurmountable problem to deal with. For others, it will be just another bump in the road, while most of us will find ourselves somewhere in the middle. Wherever you are, welcome to the club.
Do you feel that you've maintained independence with macular degeneration?