A roll of tape is used to make larger labels for food.

Hacks and Hints for Living With AMD

"Hey, I need you to read the directions on this package," I said as I walked over to my husband. He was reading. I was cooking dinner. I’m lucky to have a patient, understanding spouse with great eyesight.

"Sure, no problem," he said. "How many cups do you want to make?" No problem for him, big problem for me.

At this point in my low vision journey, the tiny type on most food packages defeats me. It is just too small for me to read. I hate asking for help to do something that was once so easy.

Struggling to read small type

It is the little things about living with age-related macular degeneration (AMD), like dealing with the size of the type on almost everything around me, that make me nuts. A better description is that it makes me feel incompetent, frustrated, dependent, not in control, and sad. A lot of power for a little label.

The next day, I was moaning to my BFF about how hard it is to read some of the numbers on my credit card. She writes the expiration date and code on the card with a Sharpie in a type size she can read. So, it is not just those of us with low vision that need to deal with this stuff.

I used part of a file label. Bingo.

Figuring out what I can fix

Over the next few days, I started to look at the things that I could fix using the tools I have.

My stash of file folder labels is dwindling as they get repurposed for credit cards and spice jars. I’m putting homemade labels on things that once required a magnifying glass. I've copied the instructions for making my morning oatmeal onto a piece of masking tape and stuck it on the container.

Same thing for other packaged goods. I know I should remember the proportion of water to rice, but I don’t. More masking tape.

Utilizing electronic devices

Where I once thought "app" stood for appetizer, now I know it is for applications. Because of the apps on my smartphone, I have a bigger toolbox. I just need to figure out how to use them to make my life easier.

I use the flashlight on my phone to read menus in restaurants too dimly lit for my comfort as well as to light the hall so I can open my front door, or to read a newspaper or magazine in a waiting room.

Screen readers: Yes, there is such a thing. Turn it on and it reads what is on the phone. You can adjust the speed of the voice. Too bad I can’t give it a soft, Southern drawl.

What did we do before our cellphones had a camera with a zoom lens? Thanks to another Health Leader’s recent revelation about using her camera to capture a decent image that she couldn’t see with her current vision, I’m taking mine to church and seeing if I can magnify the tiny type of the words in the hymn book. If not, maybe the flashlight will help. I used my phone camera to take a photo of the spices on a rack that was too high to reach and with type I couldn’t read. Zoomed in and problem solved.

Bringing brighter light closer

For readers — "Beverly Ann, get your nose out of that book" —, finding ways to keep reading for as long as we can is critical. For me, the issues involve both the size of the type and the darkness of the print. Oh, and white type on top of photographs.

I’ve learned that bright light close to the page really helps. Still working on how to do that while lying in bed.

Our local library has a service that lets you borrow e-books to read on your Kindle or other e-reader. And, while it is not as cozy as curling up in my favorite chair, sitting at a desk or table with a bright desk lamp focused on the page is the best of all. It takes me back to all those hours hunched over a book in the school library.

Being open to new ideas and asking for help

"When you are ready, the teacher will come." My BFF was the most recent teacher. She showed me a way to take control of one part of my life that had been affected by AMD. It was only a small hint, but it made a huge difference.

There are tools and tricks, hacks and hints that can help me live well with AMD. I just need to be open to asking for help and trying new ideas and technology.

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