Finding Support When You Live with a Visual Impairment
If you have a visual impairment like macular degeneration, your feelings may range from distress to loneliness to frustration. Plus, if your loved ones have difficulty understanding what you are going through, you may feel isolated.
Fortunately, whether you have macular degeneration, chronic dry eye, or another health condition that affects your vision, there are plenty of opportunities to get emotional support.
Join a support group
Joining a support group is an important step in helping you to feel better. Whether you find a group online or in your local community, a support group can help you connect with others who are in a similar situation. You will have the chance to share your concerns and frustrations and learn about solutions to vision-related difficulties that have helped others.1,2
To find a group, check at your local library, senior center, or retirement center. You also could take advantage of online resources like Facebook support groups. Another option is to visit the websites of associations such as the American Council of the Blind, the National Federation of the Blind, or MD Support to discover what groups are available.1
Low-vision older adults who do not have Internet access and cannot attend a live support group can use the TeleSupport program offered by the International Low Vision Support Group (ILVSG). This is a free, year-round program of monthly group support sessions held over the telephone.1
Do not be afraid to ask for help
It can be hard to ask for help. It is understandable that you do not want to be a burden to your friends and family members. However, many of those around you are likely willing to help, but they might not know the best way to assist you. There is nothing wrong with being specific about what you need, whether it is help with grocery shopping, sewing on a button, or maybe just going out for coffee together. You may be surprised and gratified by the responses you get.
Keep up with your hobbies
Vision loss does not mean you have to withdraw from the activities and hobbies you enjoy. For instance, if you enjoy gardening, there are various things you can do so you can keep it up. One example is to use textured or colorful materials like crushed seashells or white marble chips as an easily visible border in your garden. Old car tires can contain spreading plants like squash and pumpkins, while having your fence painted in a bright color like yellow will help it contrast with the green grass and be easier for you to see.3
If arts and crafts are your hobbies, get new ideas for projects from large-print magazines or newsletters, or an audiobook. Consider joining a craft group to come up with new ideas, or take a class through an adult education program in order to master a different type of craft.4
Stay employed if you like your work
Living with a vision condition does not automatically mean you have to quit your job. Most people who develop vision loss can remain in the workforce with a few basic adjustments and some technical assistance. Of course, there are some exceptions, but these are far fewer than you might realize. Do not automatically write off your career. Try visiting the American Foundation for the Blind’s CareerConnect program for more information about employment for people with vision issues.5
It is important to stay independent
Even if you are facing total vision loss, there are affordable and accessible solutions and tools that help you cook your meals safely, pay your bills, navigate your home, and perform other essential tasks. Mainstream products like computers and home appliances can be adapted for your use with simple labeling techniques.5,6
Using a flexible-arm task lamp for extra light as you chop vegetables or a cutting board with an attached pivot knife can help keep you safe in the kitchen, for instance. Wear short sleeves or roll your sleeves above the elbow when working at the stove to make meal prep safer and more enjoyable.6
Free audio lessons that teach adaptive daily living skills are available from the nonprofit group Enrichment Audio Resource Services (EARS). You can find help on everything from doing the laundry to dialing the telephone.7
Get help with technology
You can get help with a cell phone, smartphone, GPS device, and other devices that have been adapted for people who have a vision impairment. There are also tech devices that can make your life easier, such as screen readers, screen magnifiers for low-vision computer users, and video magnifiers.8
Do you still drive?