Vision loss can be a terrifying, stressful experience. Severely reduced vision can limit mobility, raise the risk of accidents and put sudden, new restrictions on doing the things you love. Responding effectively to it is never easy and even people with wide support structures can struggle.
Successfully living with vision loss requires adaptability. Sometimes enormous changes have to be made to accommodate newly reduced vision, from arranging transport to the way in which you interact with friends and family. However, the best place to start is often right at home. Moving around a non vision-proofed house can be a frustrating and even dangerous experience. Making some of the following changes can help.
Individuals with poor vision often struggle with low-light conditions. A house that’s adequately illuminated for someone with 20/20 vision may be difficult to navigate for those with varied degrees of vision loss. Take special care to install lighting in the areas that you frequent most. Particularly in areas that might otherwise be hazardous to navigate, such as stairs or any small inclines and declines in the house.
Shadows are hazardous; glare may be even worse. Many common age-related visual disorders can make coping with glare a nightmare. Poorly planned lighting systems can be blinding. Using stronger bulbs, or setting up 3-way lighting can minimize the risks.
As with all changes we’re going to be discussing, take care to tailor any alterations to your own lifestyle. If you frequently read in a given nook, consider installing special task lighting to compensate for reduced vision. The same goes for workshops, studies and kitchens. Different lights are better suited to different tasks.
Use Identifiable Items
It’s possible to take healthy vision for granted. Tasks such as finding a light switch or taking different medications on different days require good eyesight. When reorganizing your house, keep these routine tasks in mind, and try to imagine ways to make them possible even without high-resolution eyesight.
Make color and texture your allies. Even people with extensive vision loss can still distinguish between colors. Consider using colored tape to mark out safety devices such as grab-bars, or even the switches to everyday appliances. Something as simple as placing shoes on a colored pad near the door can make it much easier to find them on your way outside.
Texture is equally important – even if your eyes aren’t up to the task, your fingers can still explore an environment. If you’re taking different pills every day, mark each capsule with a differently-textured piece of fabric to distinguish it.
Safety-proofing your home for one can be tricky. Adding family or roommates into the mix can be either help or hindrance. If they understand the difficulties presented by low vision, they can be extremely helpful in keeping a house safe and in helping you with any vision-intensive tasks. On the other hand, cohabitants not following best practices can actually make a house more dangerous for those living with low vision.
Make sure that anyone living with you has some knowledge of your day-to-day routines. Vision-impaired people often develop routes through a house that they’re familiar with and can move through safely and confidently.
If your family members don’t know these paths, they could easily make the mistake of moving furniture or other obstacles into them, some of which could constitute a tripping hazard. If that is the case, they’re putting you at risk. Falls constitute a major health threat for anyone, but particularly for elderly walkers.
Other, small changes such as not moving TV remotes and keeping cabinet doors firmly shut when not in use are also helpful. In general, be aware that any change to the surroundings of a vision-impaired individual could catch them off guard, sometimes dangerously so.
Invest in Some Low Vision Aids
As low vision increasingly affects the U.S.’s aging baby boomers, a vast industry of aiding devices has sprung up in response. Outfitting your house with the right combination of vision aids can go a long way toward making life easier after a reduction of visual acuity.
Near optical devices are those designed to assist with close visual tasks, such as reading. Most devices in this category are relatively simple, and are designed to magnify the task at hand. Stand magnifiers are common, relatively cheap, and generally very effective. Handheld magnifiers require stable hands to use effectively, and tie up the use of one hand besides. However, they’re also highly portable, and convenient for anyone who needs a magnifying device at several spots around the house.
Distance devices are often telescopic in nature and are helpful for accurately perceiving objects at range. While they’re not as relevant to this conversation as near devices, they can nevertheless play an essential role in the life of anyone interested in remaining mobile after serious vision loss.
Using digital devices can also become a trial after vision loss. When possible, substitute audio for visual. Ebooks, text-to-voice programs, and talking devices (such as timers or alarm clocks) can all be enormously helpful.
More tech-savvy readers should also be happy to hear that app marketers haven’t forgotten about you. Several different apps can hack your smartphone into a portable digital magnifying class. Voice interfaces, like Siri, also make texting, calling, getting directions, and even looking up information online much, much easier.
Staying Up to Task
Getting your home ready for low-vision living is never easy and should be treated as an ongoing process. Lighting installed one year may not be adequate two or three years down the line. While ripping out and replacing a set of task lights is time consuming and expensive, it beats sticking with solutions that no longer work as they’re meant to.
Keep in mind that vision loss is rarely a static issue. Schedule frequent eye exams to stay informed with the extent of vision loss and make changes accordingly.