ASK PETER: All You Would Like to Know About Senior Care, Dementia, and Alzheimer's Care

My mother is gradually losing her ability to see. How can I help her?

By Peter DiMaria

Our caregivers often encounter families with one or more members experiencing a profound loss of vision. This change can be very gradual or more rapid, instead. Currently, it is estimated that 20 million people in the United States report trouble seeing, and that number is on the rise. Coping with vision loss can feel overwhelming and stressful, but the right information, can help you and your mom to face the future with confidence and stay independent for a longer period of time.

Our caregiver role is to support our loved ones' independence by modifying their environment to enable them to be self-sufficient, whenever possible. The obvious solutions are large-number telephones and keeping floors cleared of obstacles, but with some other quick modifications around the house, you can help your mother to function on her own with greater confidence.

Here are some tips from the American Foundation for the Blind to help you navigate this new universe.

1) As a first step, talk to your mother’s physician (if you haven’t already). He will be able to guide you through what you should expect in the coming months or years.

2) What someone with vision impairment sees depends on eye condition, progressive changes in vision, and environmental factors, like lighting or glare.

3) Try environmental lighting. It can be very effective. Task lighting near cooking or food preparation areas is already usual in many homes, but you may consider using consistent white light in all the living area, to reduce confusion caused by shadows and make navigation around the house easier.

4) Use your voice to replace information that she would get through her vision. For example, always identify yourself verbally, when entering the room of a person with vision loss. Call her attention by lightly touching her arm or hand, to let her know that you are talking to her. Don’t walk away without letting her know.

5) Keeping the furniture always in the same place is a common feature. Always put smaller and frequently used items in the same spot. Keep plates and flatware in a dish strainer on the counter instead of drawers and cabinets of difficult access. Things like coasters or pens should have a designated place. While it is necessary to move things while dusting, it is more important to reset them in the same position to improve security and prevent frustration.

Contrasting colors help home health care for disabled adults

Strategic use of contrasting colors: solid colors are better than patterns. People with low vision cannot always distinguish colors but are often able to identify contrast

6) Researchers have shown that door moldings painted in a different color than the walls helps vision-impaired people to follow the most direct route between rooms of the house. This feature can also be used to make it easier to locate the emergency exit quickly.

7) Use contrasting colors in light switches as well.

8) Adding brightly colored tape to frequently used items, such as remotes help your loved one distinguish them from the surfaces on which they are placed.

9) The use of strong colors can also help your loved one to cook and stay active in the kitchen. Use cutting boards in colors that contrast with the food. For example, keep a whiteboard for slicing watermelon or carrots, and a dark board for onions or bread.

10) In the bathroom, some adaptions go a long way in helping the visually impaired to get around easier and safer. Use a bath mat that has a different feel than the floor or tub. A change in color or texture can help people with vision loss navigate their bath more safely and effectively. Use towels, washcloths, and bath mats that contrast sharply in color with the tub, tile, wall, or floor.

The ability of reading

According to the American Foundation for the Blind, the loss of reading ability is one of the main problems, when someone older loses vision ability.  There are always new techniques and technologies coming up to help them read everything, from prescription bottles to the mail to the latest bestseller. Those include large print books, magnification tools, audiobooks, apps, braille, and a growing number of products. They allow your loved one to continue to read the morning paper, the monthly energy bill, shopping catalogs, and his/her favorite books. Whether it's for practical use or for pleasure, reading should not be compromised or abandoned because of vision loss.

While there are many reading tools available, any solution will require learning to read in a different way. Listening and reading are not the same and require different sets of skills. Audiobooks, magnification, and other options can be very effective, but also will take time and patience to learn and manage.

The best way to continue reading may be to try out different techniques, tools, and devices, based on the person’s  comfort level and reading habits. The solution will be a combination of these, each one applied to different situations. Not every solution is right for everyone, so you will have to figure out what works best for your mom.

Article originally published in The Longmeadow News.

Click here to read more about our Home Care Services for the Elderly and the Disabled

Best in-Home Care Cost Benefit in Suffield CT, Enfield CT, East Longmeadow MA, Longmeadow MA, Hampden MA, and all Western Mass and North Central CT

Call us for a free in-home care consultation:
(860) 698-2244 (CT)
(413) 224-1045 (MA)