Severe vision loss is a significant problem affecting millions of older Americans. According to the Family Caregivers Alliance, “Nearly 3.5 million Americans over 40 have some degree of vision loss.17” There are several medical conditions that can cause low vision/blindness including Glaucoma, Macular Degeneration, Diabetes, and Cataracts.
The healthcare professionals assessment includes asking the patient if he/she wears glasses, or if he has cataracts or a prosthesis. The patient can demonstrate the ability to see by reading newsprint or count fingers at arm's length.
There are four levels of visual function:
- Normal vision
- Moderate visual impairment
- Severe visual impairment
Learning to cope with the challenges that come with low vision/blindness can be overwhelming.
While surgery can help with Glaucoma and Cataracts, most seniors must learn to live with these debilitating diseases. There are many assistive devices available on the market today.
There are some important steps to help cope with vision loss:
- Developing a new attitude- you can still live a pretty normal life after adjustments are made. You will need training and encouragement.
- Learn about the use of alternative methods that employ your other senses including touch and smell17
Some interventions to help with low vision/blindness in any healthcare setting are:
- Arrange furniture to make clear pathways
- Keep home, or room in facility free of clutter
- Use a night light
- Call light in reach in facilities
- Bell to ring at home
- Orient patient to surroundings
- Place food on plate using “clockwise” description
Because the patient will not be able to drive, the health care professional should help him/her to formulate a new plan. Perhaps family and friends can help, but the patient may be able to learn to use public transportation to gain more independence.