by Alison Wood, Contributing Writer
There are a number of challenges when it comes to caring for someone who is blind or visually impaired. If someone you live with and/or care for has lost or is losing the ability to see, it’s important to concentrate on some key areas to decide on the changes that need to be made.
The shock of vision loss
First, it’s essential to realize that for anyone experiencing vision loss, the experience is going to be very emotional. Feelings of shock, fear, loneliness, and a sense of isolation are not unusual. On a practical level, those suffering from vision loss will wonder how they are going to cope. They will be coming to terms with what it means for almost every aspect of their life.
It’s vital, therefore, to discuss any changes with the visually impaired person so they can play an active role in what is happening. Otherwise, feelings of isolation can be heightened.
Safety in the home
One of the first considerations is to make safety in the home a priority. There are a number of steps you can take to minimize hazards in each room. Vision Aware, an online informational source for adults who are losing their sight, offers a very helpful checklist as a starting point (click HERE to view the “Safety in the Home” checklist).
Avoiding falls is especially important, particularly if the person in your care is an older adult, as any fall could have severe consequences.
It’s important to remember, though, that every living situation is different. You will need to assess personal circumstances as well as any additional health issues the vision-impaired person may have. For example, vision loss accompanied by dementia will have its own set of requirements in terms of care. (We talk about caring for someone with Alzheimer’s Disease in our blog article, “Living with Alzheimer’s Disease.” Click HERE to read more on the subject.)
Safety around medications
If you are caring for someone who needs to take regular medication, it’s vital to ensure that the right medication is taken at the correct time. There are a couple of practical ways to ease this process. Depending on the level of visual impairment, you can help to distinguish between different medications by labeling them with brightly colored tags or using a tactile marking that the patient can feel rather than see. A pill holder with separate compartments for each day of the week can also be helpful.
Someone who has visual impairment will usually need to be accompanied when they travel, whether that’s locally or over a longer distance. If they aren’t accompanied, then plans to deal with this fact will need to be made before the journey For example, you might need to organize rides for the vision-impaired person with others who can lend the additional support. Or, you might need to let an airline know that they will soon have a passenger with specific needs.
It’s going to be necessary to take extra time to convey information to someone with a visual impairment, especially if there is a lot to consider or the information is complex. For example, when it comes to a medical diagnosis, many people might learn about a health condition and what options are available by reading about it. If this is not possible, the vision-impaired person will turn to his or her caregiver for clarity and better understanding regarding the condition. If you are a caregiver, this responsibility can weigh heavily on your shoulders, so it’s vital to get the support you need and take extra time to convey the information.
Feelings of isolation
As mentioned earlier, vision loss can lead to feelings of isolation. Therefore you will need to take extra steps to include the person in activities and make sure that they don’t miss out on time with family and friends.
The good news is that the digital age has made some things easier for those experiencing visual impairment. There is “text to speech” available on most computers, a wide range of apps to help people who are new to vision loss. Large-print publications and audiobooks are also widely accessible.
This is by no means an exhaustive list of the challenges facing those who are caring for someone who is blind or experiencing visual impairment. Every situation will be different and you might need to seek out information on a wide range of topics. If that is the case The American Foundation for the Blind has many helpful resources, and its website is a good place to start.
However, if you find that caring for your blind or vision-impaired loved one is too big a job for you to handle successfully yourself, please contact Care & Comfort at Home. We provide in-home care services for Chicagoland and also the Denver area. In the Chicagoland area only, skilled nursing care services as well. These services are designed to help provide help to any adult who needs more assistance, but they can be particularly helpful to those who are vision impaired.