Adapting to Vision Loss
Living with a visual impairment or vision loss is difficult. However, there are many tools available today that can help you live a healthy and fulfilling life. Consider these small lifestyle changes to help with the adjustment:
- Protect yourself against further damage. If you do not yet have total vision loss, take action now to prevent further eye damage. Proper eye care and maintaining good control over your blood glucose levels and blood pressure will slow the advancement of eye disease.
- Communicate with your health care team. Speak with your eye care professional, your physician, or a Certified Diabetes Educator about treatment options and resources. Write down or audio record questions for your doctor before your appointment. You may also wish to talk to a therapist about coping and adapting.
- Reorganize. With the help of family and friends, reorganize your belongings in a way that makes them easily accessible. Simple tasks can become very difficult with a visual impairment – restructuring your physical environment to make it easier to navigate will help make everyday tasks more manageable. To improve safety and prevent falls, use non-skid rugs and bath mats throughout the house. You can also illuminate stairs by placing reflective tape on each stair.
- Adjust the light. Different people prefer different lighting environments. Some benefit from bright light bulbs (100-watts and above), while others find that using window shades to block harsh sunlight and minimize glare is best. Many find fluorescent lights in the kitchen and desk lamps to illuminate commonly used spots to be helpful. Experiment with different settings to find the best option for yourself.
- Utilize the available resources. Low vision/blindness rehabilitation centers and occupational therapy will help you with orientation and mobility training. Many instructive audio recordings and adjustment classes are also available.
- Know your rights. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) protects against discrimination on the basis of disability. Employee accommodations and training may be available to you. Find out more at: http://www.eeoc.gov/facts/blindness.html.
- Find the tools that work for you. For people with some vision, visual aids such as magnifying glasses, reading prisms, and large-print books can be useful. Audio recordings, Braille, and text-reading software are available for people with more advanced vision loss. Resources such as guide dogs, white canes, and sighted guides are also options.
It's important that you adapt to your disease. Different visual complications cause different types of vision loss, so you must adapt accordingly. Because macular edema causes vision loss in the center of the visual field, the suggested adaptation is "eccentric viewing," or not looking directly at the object you want to see. For example, instead of looking directly at someone's face, look at a spot above his or her shoulder. Diabetic retinopathy, however, causes spots of vision loss. The suggested visual accommodation is scanning, so as to compensate for the patchy field of vision. Speak with your eye care professional about which techniques will work best for you.
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Because I wear my Dexcom on my arm, I’ve slowly adjusted to the fact that people will ask me about it. Sometimes it’s the rude and inquisitive “What’s that?” and sometimes it’s somewhat sincere curiosity “Is that a (insert random type of medical device that they assume)?” Sometimes it bothers me more than others depending on how they ask and how they respond once I’ve told them what it is. I have limits to how much myth-busting I want to do in everyday conversation and how much rudeness I can...