Living and Coping with Low Vision: Tips to Make the Best of What You Have
Low vision is not a specific diagnosis or disease, but rather a descriptive term. If your vision is so poor that it interferes with your daily activities, and it cannot be corrected with glasses, contacts, surgery, or other treatments, you are said to have low vision. This condition can be caused by a variety of things, including inherited eye diseases and trauma.
Whether you have blind spots; see the world as fuzzy, blurry or hazy; or suffer from tunnel vision, you will have many adjustments to make over the coming years as you, your friends and family learn to cope and live with your low vision. But there are many things that you can do that will help you live a more fulfilling, productive and safe life without giving up the things that you enjoy.
Find the right low vision specialist
No matter what the cause or speed of your vision loss, you will need to find the right specialist as soon as possible. He or she will help you make decisions about treatment options which may slow the progression of your disorder or in some cases, even restore some of your sight. A low vision specialist will also be very knowledgeable about the many adaptive aids available which can help you make the most of what sight you have left. With the right tools, everyday tasks can be made much easier, and you may be able to resume activities you thought you would have to give up permanently.
Find some support for your supporters (and yourself)
If you have friends and family that want to help, that's great news, but there will inevitably be times when you will feel overwhelmed, as will they. A low vision support group can give guidance and emotional support not only to you, the person with low vision, but to your support system as well. It's important to find people you and they can talk to who have already been-there and done-that or are going through the same things you are.
Evaluate your surroundings for ease and safety
Does your home have a lot of clutter, throw rugs or darkened hallways that are just waiting to trip you up? While you may be able to cope somewhat with your loss of vision, tempting fate is not a hobby you should be getting into right now. Remove (with help, if necessary) the majority of clutter from the main walking pathways in your home and look for other potential hazards. Make sure the entire house has adequate lighting, so that you can make use of whatever vision you still have. Motion sensing lights can be a big help, as you won't have to fumble around in the dark for tiny light switches. Baseboard mounted lights along passageways can help guide you, and it may also be helpful to learn how to use a cane, so that you can feel your way around.
Adaptive aids for hobbies and everyday tasks
Learn about the aids available for your favorite activities, such as surfing the web, television viewing or reading. Magnifiers, for instance, can allow you to continue to read for yourself, and audio books can add a new dimension to the experience for many people. And you won't need to buy a new, big-screen television (though you might like having the excuse), a special magnifying screen can be attached to your existing TV.
A video magnifier can be a very useful tool for a variety of tasks. This device consists of a large LCD monitor and a video camera on a rotating arm. Whatever the camera is pointed at is displayed onscreen, and the image is digitally enlarged at whatever magnification level is selected by the user. (Some devices can go as high as 65x.) This can be a big help for things like writing a letter or even personal grooming and makeup application, since you can easily point the camera at yourself.
For those who are avid computer users, there is a great deal of software available that can make the experience easier for you, including screen magnifiers and text-to-speech programs. In fact, most operating systems have some built-in accessibility features to help the visually impaired, so you may not even need to buy anything extra. There are also special peripherals that can help those with low vision, including high-contrast keyboards with large letters and braille displays.
Get help, but only when help is needed
Never be afraid to ask for the help that you might need or to tell people to back off when you would rather be self-sufficient. Only you truly know your own limitations and can decide how much help you might need throughout the day and when. Make sure that you let others know what you do and do not need help with so that everyone around you can live with your low vision in high spirits and with no hurt feelings.
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