Savvy Senior: Resources to help seniors with low vision

Jim Miller: Services are available for people who have impaired vision.
BY JIM MILLER Published: August 21, 2012
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DEAR SAVVY SENIOR:

What resources can you recommend to help seniors with incurable vision impairment? My wife has macular degeneration and has become very discouraged.

Looking for Help

DEAR LOOKING:

Unfortunately, there are nearly 2 million Americans, like your wife, living with macular degeneration today, making everyday tasks like cooking dinner, reading the newspaper or watching television extremely challenging. Here are some resources that can help.

Vision rehabilitation

The best place to get help living and coping with macular degeneration is at a vision rehabilitation agency. There are about 1,500 of these agencies across the country that provide free or low-cost services to help people living with incurable vision impairments.

While vision rehabilitation does not restore lost sight, it does help people maximize their existing sight, or, if they have no vision, it can equip them with techniques and tools to help them maintain an independent lifestyle.

Services include counseling, along with training on how to perform daily living tasks with low vision, and how to use visual and adaptive devices and assistive technologies that can help improve quality of life.

They also offer guidance for adapting your home that will make it safer and easier for your wife to maneuver, and can help her locate low-vision support groups in your area which is very helpful. Some agencies will even send their specialist out to work with her in the comfort of your own home.

To find a vision rehabilitation agency in your area, call the American Foundation for the Blind referral line at (800) 232-5463.

If, however, you don't live near a vision rehabilitation agency, you can also get help from an occupational therapist, or OT, who can provide low-vision training in your home. Ask your ophthalmologist or doctor for a referral to an OT in your area. Your Area Agency on Aging (call (800) 677-1116 for contact information) can also help you find nearby therapists. Many health insurance providers, including Medicare, will pay for low-vision training by an OT if prescribed by your eye doctor or health care provider.

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