As part of our 10 Tips for Family Caregivers initiative, I asked Second Sense, a non-profit organization which inspires individuals to move beyond vision loss and believe in their abilities, to share tips for a family caregiver of an individual with vision loss.
Ten Steps to Encourage a Productive Lifestyle
- Clarify diagnosis and prognosis of the eye condition with a medical eye care professional. Make sure you understand how the eye condition affects the field of vision and acuity. Find out if there is a diagnosis of “legal blindness” (acuity of less than 20/200 in best corrected eye or visual field less than 20 degrees), and if so, get a letter from the doctor as proof. Copies of this letter may be used as proof of vision loss when registering for different services.
- See a Low Vision Optometrist for a low vision assessment to determine what needs exist for magnification, lighting and contrast. Obtain magnification devices.
- Call the local blindness agency, state department of rehabilitation services/bureau of blind services or veterans’ hospital for assessment and instruction of daily living skills and orientation and mobility training. Be aware of what services and programs are offered in the community. Call American Foundation for the Blind 800-232-5463 to find services in your area.
- Become familiar with adaptive products and technologies available to help your caree carry out everyday tasks. Obtain catalogues from vendors who sell these products:
- Independent Living Aids 800-537-2118
- LS&S Products 800-468-4789
- www.ShopLowVision.com 800-826-4200
- Determine who and what is necessary to move your caree toward a more independent lifestyle. Take time to learn about the vision rehabilitation professionals who are trained to support people with vision loss. These include Certified Vision Rehabilitation Therapists (CVRT) and Certified Orientation and Mobility Specialists (COM). Attend conferences and educational workshops with your family member to better understand the vision rehabilitation process.
- Sign up for FREE 411. Call the telephone service provider and speak to the Customer Service/special needs department to request free 411. They will send a form to be completed by a medical doctor. After sending it back, directory assistance calls will not be charged within the local calling area. (This is an example of when a letter from the doctor describing the vision diagnosis would be very helpful).
- Sign up for reduced fare and paratransit service with transportation services in your community.
- Sign up for other services to help your caree stay informed and entertained:
- National Library Service Talking Book Program (books and magazines on tape and descriptive videos sent and returned free of charge). Call 888-657-7323 to connect to a local library.
- Recording for the Blind and Dyslexic (digital audio books) Call 800-221-4792 or visit www.rfbd.org.
- NFB Newsline (free access to newspapers, magazines and TV listings from across the country at anytime via the telephone). Call 866-504-7300 for a registration form or visit www.nfbnewsline.org. This service may also be acquired through your Talking Book center.
- Encourage your caree to reach out to their support systems. Offer information about counseling services and support groups with others who have similar vision issues. Confront your own stereotypes through self education. Get yourself connected by attending family caregiver support groups.
- Continue to have your caree see an eye care professional at least once a year to monitor vision health. Many newsletters are available on the latest developments in research and treatments that can be discussed with the eye care professional.
(Editor’s Note: I’m on the board of Second Sense, which is based in Chicago.)
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