Is Someone You Love Experiencing Vision Loss?

If you have a parent or companion with declining vision, odds are you are deeply aware of the emotional toll it is taking on your loved one. It may seem selfish to think of yourself at such times, but the fact is that this experience is happening to you, too. Your feelings—and your emotional well being—are just as valid, and it’s just as important for you to examine and address them.

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Consider the following common reactions and see if they mirror your own feelings as you struggle with vision loss in your family:

  • “I’m not doing enough. How can I think about my own life when my husband is struggling with this crisis?”

  • “I can’t to talk to Dad anymore. Everything I say or do is wrong and I don’t know how to help him.”

  • “I feel terrible but it’s not my fault my older sister is losing her sight. Why does she take her anger at her situation out on me?”

  • “My job is so demanding, and I need to be there for my kids and Mom right now. But it’s hard to handle everything on my own.”

Such feelings are common, especially early on. Very often they stem from initial lack of information about the true nature of vision loss and how the challenges it presents can be managed. Until we are compelled by personal circumstances to seek out information, few realize the potential for people with vision loss to live independently.

By helping your loved one remain independent, you can not only enrich his or her life, but also relieve some of your own stress and worry.

More independence = less stress and stronger family relationships.

Get the Ball Rolling: Some Suggestions

Adjusting to vision loss requires patience and commitment from everyone involved. And while there are technologies and training tools that can ease the process, your first steps together don’t require gadgets or specialized training. More important is being sensitive to each other’s needs and feelings. For example:

Help your relative succeed at a task he or she has always done well. Mom’s legendary chocolate dessert recipe doesn’t have to be a memory. Just add encouragement and a few helpful tips and new techniques on adapting her kitchen space. Success will help her build confidence and a willingness to attempt more complex tasks.

Encourage your relative to continue to pursue lifelong interests, but in a new way. For Father’s Day, go ahead and give Dad the latest bestseller … on tape or CD. Remind him that you and many of your sighted friends have been driving and jogging to audio books for years.

Help overcome obstacles as they arise, not all at once. If your uncle is just getting used to living with vision loss, difficulties can seem overwhelming. Take them on one at a time. Today help him with shaving, tomorrow the coffee machine, and so forth. You’ll both be surprised how quickly he resumes his everyday tasks.

Be supportive, yes; patronizing, no. Be there to assist when needed, but do not take over.

Ask your relative for help when you need it. If your father was the family tax expert prior to his vision loss, he’s no less the tax wiz now. Ask Dad to help you with your return just as you always did. It will show him you still have confidence in his skills, while encouraging him to keep up with the things he’s always done well.

Remember, you have a life, too. It can be all too easy to lose yourself in the care of someone else, especially when vision loss is a factor. Try to eat well, get as much sleep as possible, and find time for activities that are important to you. You’ll feel better and have more energy to devote to your loved one.