Condensed from Macular Degeneration: The Complete Guide to Saving and Maximizing Your Sight, by Lylas G. Mogk, M.D., & Marja Mogk (September 2004. Reprinted by permission of the authors.)
Many family members and friends of people with ARMD have asked me what they can do to help. Here are fifteen tips:
1. Be direct about vision.
Ask questions so that you know. Don’t worry about using phrases like “Did you see Zelda yesterday?”
2. Identify yourself, and say hello.
Don’t assume that others can see you.
3. Give clear directions.
Say in words everything you want to convey.
4. Use black felt-tip or ink pens, and print in clear lettering.
Always write notes so that they can be read, and consider calling instead.
5. Give low-vision gifts.
Some suggestions: talking calculators, watches, clocks, thermometers, weight scales, or computer software. Large-button or automatic-dialing telephones, large print cards, clocks, calendars, or address books. Books on tape or tickets to a concert. Help purchase a CCTV.
6. Keep the environment predictable.
Keep frequently-used items like house keys, salt shakers, and trash bags in designated places. Put things away after you use them, and close cupboard and stairwell doors. Return any item you move to the place you found it.
7. Offer your arm, don’t take theirs.
Don’t take their arm, because you may throw them off-balance. Offer help where it’s necessary, but don’t just do it yourself.
8. Don’t just do for your parent.
Don’t assume that because of low vision your parent isn’t capable, and don’t take away anyone’s reason for having to be up and about in the morning.
9. Share activities you both enjoy.
- Dine out.
- Attend a wine tasting or food fair.
- Go to the symphony or an opera concert.
- Go to a botanical garden.
- Go to a lecture series, a book reading, or poetry reading.
- Start or join a salon, discussion group, or support group.
10. Encourage interests.
Encourage hobbies, volunteer work, membership in senior clubs or support groups, and listening to National Public Radio news or to Newsweek on cassette tape. Just coping with low vision as a full-time preoccupation is a short-term recipe for boredom, and a long-term recipe for personal distress and crisis.
11. Realize the importance of friends.
Without any friends, seniors are prone to loneliness, which may lead to clinical depression. Adult children would do their parents a great service by helping them make or keep friends.
12. Watch for depression.
Depression is very common among people with MD. Be aware of changes in your friend or family member’s emotional state, sleeping patterns, weight, or behavior. Signals for depression are excessive worry, bouts of crying, listlessness or disinterest, low motivation, pessimism or snippiness, social withdrawal, a refusal to communicate or an excessively stiff upper lip, moping, or helplessness. If you see signs of depression, make a doctor’s appointment, pursue visual rehabilitation, and encourage involvement in new activities.
13. Participate in visual rehabilitation.
There are many practical things you can do to help someone follow a program of visual rehabilitation. Here are just a few suggestions:
- Help rearrange furniture, tape down area rugs, install new lighting fixtures, choose contrasting tablecloths or dishes.
- Help rearrange clothing on shelves for better visibility.
- Help label files, boxes, bottle, stove dials, washing machine dials, and canned goods.
- Talk directly to your friend or family member about his or her experiences and feelings about low vision.
14. Help start a support group.
At a low vision support group, your friend or family member would have the chance to talk to people who have walked a mile in their shoes and can understand their experiences. They can also be very helpful for spouses of people with low vision. [See Chapter 6 of this book for guidelines on starting a support group.]
15. Keep your sense of humor.
We are all prone to taking life too seriously. Let your friend or family member see the daily humor in this busy, unpredictable, ridiculous, profound, heartbreaking, and heartwarming experience we call living.