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  • Cameron Oglesby

How independently can you live with macular degeneration?

About 20 million Americans live with macular degeneration, an age-related condition. It comes on gradually, painlessly, and progressively – imperceptibly deteriorating the macula, the small center of the retina that makes detailed central vision possible.

Its first signs are seeing blurry areas on a printed page, or straight lines appearing wavy. Fully progressed, it creates a dark spot in the middle of your vision. So while there’s no trouble seeing things off to the side, everyday things like driving, reading a magazine or a computer screen, or watching television become very difficult, if not impossible.

If this sounds like something that you or an older family member may be going through, here are four steps you can take to make the most of the vision that’s left:

1. See a low-vision ophthalmologist. One of these specialists within a specialty can conduct a low-vision exam, explore the extent of the problem, then prescribe solutions to help the patient adapt emotionally and regain as much day-to-day functionality as possible.

2. Visit a vision rehabilitation service. At least 21– private, nonprofit, and government-run – are in the Richmond metro area. While they can’t restore lost eyesight, they can help people make the most of their existing vision with techniques and tools to keep living independently. These include counseling, training on performing daily tasks with low vision, visual and adaptive and assistive technologies, and adapting homes for safer living.

3. Check out online resources. All kinds of helpful information are online– everything from making your home easier to navigate to traveling safely to managing everyday tasks like cooking, cleaning, reading, and writing. Visit nonprofits VisionAware.org for free tips and resources and Hadley.edu for free online workshops. Or Google low vision resources for useful products.

4. Don’t have tunnel vision. Everyone with vision loss experiences it in different ways – including sadness, grief, anger, and other strong emotions. And it affects family members, friends, spouses, and significant others of those it afflicts. So it’s important to focus not just on visual needs, but emotional, family, and social needs as well. That’s why it makes good sense to contact us. Senior Insights is built around the principle that everyone is uniquely different, that those differences go far beyond medical and physical conditions, that they involve not only individual emotions and aspirations, but also family and social relationships. We’ll thoroughly explore all that, and more with a thorough, three-part needs assessment that involves potential clients and their families. Then, and only then, do we custom-design a holistic care management plan that preserves each client’s independence while being uniquely tailored to his or her unique human needs.

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