If you have a loved one with glaucoma, you can help them adjust to the challenges of low vision. It’s important to learn as much as possible about the condition to provide supportive, caring and practical help. This guide can help.
According to the Bright Focus Foundation (brighfocus.org), although it may be difficult for your loved one to ask for help, it’s important to communicate openly and clearly. Encourage him or her to be specific about what you can do to help.
Here are some ways to help your loved one with glaucoma:
Special optical devices called low-vision aids can help people better use their remaining vision and keep doing tasks and the things they enjoy.
Many low-vision aids are covered by health insurance. Some examples include:
- Customized magnifiers for reading, knitting, and other near tasks
- Computerized text-to-speech devices
- Handheld or spectacle-mounted telescopes for seeing objects in the distance
You can help your loved one by going with him or her on the next visit to the eye doctor. Take a notepad and pen or pencil to write down the doctor’s recommendations.
You or the patient can ask the doctor which optical aids will provide the most benefit for his or her individual needs. The doctor may also suggest nonoptical aids to help a person with low vision enjoy life more fully. Examples include:
- Audio books
- Large-print books
- Other large-print items such as playing cards, clocks, phones, and pillboxes
Find organizations, products, and services that can help with low vision at Helpful Resources.
You can help your loved one make adjustments at home that can improve visibility and reduce the risk of a fall. Suggestions include:
- Lighting: Make sure the home is well lit, with high-wattage light bulbs and additional lamps or task lighting. Important areas to focus on include the kitchen, bathroom, and work areas.
- Organization: Remove unnecessary household clutter. Offer to help organize and label important items.
- Contact information: Create a list of important phone numbers in large print on bold-lined paper. Include doctors, transportation, and emergency contacts, and put the list in a convenient place.
- Mobility: Use brightly colored tape to mark stairs or slopes. Eye-catching colors that contrast with the flooring work best.
Learn more about ways to improve home and personal safety.
Shopping and Errands
Getting out of the house can help lift the spirits of a person with low vision. Offer to take your loved one to shop for groceries or run errands once a week.
Make a shopping list ahead of time, and help him or her find items on the store shelves. Encourage the person to do as much of the shopping task as possible, but stay nearby to help when needed.
Travel and Getting Around
Help the person with low vision find out about all available transportation services, including those provided by local churches and community groups. Encourage the person to ask questions and speak up if he or she is traveling alone and needs assistance.
When walking with someone with impaired vision, try to walk a few steps ahead at a slow pace. This way, the person can anticipate the terrain based on your cues. Alert him or her to steps, curbs, and other potential problems you are approaching that might be difficult to see.
Learn as much as you can about the particular vision issues they have. For example, people with glaucoma usually have difficulty with side (peripheral) vision. Knowing these details helps you anticipate mobility problems when you’re out walking together.