It is usually not until you lose something that you begin to appreciate what you had. The simple everyday things we just take for granted. The senses that let us fully enjoy our daily lives. To enjoy the taste of your dinner tonight, the scent of spring flowers in the air, the sounds of your favourite band and the joy of seeing your loved one.
So imagine the difficulty many people face when they lose their sight and now living in darkness every day; or perhaps have never known what a world of colour could offer. Especially more difficult when they have experienced sight earlier in life; apart from physical struggles, they often endure emotional struggles accepting their new status.
They may not know for sure what they look like now, what the new hair cut or a new outfit looks like on them. What do their friends look like? What colour is that flower?
For someone whom has lost their sight, they will have to rely upon other senses to guide them. Their friends are recognised by their voices. Fireworks are noisy and seem exciting but they may only see the bright spark in the sky, not able to recognise the bursts of colour and pretty shapes from the fireworks. They need to heighten their senses particularly hearing and touch to be able to navigate around their world. Being blind can be challenging but technology can assist them.
We need to talk to the person to describe the place you are going, the meal you are eating, the surroundings, the movie etc. and remember, they have feelings too so it is important to talk to the person and not around them i.e. “Does he want to drink something?” Rather ask “Would you like something to drink?” They still having hearing!
Technology is helping to read a computer screen, there are audio programs available which can read aloud. This opens up career opportunities for those unable to see what is before them. People with vision loss either partial or totally, the standard personal computer may be one of the most useful tools ever invented. With a little effort, they can browse their way around the internet, pay bills online and do shopping or even undertake a course by the use of software installed to further enhance the experience and make it possible.
Assistance dogs have certainly made mobility an easier prospect for blind people today. They can give the person their independence and a loyal companion. It will help the person feel more comfortable and safely confident about their life.
Modifying the home to ensure the person is safe in their castle is vital to allow them to remain independent and in control. If they have low vision, it may just be using contrasting colours to define dark and light, maybe installing brighter light bulbs, replacing the sheer curtains with blinds to cut down on glare or marking the edges of steps with brightly coloured tape or paint to make them easier to see. These simple modifications can reduce the risk of falling.
Keeping social and active – There are many recreation and leisure activities that can be adapted for people who are blind or have low vision, or for seniors who are losing their sight. They may want to return to an activity they’ve always enjoyed, or maybe try something new, challenging, and altogether different, such as Scrabble, running, or tandem biking. Being blind doesn’t mean they can’t be social.
Transportation will need some assistance to enable a blind person to enjoy the freedom of getting about. Public buses should have accessible spaces for those persons and always offer a helping hand. Or they may prefer to utilise an organisation to provide personalised transport to and from appointments or shopping outings.
Not quite the retirement plan you had in mind? The time to retire has arrived and perhaps they have looked forward to this time for years and planned on enjoying vacations or activities such as fishing, bowling, bingo, caravanning or reading. But they may be concerned about retirement and the “big changes” that they didn’t see coming. Perhaps their finding that their vision is not quite it used to be. For many of us, the ageing process is not so kind and we find our eyesight fading faster than a setting sun. Sadly, this is sometimes beyond just needing stronger glasses. If they are lucky to still have a sight-able person at home, then the time in the family home without extra assistance maybe possible but as time goes on, even the other person may need to seek assistance and a break from caring for their partner. If the person lives alone, then seeking assistance with everyday activities will allow them to stay independent for much longer. Vision loss can greatly affect the participation levels and safety of seniors experiencing difficulties with their vision due to age-related conditions such as diabetic retinopathy, cataracts or macular degeneration. But it doesn’t mean the end of enjoying a full life and isolating themselves.
Living in the darkness of low vision or blindness can come with some obstacles to overcome but with some modifications to lifestyle and support, they can still enjoy a full and happy life. The importance of having support surrounding you cannot be understated.