My dad is struggling with macular degeneration. It's the first real physical problem he's ever had, and he's not dealing well with it. He's not blind -- at least not yet -- but is diagnosed with "low vision." What's the difference and where do I suggest that he turn for help?
If he's been diagnosed and is being treated, he is already at his best source of assistance and referral. His ophthalmologist is the expert both on his case and on resources in your community.
According to Assistive Technology for People with Low Vision, that diagnoses means the best corrected visual acuity is 20/70 or poorer -- the point at which poor vision begins to interfere with many of the activities of daily living and with safely driving an automobile.
A person is "legally blind" when the best corrected visual acuity is 20/200 or less. This is significant because people who are "legally blind" in the U.S.A. qualify for government-paid rehabilitation services, tax credits and other financial benefits.
According to the National Eye Institute, earlier signs of low vision include difficulty with:
- Recognizing faces of friends and relatives.
- Doing things that require you to see well up close, like reading, cooking, sewing or fixing things around the house.
- Picking out and matching the color of your clothes.
- Doing things at work or home because lights seem dimmer than they used to.
- Reading street and bus signs or the names of stores.
Low-Vision Clinics are located in or near almost every city because this condition affects so many people. They can provide a variety of optical and electronic aids that will help a person cope. Magnifiers come in many shapes and forms, but the use must be compatible with safety. Computer technology advances every year and can provide a great help to many people. Many versions of Microsoft Windows already have built-in software for selectively magnifying the displayed screen images.
The Kansas Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services offers a variety of services for the blind or sight impaired. You might contact the office nearest you and explore their options.
Again your dad's ophthalmologist is best equipped to match him with aids that can assist him with tasks that are important to him.
Support of other people toughing through the same difficulties also helps. Maybe your dad (or maybe you) could think about organizing a support group in your community