Special Services to Help Older Persons Experiencing Vision Loss
When older persons experience vision loss, low vision services and devices and vision rehabilitation services can help them continue to live in their own homes and communities. The place to start is with your eye care professional to receive appropriate and timely eye medical care.
If the vision loss cannot be completely corrected and interferes with the individual's ability to do everyday tasks, then it is time to consider vision-related rehabilitation services to help maintain or restore independent functioning. Vision rehabilitation can help the individual regain self-sufficiency and quality of life.
What Are Vision-Related Rehabilitation Services?
Vision-related rehabilitation services can restore function after vision loss, just as physical therapy restores function after a person loses the use of a limb.
Vision-related rehabilitation services include the following:
- Low vision examinations and devices (such as handheld magnifiers, high-intensity lamps, and other optical and non-optical aids) designed to help make the best use of remaining vision
- Individual counseling to help with adjustment to vision loss
- Support groups which provide the opportunity to talk with others about
similar problems and ways to cope
- Training in adaptive techniques to assist with:
• Home and personal management skills (such as meal preparation, personal care techniques, managing money, labeling medications)
• Communication skills (including large print, computers with screen magnification, tape recorders, braille, large print, large-print and talking watches and clocks, writing guides, and telephones with large buttons)
• Independent movement and travel skills (learning to orient oneself in familiar and unfamiliar environments, to ask for assistance from others when appropriate, and to move about using a long white cane).
These services can make a big difference in the life of someone who is experiencing vision loss.
Who Provides Vision-Related Rehabilitation?
Services are provided by specially trained vision-related rehabilitation professionals, such as:
- Low vision specialists
- Orientation and mobility specialists
- Rehabilitation teachers
- Rehabilitation technology specialists
- Vision rehabilitation therapists
Where Can You Find These Services?
Many communities have private agencies that serve people who are blind or visually impaired. Each state also has a public agency to serve individuals with visual impairments. These agencies may be found under "blind services" or rehabilitation in the local telephone directory. Don't be put off by the word "blind"—most agencies assist people with varying degrees of vision loss. Some agencies have fees for services; most do not. Low vision and vision rehabilitation services may be offered by eye care clinics, though be aware that Medicare and other health insurances may not cover these services. Ask your ophthalmologist or optometrist for further information. You may also search AFB's Directory of Services for agencies near you.