There are solutions and macular degeneration help available for those who suffer from this eye disease. I am personally familiar with this concerning issue, since I am the caregiver of my aging father, who has had it for well over a decade. We don’t know how long for sure.
Dad was formally diagnosed in his mid-80s, but he may have had age-related macular degeneration (ARMD) in his late 70s. In those days, not much could be done. And so he had to get inventive. We eventually learned about special vision and macular degeneration nutrition, but at Dad’s stage, actual prevention with nutrition was too late.
Everyday tasks that were once simple slowly become almost overwhelming to deal with. It is sometimes difficult for those with normal vision to imagine just how an ARMD patient sees. How it impact the activities they can and cannot do. (I was always on the hunt for more senior activity ideas for him).
And why they need specific macular degeneration help. This is how it was explained to me…
TRY THIS. Take a very large print and holding it off the side of your vision. Keep looking straight ahead, but let your eyes only focus on the large print to the side using only your periphery vision, and try to identify it.
This is the only way an ARMD patient can see, and it takes a big adjustment. Patients may also complain of blurry vision, and needing extremely bright light and magnification.
Macular Degeneration Help
Dad’s solutions came in steps…
as his vision declined. At first it was fairly easy; mom was still alive to be supportive too. In those days there was not much available for treatment. And hardly anyone knew about specific macular degeneration help.
But eventually mom passed away; he was living alone and independently down in Arizona, and he wanted to keep it that way.
When Dad was in his late 70s, he talked about blurry vision, but thought it was just due to old age. After all, his mother had had it. He could still do quite a few senior activities. But it was hard for him to read, so he started doing the usual types of things people used for macular degeneration help at that time — wearing glasses and switched to large print reading materials.
But soon that was not enough. He commented that more light helped a lot, so he rigged up two really bright spot lights on the walls by his easy chair. Sometimes he’d also use a magnifying glass. Then a lighted magnifying glass.
Then pretty soon, we noticed Dad was reading with one of those magnifying visorsthat you wear around your head. Soon he got one with a built-in light. In addition to his spot lights. And sometimes his other magnifying glass.
Then he began to shine a high-intensity LED flashlight onto his reading material too. (This especially helped with his watch (see photo to the right), which was now a large dial watch.) In addition to his spot lights. And lighted visor.
By the way, he eventually could not read the numbers on his watch, but if he cocked his head just right to use the periphery vision in his better eye, he could see how the dials were pointing. Although he sometimes got the large and small hands confused. Which caused major confusion in his schedule.
Dad found that Light and contrast were absolute necessities for optimum macular degeneration help. But when he came out of the light, he was always commenting on how dark it was. Even though to everyone else, it was sunny and bright in the room. It took his eyes a very long time to re-adjust to light vs. dimmer or dark. He was also having difficulty driving at night, or in rain, fog, or very cloudy weather. It was about this time, when he was still in Arizona, that he began getting the avastin macular degeneration injections.
Eventually he could no longer even read large-print books, even with all of his gadgets. It was about this same time when he woke up one morning and could no longer read the labels on items in his cupboards or at the grocery store. That is when he called us in a panic and no longer wanted to live alone. We moved him from Arizona back to our home state.
By this time Dad had to use a high-tech electronic reading machine. This was mainly good for reading mail, letters, pamphlets, directions, articles, small gift-sized books, etc. Regular sized books were too difficult.
He needed more and more magnification, until he got to the point where he could only get a half of a sentence on the screen at at time. It was way to klutzy, and he finally gave up. It was a very sad day when he had to give up reading totally, as he had been an avid reader his whole life. One of him main hobbies. It was a real adjustment.
More Special Products and Devices
There were many more types of macular degeneration help that we took advantage of…
Right away we got a huge clock with gigantic numbers and dials. This was one of the few things he could still actually see when he was in his late 90s. There were also the large-print books and playing cards, can be found at libraries and special libraries for the blind. Large-print Sudoku games and crossword puzzle books are found in most stores. These are all excellent for macular degeneration help — for awhile.
These are excellent forms of mind stimulation – exercising the brain is as important as exercising the body. It takes practice and patience, though, to learn to see and use these aids using only peripheral vision.
Check with state and local agencies for the blind for availability of books on tape. This became a life saver for Dad (until he became too deaf even for that). Public libraries often have a selection such books well. Audio entertainment is an excellent alternate source of macular degeneration help. Specialized recorders may also be requested for those who also have hearing loss.
States, counties, and non-profit agencies can sometimes supply free technology (reading machines and books on tape recorders), lighted magnifying glasses, adhesive buttons to attach to numbers on phones and microwaves, to name a few.
Since macular degeneration is a disease of central vision, the peripheral vision remains. All states offer rehabilitation services for the blind, and important macular degeneration information. Independent living skills are taught, as well as using peripheral vision. Often a case worker will make a scheduled home visit.
Training in using peripheral vision is important. A conscious effort must be made to discover which area of the eye and which angle is best used. By holding up a bright, colored object and moving it to different places in the outer line of vision, a person can become accustomed as to which is the best area of the eye to look through. This may involve holding the head at different angles than usual, and may seem awkward at first.
Other types of macular degeneration help involve training other senses. Eventually a person adjusts to their new condition and can learn to become aware of sense of touch.
For instance, we attached adhesive buttons to Dad’s large-print phone and microwave (when he was still able to use one), on the numbers 1 and 3 (in the corners), 5 (in the middle), 7 and 9 (in the corners, as well as on the Start button when appropriate.
The placement of buttons on all devices is consistent, on the same number pattern. Now Dad could feel to dial the phone and use the microwave.
Using the stove top and oven, of course, are no longer possible. They were removed when he was in assisted living. With the phone, we did get one with adjustable volume and tone as his hearing declined.
Since it is difficult to see faces and individual features, it is helpful to train people who approach to announce who they are, such as, “Hi Fred, Joe here.” A person with macular degeneration can learn to use peripheral vision to identify general body shapes, perhaps gestures and body postures.
Seeing general shapes and color will give certain amount of visual cues to the environment. Because macular degeneration does not involve blindness from birth, people have associations for certain textures, colors, smells, shapes, etc.
These will help them get mental pictures of items and clothing they are familiar with. Talking about them aloud with your loved one will help trigger these memory associations.
Macular degeneration help also means being aware of environmental sounds as cues to what is going on and where you are. Patients do begin to rely on other senses and can become very sensitive to household noise and discerning different footsteps of other people, even the patter of pets.
Listening to music, lectures, radio, may become enjoyable pastimes. The smell of the outdoors, gardens, food, homes, stores and other buildings, becomes stronger.
People with macular degeneration learn to adjust by enjoying other activities and skills, and can lead impressively independent lives after receiving help. Be sure to also see our page just for Activities For Elderly with Vision Loss.