Self-care for low vision
Learning to cope with low vision can take time. But many services and products can help you make the most of your remaining vision and stay independent. Your optometrist will be able to provide advice and tips to help you cope. You may be able to get financial help to pay for low-vision aids or modifications to your home. To find out if you’re eligible for funding, your doctor will need to refer you to an occupational therapist for an assessment.
Tips for living with low vision
Use contrasting colours
- Use a dark tablecloth with white plates so you can see the table edges and food more prominently.
- Paint white lines on the edges of steps and ramps.
- Install contrasting frames or switch-plates around light switches and power points.
- Use brightly coloured accessories, such as cushions and vases, so it’s easier to find the furniture.
- Paint door frames, door knobs and handrails a contrasting colour so they stand out more.
Light it up
- Install bright lighting in areas where you need to see details, such as the bathroom, workshop and kitchen.
- Make sure hallways, stairwells and entrances are well lit so you can find your way around safely, especially at night.
- Put desk lamps or motion sensor lights in areas such as the pantry or darker corners of the kitchen or office. Aim light at the work, not your eyes.
- Use bold labels or stickers of varying shapes to make it easier to identify things.
- Use texture to help you identify things. For example, Blind Low Vision NZ has textured labels you can use to identify frequently used positions on your oven dial and microwave panel.
Make it bigger
- Use devices (TVs, phones, watches and so on) with large display screens or faces and bigger buttons. This can make it easier to tell the time, use the phone, change television channels and even weigh yourself.
Keep it tidy
It’s easier to find things if you know where they are. If you aren’t used to keeping things tidy, it may take some time to get into the habit, but life will be easier once you do.
- Eliminate clutter – get rid of things you don’t use.
- Always put kitchen items and clothing away in the same place so you can find them easily.
- Ask others to tell you if your clothes are clean and tidy.
- Replace worn carpeting. Remove or tape down loose mats and other hazards on the floor, such as electrical cords.
- Keep access areas and walkways between furniture clear, push chairs under the table and fully close drawers and cupboards.
- Install grab bars and hand rails.
- Keep the telephone where you can easily reach it.
- Mop up spills as they happen.
- Use non-slip mats in the shower or bath.
Asking for help is often the hardest thing to do but it can make a big difference to your life. Staff in many shops are trained to help people with low vision. Even passersby are often happy to help if you ask them.
Use the buddy system
Low vision is common among older adults. As one of the side effects of low vision is a feeling of loneliness, finding a friend or support system in your community can be very helpful. It can also help you learn tips and tricks that have worked for other people in the same situation.
Coping with low vision isn’t simple. Developing your own tricks and methods takes time and effort. Go easy on yourself and keep trying. Eventually, you’ll find the best solutions for your specific visual impairment.
It’s important that you keep your interests, hobbies and social contacts. Once you’ve decided how to do things, practise doing them. The more you practise your new methods, the easier things will become.