A New Home? Choosing a Retirement Living Community when You Have Vision Loss

October 30, 2016 | Leave a Comment

by Polly Abbott, CVRT

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A box full of family photos

Packing up the home where you have lived for years, leaving the familiar neighborhood and moving some place new is stressful enough for any senior. When vision loss is part of the picture, it can add another layer of anxiety.

Are you wondering:

  • How will I find my way around a large new building?
  • How will I make friends when I can’t recognize anyone’s face?
  • How will I get out to do my errands when I don’t drive and don’t have my friends nearby to help out?

When you are choosing your new home, be proactive. Ask questions. Explore the facility including the living area and the common areas. This is going to be your new home – your will be happier if you are making an informed decision.

 

Supporting Residents

Luckily, many retirement and assisted living facilities are doing more and more to support the needs of their residents while still focusing on maintaining a level of independence. I have visited many facilities that are doing a good job making activities, services and day-to-day experience more accessible to their residents with vision loss.

When you are visiting different facilities, ask the staff about ways they support their residents with vision loss.

Here are some of the accommodations I’ve seen:

  • On-site low vision support group
  • Large print menus
  • In-house phone line updated daily with activities and their locations
  • Large print activity calendar
  • Regular bus trips to local shopping centers
  • Escorts to medical appointments
  • Library with large print books, audio books and a video magnifier

 

Staff Awareness

The knowledge, training and awareness of the staff can also make a huge difference to your comfort and happiness on a daily basis. Some extra considerations by the staff may include:

  • Staff who are aware you might not recognize them will greet you and say their name so you are not left guessing who is speaking to you.
  • A staff member may anticipate that you might feel more comfortable with a volunteer guide or a buddy to help you complete your errands.
  • Accommodations in the dining room like having your meat cut up in the kitchen or serving soup in a mug can be requested.

Not all facilities have the staff to provide all these services, but you won’t know until you ask. Maybe they have never thought of these services and might even appreciate your suggestions. Most likely, there are other residents who will benefit as well!

 

Recreational Activities

The staff at these communities are considering your needs and want you to enjoy and participate fully.

A variety of activities that are accessible to someone with low vision will be on the schedule such as trivia night, large print games, comedy night or story-telling.

Other activities might include an outing to a movie or theater or a museum. Check with the staff about the availability of audio description for the movie and theater. This is readily available at many locations. Museums often will offer a descriptive tour with an opportunity to touch or get extra close to the exhibits.

Support groups are often started when the staff notices there is a need. If the location already has a low vision group, you can be sure you will not be alone in getting the right kind of support and information. If they don’t, ask if they will explore the option. Ask them to call Second Sense – we can provide resources to start up a group.

 

Environmental Factors

Environmental features are an important consideration in choosing your new home. Features to be aware of include:

  • Good lighting in common areas and in your private apartment
  • Color contrast built into the décor. For example, are there dark table cloths and white plates in the dining room? Is there contrast between the walls and carpet with doors being a different color than the walls? Color contrast makes things in the environment more noticeable!
  • Electrical sockets and light switch face plates can be installed to contrast with the color of the wall so you can find them easily.
  • Outside curbs and steps clearly and brightly marked.
  • Sidewalks and controlled intersections allowing you to safely go for a walk and get out anytime you wish.

Each residence will be different. Make sure you choose the one that will best suit your needs.

Polly is the Director of Rehabilitation Services at Second Sense.  She works with staff at many retirement facilities to start and enhance their low vision support groups.

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