Is Your Sweetie New to Vision Loss: A Partner’s Guide to Encourage Independence
by Polly Abbott, CVRT
Tags: new vision loss, partner with vision loss
All the doctor visits and uncertainties around the future can make it difficult to focus on the things we do every day. Here are some concrete steps you can take to encourage small but significant changes for your partner to be a little more independent.
Find Out How a Person Lives with Vision Loss
- It’s best to get connected with vision rehabilitation services as soon as possible. Studies show the sooner people get training, the less depression and isolation they feel. A good place to start is the American Foundation of the Blind’s vision rehabilitation service locator database.
- Check out the free educational videos or audio recordings from the Hadley Institute for the Blind and Visually Impaired that can teach how daily living is accomplished with vision loss
- Read “Making Life More Livable” by Maureen Duffy available through the American Foundation of the Blind or Amazon.com for simple suggestions with photos demonstrating what to do and how to do it.
Cleaning and Discarding
You are setting the stage for more independence and less frustration for your loved one by having an organized home. Less stuff means less to keep track of. Everyone, including you, will be able to locate what they need more quickly and easily.
- Sort through your pantry, freezer and fridge to get rid of old food items. When was the last time you used those cupcake sprinkles? How about all those condiment jars in the fridge door? Keep only what is fresh.
- Sort through the clothes closet. If the mood or attitude is open, sort through your loved one’s closet together. If there’s resistance, don’t push. This is something that can always be tackled later.
- Shred old papers and throw out junk mail the minute it comes into your home.
- Check out what’s in the bathroom. Are there multiple bottles of shampoo, conditioner, moisturizer, cleaners, etc.? Can you streamline what you both are using?
- As you clean, notice what you are keeping and where it is stored. Pay attention to the shape, size, weight and texture of items. Later, you can help your partner learn to identify items by these tactile features and their location.
- Let your sweetie know when you are entering and leaving a room. It is disconcerting to someone with vision loss to be speaking to someone when the person they think they are talking to has left the room. Or, on the other hand, you can startle him or her if you come into a room silently and your partner isn’t expecting you.
- Talk to each other and decide where things should be kept and keep them there. This makes it easier for everyone to find items. If your loved one can trust that things will always be in the same spot, it means you won’t have to come to the rescue to find it.
- If you move something, let your sweetie know. This is especially important for furniture or other large objects as it can be a safety concern.
Support Efforts to Maintain Independence and Autonomy
- Keep both of your regular routines as much as possible. Be patient and expect tasks to take a little longer for your loved one to do. Know that it is the “doing” and the sense of accomplishment that is important. The “quick fixes” below can give your loved one some sense of autonomy with some everyday tasks.
- A simple digital voice recorder is a substitute for pencil and paper. Your loved one can record a grocery list, up-coming appointments and important phone numbers.
- Microwave water in a mug or use a single-serve coffee maker to avoid pouring from a tea kettle if necessary.
- If you have a smart phone, the voice-activated Siri or Hey Google can answer many questions and dial phone numbers if the number is in the contact list.
- One of the new smart speakers like Amazon’s Echo, Tap or Dot, Google’s Home Mini or Apple’s HomePod can do some of the above, but can also play a radio station, set a timer, find the time, get the weather and a myriad of other requests by using just your voice. Read our post comparing the Amazon Dot to the Google Home Mini for some insight from our Manager of Assistive Technology.
- For those who are not so techy, a talking watch is not a huge investment, but it can go a long way in helping your partner feel like there’s a little control. This is one thing your partner won’t have to ask anyone for.
Keep in mind that both of you are on a learning curve. You both are experimenting with new ways to do things and making adjustments to your daily routines. Trust in the fact that with help from vision rehabilitation professionals and your support network, things should improve. Encourage your loved one to try new things and be patient when things take a little longer or are not perfect. Vision loss is not only an adjustment for your partner, but for you as well.
Polly is the Director of Rehabilitation Services at Second Sense.