What Has Your Vision Loss Done to Your Overall Health?

November 15, 2019 | Leave a Comment

by Polly Abbott, CVRT

Cheeseburger on a seeded bun with french fries
It’s easy to get caught up in a daily habit of making many small choices that seem harmless at the time. But, these can end up creating a giant snowball of health-related issues.

I am not a nutritionist or health professional. However, over the past 20 years of working with people with vision loss, I have observed the many, often subtle ways that new loss of vision can affect a loss of healthy habits.

Factors Specific to Vision Loss that can Impact Your Health

Depression

People with vision loss are 90% more likely to experience depression.  When you feel a sense of loss, you may turn to comfort food or mindless snacking to dull the pain or fill the void.

A decrease in physical activity

There are new challenges to simply moving around.  New vision loss can lead to injury from bumping into things, frustration at getting lost and fear of falling down the stairs in your own home.  You can no longer jump in the car to drive to the gym, hop on the bus to meet friends for a social outing, or run alone.  That lost freedom of going when and where you wish can be keenly felt.

A change in eating habits

You may replace meals prepared from fresh ingredients with convenience or fast foods.  Loss of vision may mean not being able to see what’s on your plate or cut items with a knife and fork. So, you may simply eat foods that you can hold in your hands — like hamburgers, fries and pizza.

Loss of autonomy in the kitchen

Healthy food is generally food that has been prepared from scratch.  This requires grocery shopping, comfort using a chef knife and other kitchen tools, confidence around a hot stove and oven, and the ability to find what you need when you want it—even the leftovers in the fridge.  You may also have to read nutritional labels and cooking directions as well as cook from a recipe to keep the healthy eating happening.  Until you learn new ways to perform these tasks and gain confidence, many people prefer to avoid the potential for mess, frustration and injury.  As one person once said to me “why cook when I can dial a phone?”

Family

Emotional and practical support from family can be a huge help. Family members, however, can also block the road back to health. Safety is a major concern. They may be gently interfering so you find yourself always sitting safely in a chair instead of moving about as you normally would.  They don’t want you walking outside by yourself or in the kitchen where you could cut or burn yourself.  You may find them feeding you your favorite foods again and again!

Social isolation

Your friends may not know what to say to you when you start experiencing this new way of life.  Invitations to meet may fall off.  The change or loss in friendships can result in more time at home alone.  This feeds into both depression and lack of movement.

How to Get Back on Track for a Healthy Lifestyle

I encourage you to think about changes that are within your power.  Again, after 20 years or working with people, I do believe the key to being able to take control of your health boils down setting some new short-term goals that feel attainable.  Once you accomplish these, you can start working on longer-term goals.

There are some simple things that you can try on your own. These can build your confidence and start you on the right path.

  • Try  exercising with descriptive yoga and fitness programs that you can do in your own home.
  • A good place to start is with your doctor who can recommend a nutritionist or dietician so that you have some support as you learn what changes you can make to eat healthy.
  • Purchase healthier food options at the grocery store salad bar or in the pre-cut section of the produce department.
  • Scrub your tub, pace around your house, do stretches during commercial breaks when watching television. Any movement is better than no movement at all.
  • Find at least one group activity that will get you out of the house and with other people on a regular basis—it’s the best way to make friends and meet people who like what you like.

 

Learn How Vision Rehabilitation Training can Help You Reach Your Health Goals

Long-term goals can be attained with vision rehabilitation training.  The staff at Second Sense is ready to work with you to discuss the training that will help you reach these goals.

  • Independent living skills can help you get back on track. You can learn dining skills to handle identifying and cutting the food on your plate.  We can teach you to cook again using new techniques that don’t involve vision.  You can gain strategies to identify what’s in your pantry and organize it so you can find it.
  • Orientation and Mobility training is your road back to getting where you want to go.  You can learn about your options for getting around your house, traveling to the grocery store, or taking public transit.
  • Technology training is the final piece. You can learn to use your smart phone or tablet as a tool of independence. Apps allow you to read recipes, nutrition information and packaging directions. They can track physical activity, like walking and flights climbed.  Food diaries are an easy way to keep track of what you eat and can encourage healthier food choices. Online grocery shopping on a computer, smart phone or smart speaker can eliminate the worrisome prospect of getting to the grocery store.

 

When it comes to making healthy choices, we can all be our own worst enemies, visually impaired or not. Self-reflection, education and short-term goal setting are key to taking control of one’s health.

Polly is a Certified Vision Rehabilitation Therapist at Second Sense.

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