More than 20 million Americans over the age of 18 report some form of vision loss, according to a report from the American Foundation for the Blind. As we age, the risk of severe eye problems increases significantly -- particularly for seniors. While the physical effects of vision loss are frequently discussed, the emotional aspects of vision loss are often overlooked. Here's what you need to know to help your aging loved one cope with vision loss.
As care giver, your helping hand is more vital than ever.
A Different Kind of Grief
Seniors undergo many changes throughout the aging process. But awareness that these changes are coming doesn't make them easier to accept. In fact, the combined effects of aging -- including everything from housing issues to health threats -- can lead to extreme emotional distress for seniors.
Just like everyone else, seniors need to feel valued. Vision loss may detract from your aging loved one's sense of being valuable. In fact, some experts have compared what people go through when vision loss first occurs to Dr. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross's five stages of grief. And just as all emotions are valid when grieving the loss of a loved one, they are equally valid when grieving vision loss. It's not unusual for seniors to react with denial, anger and depression when vision loss occurs. With ample care giver support, however, they can also reach acceptance.
According to one study from researchers at the University of California in San Francisco, a whopping 43 percent of seniors report experiencing regular feelings of loneliness. Vision loss can make seniors even more vulnerable to loneliness and isolation, which is why it's particularly important to remind them that they are not alone. If your aging loved one is able, attending a vision loss support group may yield valuable results. Speaking with a vision or sight loss professional can also be helpful.
Losing your vision result in feelings of loss of control, which is an added unexpected stressor. You can help your loved one regain feelings of control by working with him/her to develop stress management techniques. From listening to music to sharing stories together, these coping mechanisms can be a valuable lifeline.
For seniors already struggling with threats to their independence, vision loss can feel like a crushing blow. Remind your aging loved one that it's still possible to lead a rewarding life although some modifications may be in order. Additionally, the latest advancements in technology offer new tools designed to help people experiencing a loss in vision perform many daily tasks on their own.
The truth is that adjusting to vision loss is far from a merely physical issue. The emotional adjustment can be just as significant. Luckily, there are many resources available to help patients -- and their caregivers -- get through the adjustment period in order to enjoy a full quality of life. To learn more about the emotional aspects of vision loss, watch this helpful video from mmLearn.org.
mmlearn.org offers a large library of free videos for caregivers of older adults, covering topics pertaining to senior care. Whether you are a healthcare professional or a family caregiver, if you are caring for an older adult we know that you will find mmlearn.org an essential learning and guidance tool for all of your caregiver training needs.