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When it comes to life—the idea is not to just ‘make it’ or ‘survive’, but to live well. As our parents get older, their quality of life gets affected by ailments associated with ageing. One of the most common, but most frustrating ones, is poor eyesight.
Parents with deteriorating or low vision find themselves grappling with slowness in responding or moving, confusion in environments with low contrast or low lighting, confusion with faces and identifying people, difficulty locating objects that are small or low in contrast, difficulty paying attention, and the risk of falling.
By empowering our parents in managing their condition and providing tenacious knowledge-based support, we can improve the quality of their daily lives and relieve the emotional trauma that often accompanies low vision.
Here are five tips that can help you ensure the well-being of your parents dealing with deteriorating or low eyesight:
1. Lifestyle and food overhaul
Eating a healthy diet will always remain a golden mantra against health complications and concerns. Encourage your parents to inculcate a diet full of leafy green vegetables, eggs, beans, nuts, citrus, and oily-fish to their diet. These foods are rich in nutrients such as vitamins C and E, zinc, lutein, and omega 3 fatty acids, which can help prevent and fight issues such as cataract and age-related macular degeneration.
Moreover, in case a parent smokes, persuade them to stop so as to avoid an increased risk of low vision, cataract, and macular degeneration.
2. Protect against harmful sun exposure
Encourage your parents to wear sunglasses during outdoor activities in the summertime. Make sure that their glasses are rated to block UVA (ultraviolet A) and UVB (ultraviolet B) rays and that they cover the sides of the eyes to prevent the rays from penetrating. Exposure to UV rays can damage the cornea and the conjunctiva (a layer of cells covering the inside of the eyelid and the white area of the eye).
This approach can help your parents experience greater independence rather than always having to rely on you to help them manage their errands, home tasks, or other activities. This boosts their mental and emotional health, supports better cognitive functioning, and can contribute to longevity.
3. Occupational therapy and visual rehabilitation
As per research reported by the American Journal of Occupational Therapy, patients can be supported by an occupational therapy evaluation that focuses on assessing the functional limitations experienced by the patients due to the vision loss and determine how the patients are best able to use remaining vision to complete daily activities.
These therapies can help determine optimum lighting facilities in their home and teach them the use of magnification devices and maintain some level of independence to stay safe at home. Hence, talk to your parents about adopting such therapies since it will help them gain confidence and a sense of independence about their right and choice of movement.
If need be, get professional help via trained nurses and/or other professionals who can equip your parents to become more independent.
4. Treat them with respect and dignity
Treating our parents with the respect and dignity they deserve is perhaps as critical as ensuring a nutritious diet or exploring occupational therapy, in order to maintain a certain sense of normalcy around everyday life. Make sure that you speak in a natural conversational tone with your parents and enunciate properly as they may not be able to see your lips.
Greet your parents when you enter a room with them present in it so that they know you are there as well and indicate the end of a conversation when you leave so that they aren’t left talking to the air. More importantly, de-stigmatize their condition by freely using words that refer to vision, such as “see,” “look,” and “watch”. Instead of raising alarms, be calm and clear about what to do if you see your parents about to encounter a dangerous situation, like barging their foot into the corner of the bed.
5. Open channels of communication
Respect and dignity have to be brought into motion through effective communication. When communicating in writing, avoid cursive, and use a dark bold pen or marker. When communicating by e-mail in rich text, set the font size to at least 16 and use easy-to-read fonts like Verdana or Arial. You can also increase the font size on their smartphone so that they can read better.
Help your parents see with their ears by describing locations, people, and objects whenever possible. Moreover, it is absolutely pertinent to regularly include them in social events. When guiding them, allow your parents to maintain contact by grasping your arm and on stairs, always remain one step ahead of them. When guiding them to a seat, allow them to touch the chair or bench before seating themselves and add some verbal description of the style of seating to help them understand the ergonomics of the chair/bench.
Losing your eyesight isn’t easy, functionally or mentally. Hence, it is important we lend a helping hand whenever we can to show that we care.