A bit of hope

A bit of hope

Posted under Eye Conditions, Guest Blogger, Living With Low Vision, Low Vision Info

This story begins with a fall down a flight of stairs but ends with a bit of hope. A few months back as my family gathered for a little reunion, my aunt had gone upstairs to grab a coat for one of the little kids. Minutes later she came down the dimly lit stairwell the hard way. Panic ensued as we all rushed to our aunt. Luckily for us, there was only minor bruising, but why she fell would eventually lead me here to share my aunt’s story.

It was then that my aunt shared that for the last few months her eye sight had been getting worse to the point that even her glasses weren’t doing much to help. We urged her to see an eye doctor, but she refused, claiming that they’d just tell her she was getting old. This was only partially true. What we didn’t know then was that our aunt had AMD or Age-related Macular Degeneration. As the condition implies, AMD occurs as one gets older. Genetics can be a factor, but anyone can develop AMD. It’s a condition that currently affects around 11 million people, and that number looks to double by 2050.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. At the time we knew none of this. All we knew was what our aunt was telling us, and that she was going to need more help than usual. I volunteered.

It’s a responsibility I’m honored to take. When I was still in high school, it was my aunt that took me in. So, this was a way to return that kindness. That doesn’t mean it’s been easy. The thing was the loss of her eyesight meant the inability to do simple tasks like cook, read, or even enjoying one of her shows. It felt like I had suddenly been gifted a 67-year-old teenager.

Though I was willing to bear the brunt of her frustrations, I knew that if I wanted to help, I had to find a way to help her get some independence back. At this point, we had had several different conversations with her about her vision, so I began googling the symptoms. Spotty vision, trouble with depth perception, objects blend visually. This was what led me to discover AMD and Low Vision. You can get better information here, but to oversimplify, imagine a permanent smudge in the center of your eye that at best warps your vision, and at worst will completely black out that area. The good news is there are things you can do and tools that can help in living with AMD.

It was easy to test out a few of these things without even having to bother my aunt. Things like using brighter lights to help her better see her surroundings and replacing her wooden cutting board with a two-tone white and black board. It turns out contrast is key. These little changes helped enough that my aunt was able to start doing things around the house again and finally agreed to see a doctor for a proper diagnosis and to make more changes to better her quality of life.

Most recently we had the opportunity to visit someone with AMD who also uses low vision products. My aunt got to try out an electric magnifier. These are devices specifically made for people with AMD and low vision. It was a simple handheld device that my aunt figured out how to use very quickly. A smile grew on her face as she scanned through latest bank statement with glee. She immediately began to balance her own checkbook, a daily routine she hadn’t been able to do for the last few months. It’s kind of amazing how that one little action changed her entire mood.

We still have a long way to go, but there is hope. Which is why I wanted to share my aunt’s journey so far. Because as someone on the outside looking in you can sometimes feel useless. But there are ways to help your loved ones and tools available to give them their independence back.


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AMD Blog A bit of hope written by Dat Nguyen