Senior Help:The Impact of Vision Loss

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Everyone experiences some type of decline in vision as we age. If your loved one is experiencing vision loss, you are both likely going through some strong emotions.

The Impact on The Parent

My mother-in-law is losing her eyesight due to glaucoma. Each day her tunnel of vision gets smaller, the clarity diminishes. She's at the end of her options terms of available treatments.

The loss of eyesight is a source of grief and anxiety. It redefines your lifestyle entirely. My mother-in-law, for example, spent her days searching new recipes, reading, watching TV, playing crossword puzzles. She enjoyed card games and loved to watch her grandbabies playing. Her first great-grandchild is on the way this spring, and she will not likely be able to see what he looks like. The emotional toll can be devastating.

I often try to put myself in her place, imagining letting go of that part of your life. As I drove down a country road this week I noticed the brilliant blue sky, deep shades of green and cherry trees just beginning to bloom. And I realized that she would never again see these things. I wondered if she, too, has thought about the simple things that will be lost. I'm sure she has... every day. She speaks frequently of the increased feeling of isolation and her frustration at her loss of independence.

The Toll on You

I have to admit, when my mother-in-law's eyesight began to go, I didn't think much of it. It just seemed like another step in the aging process. But it all happened so quickly - to sit on the sidelines helplessly and watch a person's lifestyle forcefully taken away is a very painful thing to see.

Because along with the loss of vision comes so many other problems. The loss of mental stimulation from her previous lifestyle has taken a cognitive toll. I am in constant fear of the new physical barriers she faces. Just a few weeks ago she fell on the sidewalk, badly scraping her face, injuring her hip and bruising the entire left side of her body. How will our family care for her? How do I ease the process?

Coping with Lost Vision

As a hospice volunteer for many years, I'm a strong advocate of Dr. Elisabeth Kubler Ross's work on the stages of grief. Not only does it apply to the loss of a loved one, but any major change in life. We all face the cycle of denial, anger, depression and, finally, acceptance of the loss. As you both (or all) reach acceptance, find new ways to engage your loved one. Learn to describe what you are seeing in detail, so that you can become a virtual set of eyes for him or her. And beyond all things, yearn for understanding and peace with the situation.

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--Kim Thies

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