The progression or diagnosis of a low vision disease can be extremely difficult. It brings with it questions, fears and a sense of uncertainty about the future of your vision. During these times it’s especially important to stay positive, be proactive, and set goals. Low vision does not mean a low quality of life; aids, tools, support groups and rehabilitation services all provide options and opportunities for those faced with vision deterioration or loss.
Low vision rehabilitation services, for instance, maximize the use of existing vision in order to sustain levels of independence. And while they can’t restore sight, they can help individuals cope with relevant physical and emotional difficulties like:
- Performance of activities of daily living
- Feelings of isolation
- Quality of life
- Accidents/falls and the resulting injury
Through low vision rehabilitation programs, ophthalmologists, optometrists and low vision therapists teach individuals to adjust to such challenges – and prepare for any additional decreases in vision. For instance, spectacle-mounted reading lenses to improve reading performance; or, at-home orientation trainings to help navigate the kitchen or stairs.
Rehabilitation programs vary from practice to practice but services generally fall into five categories. The chart below provides a brief overview and the types of services provided within each category.
|Rehabilitation Program||Services Provided|
|Training in the use of low-vision devices||Once a low vision device has been prescribed by an eye doctor, training will teach patients how to use the device and how to integrate it into daily routines.|
|Rehabilitation teaching||Adaptive techniques, such as computer programs with eccentric retinal loci, to improve reading performance and other activities of daily living.|
|Rehabilitation counseling/intervention||Interventions allow individuals to learn and problem solve with their peers and health professionals. These sessions improve cognitive and behavioral functions, and ultimate arm individuals with self-management skills.|
|Orientation and mobility training||Orientation and mobility training includes work with orientation, navigation, walking through environments, using cross streets and public transportation, distance judgment, and self-protection skills.|
|Independent living support||Independent living support programs provide training for everyday life skills like meal preparation, moving around the home, identifying money and medications, and telling time.|
Low vision rehabilitation programs are expanding and extensive trainings are now offered across many different healthcare disciplines. And while everyone has a unique experience, programs have supported many individuals learning to adjust to life with low vision. Many Medicare carriers now cover at least some rehabilitation services.
According to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, approximately 1.3 million Americans could benefit from low vision rehabilitation services. If you’re thinking about a low vision rehabilitation program, ask your eye doctor for more information and for local recommendations.