Visual Impairments interact with other medical conditions, which in turn may affect one’s ability to function safely and independently in their home. Two thirds of all persons with low vision are over the age of 65 and 25% of adults over the age of 85 will develop some form of vision loss.(World Health Organization)
There are several types of vision loss that typically occur as we age. The most common of these visual losses include:
Macular Degeneration is when the macular tissue of the eye breaks down resulting in debris accumulation. Those with macular degeneration will have a significant need for increased illumination and contrast in their environments.(Barstow & Perlmutter, 2015)
Glaucoma occurs as a result of increased pressure within the eyeball and causes a gradual loss of vision. Initially impairments may be seen with peripheral vision loss, with eventual progression to the loss of central vision. Frequently those with glaucoma experience an intolerance for glaring light and have difficulty transitioning between dark and light situations. Those with advanced glaucoma tend to need increased illumination and contrast in their environments.(Barstow & Perlmutter, 2015)
Diabetic Retinopathy occurs when retinal blood vessels weaken and leak, resulting in macular swelling. Diabetic Retinopathy can affect both central and peripheral vision.Those who experience vision loss as a result of diabetic retinopathy also develop an intolerance for glaring light and have difficulty with transitioning between dark and light. They also may benefit from increased illumination and contrast in their environments.(Barstow & Perlmutter, 2015)
Cataracts cause a cloudiness and yellowing of the lens in the eye. Cataract sufferers tend to have poor night vision and experience an intolerance for glare. Those with cataracts especially need to have contrast in their environments.(Barstow & Perlmutter, 2015)
There are also several conditions that may occur along with vision loss. Some of these conditions may include depression, joint problems and hearing loss, in addition to increased falls.(Crews, Jones & Kim, 2009) As occupational therapists, we are trained in all of these areas. Occupational Therapists are qualified to assess the individual and their environment based upon their diagnoses and conditions that may occur along with vision loss. Assessments will include detailed lighting evaluations, especially in high risk task areas of the home.
Home modifications may include specific types of lighting for the tasks being performed in each environment, recommendations for obtaining lighting type based upon client preference and tasks they perform, specific lamps that will meet these needs and placement of lighting for optimal safety. In addition, recommendations may be made for how to create contrast in one’s environment and strategies for reducing glare to increase safety.(Barstow & Perlmutter, 2015)