Coping with Loss as a Result of Diabetes and Visual Impairment

By Margaret E. Cleary, M.S., R.N., CVRT

Thomas J. Carroll's book, Blindness, describes twenty different losses and restorations that a person may experience when vision loss or blindness occurs. He said he wrote this book as a practical guide for the “adventitious, noncongenital, or newly blinded,” and those who work with them. Blindness advocates, skeptics and professionals considered Carroll a pioneer, a teacher and an upstart, depending upon their biases. Reader's Digest published a story about his revolutionary concepts around the time the book came out.

Thomas Carroll (see biography), a Catholic priest, had worked as a chaplain with wounded war veterans during World War II. He established St. Paul's Rehabilitation Center for the Blind in Newton, MA in 1954. He hired me, a rehabilitation nurse, as his field representative in 1961. My assignments were to promote Blindness and spread his message of the essential content and value of St. Paul's residential rehabilitation for adventitiously blind adults. In the first four years I traveled to 26 states.

I believe that much has changed in rehabilitation practices since 1961 and some of Carroll's ideas and expressions are obsolete. Nevertheless, many of his observations are still worthy of exploration.

I have long thought about the impact of these losses and restorations on people with diabetes mellitus, self-managing facts barely mentioned in Blindness. In 1961, almost three-quarters of the students at what is now called the Carroll Center for the Blind had diabetes, most being totally blind. Being interested in diabetes, I became a certified diabetes educator (CDE). My work had taken me to 47 states and four continents by the time I retired in 2009 as Director of Admissions and Diabetes Educator.

Following you will find Thomas J. Carroll's descriptions and my conceptualization of the twenty losses and restorations when an individual has both vision impairment and diabetes. It's very important to note that all individuals are not similarly challenged by either the losses or the restorations.

Wouldn't Father Carroll be pleased that Reader's Digest (through VisionAware) has honored him by bringing these issues to the forefront once more?

Citations:

  • Information in this article excerpted from: Diabetes and Visual Impairment: A New View for Vision Professionals Online, CarrollTech, Carroll Center for the Blind, August 2011.
  • Carroll Center for the Blind: Provides distance education online courses, webinars, seminars, white papers, and residential and commuting rehabilitation programs, as well as Diabetes and Visual Impairment: A New View for Patients and Families, a free online course offered for vision professionals, health professionals, rehabilitation professionals, patients, and families.

Personal Stories

  • Father James Warnke: Living a Well-Integrated Life
    Father Warnke, who was born with retinopathy of prematurity (ROP) and glaucoma, has had a very successful series of careers as mental health counselor and Episcopal priest, to name just a few of his accomplishments.

services icon Looking for Help?

Join Our Mission

Help us expand our resources for people with vision loss.