Help for Seniors with Vision Loss: Tips for Assisted Living Staff Members

Vision loss can greatly affect the participation levels and safety of seniors experiencing difficulties with their vision due to age-related conditions such as diabetic retinopathy, cataracts or macular degeneration. As people lose vision they often isolate themselves and do not believe that they can still maintain an active, independent lifestyle.

Also, different eye conditions affect the ability to see and function in varying ways. For example, macular degeneration affects central vision and the ability to read, see faces, and drive. Glaucoma, on the other hand, affects side vision and the ability to detect objects outside the field of vision. If you want to find out more, view our Vision Simulation video.

Ten tips to help you provide a friendlier, safer environment and the assistance and support that people experiencing vision loss may need:

  1. Control glare by using appropriate window coverings and adjustable lighting.
  2. Increase use of contrast. Paint door trim, replace covers on outlets and light switches and put contrasting tape on steps.
  3. Use bold, sans-serif fonts and white or light yellow paper for handouts such as activity calendars and high contrast, tactile signage.
  4. Provide enlarged, tactile versions of games, eg. playing cards, bingo cards and board games.
  5. When walking with a consumer with vision loss, offer your arm for the person to hold onto. Walk about 1/2 step ahead of the person so that you can avoid objects in the pathway. This assistance is called " sighted guide ."
  6. Talk directly to a person with vision loss, eg. "What would you like to drink?" Do not talk around them to relatives or friends, eg. "What does "he" want to drink?"
  7. Describe the place setting and food arrangement on the plate in terms of a clock face so the person can participate in meal time confidently.
  8. Avoid use of throw rugs and low lying furniture to help prevent falls.
  9. Use clear, verbal descriptions when giving directions and offer a tour of the facility, including how to find restrooms, to newcomers. Point out landmarks they can use to get around easily.
  10. Do not move furniture or objects around without announcing these changes ahead of time.

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