The Vision Rehab Podcast is a short monthly podcast about topics and issues related to vision rehabilitation therapists and vision rehab. You can also listen on your smart speaker, just ask for, “Vision Rehab Podcast.”
I’d like to take a couple minutes to talk about depression and vision loss. A number of studies have shown that when we lose our ability to do one or more of our major life activities, particularly those that are most meaningful to us, we are at risk of becoming depressed. Imagine for a moment you are an avid reader, a regular bicyclist or walker, or drive to a regular social gathering. What if you lose the ability to do these activities the way you’ve always done them because of a recent vision loss.
The research shows that in a situation like this, if we don’t find adaptations or accommodations to get us back to these activities within about 3 months, 30% of us will become clinically depressed. While the onset of a vision loss from macular degeneration, glaucoma, diabetes or anything really may be out of our control, looking for adaptations or workarounds is something we can do if we know where to look and choose to advocate for ourselves.
Vision rehabilitation therapists, low vision therapists, and orientation and mobility specialists are the primary rehab professionals trained to work with clients on adapted daily living skills after a vision loss. You’ll find these professionals in your state’s Department of Vocational Rehabilitation or Department on Aging. These services are often available at no out-of-pocket cost or on a sliding scale. Some occupational therapists may hold a Specialty Certification in Low Vision (SCLV) and can provide some vision rehab services with a doctor’s referral.
The important thing here is to find the tools and develop the skills needed to get back in whichever activities are most important to you, or check out new opportunities for activities to fill that void.
For example, if reading print becomes difficult, develop new reading skills with a quality handheld magnifier, or an electronic video magnifier. Begin reading audio books from the free National Library Service Talking Books Program or use your computer or smartphone’s text-to-speech to read print to you. An orientation and mobility specialist can teach you alternate ways to get to appointments or social events using public transportation or services like Lyft and Uber, or how to walk around with less vision with mobility tools like GPS or a white cane.
An unexpected vision loss later in life can create challenges and interrupt the way we are accustomed to doing our daily activities and recreation. If you don’t actively seek out work-arounds and adaptations, the research shows you’re at risk for clinical depression.
To find a vision rehabilitation therapist or orientation and mobility specialist near you go to the VisionAware Directory of services, located right on the home page at visionaware.org and type in your state. You’ll get a list of state and local agencies that offer services to individuals with a vision loss or blindness If the phone is more convenient, just call the APH Connect Center at 800-232-5463. To learn more about some of these adaptation for daily living and the technology available, check out the hundreds of free workshops at Hadley. On the web at Hadley.edu or just give them a call to register at 800-323-4238 and there’s no cost to register.
Making some adaptations with new skills and tools will keep you engaged in the activities that make you happy and keep you independent.