How would you cope with eye disease?
What would it be like to have a degenerative eye disease? At this time, there is no known cure for these diseases, only limited procedures and changes in nutrition that might slow them down. These diseases make one person out of 16 legally blind at age 66, one out of four at age 80, and one out of two at 90. Federal statistics show that there are at least 2,000 legally blind persons in Nevada County.
Independence is lost. You’re no longer able to drive, so anytime you need to shop, go to a medical appointment, or perhaps get together with friends or attend a function, you must ask someone to provide transportation. Imagine what it feels like to always have to ask for help. You must constantly adjust your needs and desires to the available help. Lucky are those who have a husband, wife or friend who is able and happy to assist them.
In the case of dry macular degeneration, as the cells in the macula die, a blank spot appears until all your central vision is lost. You can no longer see your face, what you are eating, you cannot read, see what your hands are doing, where you are stepping, cross the street or take a walk with confidence, watch TV or, one of the hardest of all, make eye contact with anyone. Put your open hand in front of your face and stare at the palm of your hand. If you move your eyes, move your hand keeping your point of vision in the palm of your hand. Yes, you will have many adjustments to make.
If you have retinitis pigmentosa ,you will have tunnel vision that slowly diminishes, so you are able to focus on something small but have no idea what is around you. Make a loose fist and peek through. Imagine what it would be like if that was all you could see.
There are many degenerative eye diseases, each with its own characteristics, some quite similar. In all cases it takes the three As – Adjust! Adjust! Adjust!
Think through your past 24 hours – what adjustments would you have to make if you couldn’t see as well as you do. Were your clothes clean when you put them on? Were they matched? What time is it? How long will it take you to cook breakfast? How would you get to work or wherever you have to go? How do you do your computer work? How would you read the newspaper?…
Sierra Services for the Blind and Visually Impaired is dedicated to helping our clients adjust, provide escorted transportation for medical appointments, transportation to group support meetings, provide information and assistance with problems as they arise, mobility and adaptive technology instruction, and functions for pure entertainment. We are currently serving over 400 clients in western Nevada and Placer counties.
Please help us help them. If we have 1,000 community members who will commit to a donation of $10 per month, we will be able to continue our services with the help of our wonderful transportation volunteers.
Frank Durham is a program specialist for Sierra Services for the Blind and Visually Impaired.
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