Guest Author - Dean Ingalls
When a member of the family or a friend experiences vision loss, that event affects every member of the family and related friends. How can you help a Family Member/friend deal with vision loss?
Description of How I felt with vision loss before training:
A person dealing with vision loss feels like the world’s has turned upside down. Separation, isolation and feeling of being lost overtake the person. The thought of losing one’s vision sparks a feeling of overwhelming, soul searing fear and helplessness. The person must learn to make changes, adjustments and learn extreme patience. The person must think about every task before doing the task and Thinking about every task causes frustration. The development of extreme patience is critical for success. The person must learn to accept lots of failure before success occurs. Because of the amount of failure the person experiences, correctly completing simple tasks (daily activities sighted people do without thinking) become sources of great satisfaction and pride in one’s self. Family members must understand the reward a visually impaired person receives from doing simple tasks before they can understand why adopting a “let me do that” attitude does not help.
Common sense advice – “Do’s and Don’ts”:
1. Talk to others who have a visually impaired family member or friend – find out what techniques work for them.
2. Attend informative meetings or join a supportive group – Knowledge is power
3. Do your own experiment – purchase and wear a pair of sleep shades for several hours. You soon understand the up side down feeling and how difficult doing simple tasks become without vision. Notice the amount of time spent thinking about the task and the amount of patience needed for success (count the number of times you fail before you complete task correctly). Remember the feeling of satisfaction and pride when you do a task correctly.
4. Educate yourself about the specific vision condition face by the family member or friend. Learn as much as you can, then you can ask knowledgeable questions to help the visually impaired individual talk about the vision condition. Remember the person may not be ready to talk – be patient!
5. Wearing sleep shade; try tasks such as; grooming – showering, shaving dressing, brushing teeth and eating. Experience eating without vision - helps you understand the skills needed for a visually impaired person to eat in public without embarrassment and how fearful eating in public seems. Learn how to give directions using the face of a clock to help the visually impaired person visualize the location of food on a plate. Imagine eating in front of family members not to mention strangers or in an unfamiliar place.
6. Practice using a white cane inside and out of the home – provides an understanding of the amount of courage needed to learn cane travel techniques. You quickly understand how important a supportive family member or friend is to a visually impaired person working to regain independence.
7. Practice with other family members sighted guide techniques such as the elbow guide technique– it’s great to have a family member who wants to help but it’s not so great when they run you into a doorframe, don’t inform you about upcoming steps or let an opened door close on you. Learning to give good directions and then practicing makes you a much better sighted guide. In addition, the visually impaired person feels much more comfortable and safe.
1. Never make jokes about vision loss; learning to laugh about vision loss takes maturity and time. A good rule of thumb – only joke about vision when the visually impaired person tells the first joke or makes the first comical statement. I needed time to reach the point of laughter with vision loss.
2. Try not to Become a “let me do that” family member or friend – let the visually impaired person have the opportunity to ask for help – be patient, supervise quietly and watch for the unsafe or dangers encountered by doing the task.
3. Never Humiliate, embarrass, down grade or make feel unworthy by grabbing, pulling or pushing a visually impaired person – always ask before assisting
4. Don’t forget a person can lose vision but the brain and muscles still work the same, intelligence and strength do not diminish with loss of vision. We need some help but can still think, lift, carry and other activities done before losing vision.
“Everyone is a genius. But if you judge a fish on its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.” –Einstein
He said a mouth full! Thanks for reading!