Providing the Best Care for People with Vision Impairments

Here at LifeWorx, we know from first-hand experience that people with vision impairments live a different kind of life than most others but that doesn’t mean their lives can’t be filled with the same kind of joy and fulfillment as anyone else. 

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People with vision impairments often just need some assistance with a few basic tasks and you can be the one that helps them. A relatively small amount of effort and care on your part will go a long way towards improving that person’s entire day. All it takes is to have some patience, empathy, solid communication skills, and basic knowledge. We trust that you already have the first three things on that list, so we’d like to give you that basic knowledge you’ll need, in order to effectively care for people with vision impairments. 

Communication is key

Whenever you’re speaking to a person with vision impairment, you should speak to them with a normal tone and volume. Make sure you announce yourself whenever you enter a room that they’re in. If you’re meeting this person for the first time, you can ask them about the nature of their vision impairment. Not all people with vision impairment are fully blind. They may have peripheral vision, central vision, a need for light, photophobia, or blurred vision. Knowing what kind of visual impairment they have might help you to better assist them.

Navigating their spaces

If you are caring for them in their own home, make sure you don’t move any of their furniture or belongings unless they specifically ask you to do so. If you are in a place that’s unfamiliar to them, always make sure you describe their surroundings to them and warn them about any obstacles that are nearby. 

Assisting with meal time

If you are feeding a person with vision impairment, you should let them know exactly what food you will be feeding them. Let them know exactly what is on the spoon or fork before each bite. Don’t put too much food on there. Slowly bring the utensil up to their mouth and let them know to open their mouth. Allow the person plenty of time to chew and swallow their food in between bites.

Service animals

Some people with vision impairment use a walking stick or a service dog to get around. Don’t assume that this means they won’t want your help to walk somewhere. Always ask the person if they would like any assistance. Speaking of service dogs, they are not pets. They are working. If you pet them or give them too much attention, you might distract them from their duty. Don’t touch or pet the service dogs unless you ask the person with vision impairment for permission first. 

Moving around safely

If they want your assistance to walk somewhere, you can ask them to grab your arm. Gently touch the back of their hand so they can feel where your arm is. They should hold your arm right above your elbow. If you are walking with an elderly person, they might prefer to hook their entire arm around your elbow. If you are walking with a toddler, they can grab hold of your hand or fingers.

You’ll want to walk next to but slightly ahead of them so that you can lead them. Make sure you’re not walking too quickly for them. You want them to feel comfortable and confident that you will safely guide them to their destination. 

When approaching a door or narrow space, inform the person of what’s up ahead. When you are close to the door or narrow space, gently move your hand behind your back so that the person can walk directly behind you. Make sure you’re able to hold the door open for them to safely pass through it behind you. 

Getting seated

If you need to help the person to sit down, guide them to the chair. Gently place their hand onto the chair’s arms, seat and back. Let them know whether it’s up against a wall or anything else you think they should be aware of. Make sure you’re still holding their hand until they’ve sat down. If necessary, stabilize the chair by holding it in place. 

Taking the stairs

When you approach a set of stairs, the first step is to let the person know about them. Tell them whether the steps are going up or down. Tell them how many steps there are. Let them know if there is a short landing in between sets of steps. Let them know if there is a handrail they can hold onto. Let them know if the handrail ends at the last step or if it extends onto the ground level. Count out each step as you take them so that the person is aware of how many steps remain. If you are walking up the steps, stand slightly behind the person. If you are walking down the steps, stand slightly in front of the person. This will ensure that you are always below the person, in case they trip and you need to catch them.

Your efforts mean everything!

At first, it might be difficult for you to adjust to these steps and techniques, but they are the key to caring for people with vision impairments. Whether you are assisting a loved one, a patient, or anyone else, the information in this article will help you bring more satisfaction, comfort, and bliss to their lives. Whatever amount of effort that takes on your part will pale in comparison to the positive impact you will be making on that person’s life. People with vision impairments deserve to be happy just as much as we all do.

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