What vision aids are available?
What follows is by no means an exhaustive look at what aids are available, but it will give you an idea of the kinds of items that might benefit an older adult you're caring for.
*Glasses. Depending on his condition, he may benefit from a strong bifocal eyeglass prescription.The eye doctor can talk with him about special glasses to help maximize his sight and make him more comfortable. For example, he can have lenses made that magnify up to 20 times. Special absorptive lenses can regulate the amount of light -- reducing glare or increasing contrast. And, of course, lenses can also be made to eliminate harmful UV and AB rays, a very important factor for eye protection. Glasses can also be outfitted with magnifiers (see below).
*Large-print items. You'll be surprised at the number of products that are available in large print. Telephone books and menus are often available in large print, for example, as are checks with tactile lines (ask at your bank). You can find telephones, clocks, kitchen timers, and remote controls with large numbers, as well as measuring cups with big markings.
*Check out the large-print section of your local library. And if there's a particular book you'd like in large print but can't find locally, ask your librarian if she can use the interlibrary loan program to get it for you. There are even large-print book-of-the-month clubs.
*Closed-circuit television. Also called CCTV, this is basically a video camera mounted on a stand. It magnifies and takes a picture of an object and projects it on a video screen. It can be used for looking at everything from photos and recipes to newspaper articles and bills. A patient with vision problems may be able to use it for reading, writing, and craftwork. CCTV technology has made many advances in recent years. Some CCTVs come with special features such as underlining, and some can be used with a personal computer.
Magnifiers. These range from small pocket devices to magnified mirrors and eyepieces to large tabletop models.
*Pocket magnifiers are handy for reading menus and price tags while out and about. They come in various shapes and sizes and can magnify 1.5 to 2 times. Some are illuminated. If the patient's hands are shaky or tire easily, though, he may find one of these hard to use.
*Stand magnifiers might be of great help at home. These sit above what is being viewed and can magnify 2 to 20 times. Some are illuminated (by battery or electricity), which is often desirable because people with low vision usually need good, direct light.
*Monoculars are among the wide range of magnifying devices available to supplement prescription glasses and help with reading, watching television, or driving. Acting as small telescopes, monoculars (used with one eye, as opposed to binoculars, which are used with both eyes) can magnify 2.5 to 10 times, for example. They can be held in the hand, put on a neck cord, or mounted on eyeglasses.
*A bioptic system is a magnifying device (monocular or binocular) specifically mounted on eyewear. In recent years, these systems have become less cumbersome and more effective. There's even a telescope mounted on glasses that can automatically adjust the focus, much like an autofocus camera, for near or distant vision.