How can I persuade my dad to be honest with others about his vision problem?

2 answers | Last updated: Aug 26, 2010
A fellow caregiver asked...

How can I convince my dad that he's best off being honest about his vision problem? He lives in an assisted living community, and he avoids situations where others can tell that he can't see.

Expert Answers

Lylas Mogk, M.D. is an ophthalmologist and director of the Henry Ford Visual Rehabilitation and Research Center in Grosse Pointe and Livonia, Michigan, and the author of Macular Degeneration: The Complete Guide to Saving and Maximizing Your Sight.

There are three reasons why some seniors don't want others to know they have vision loss. The first is a tremendous fear of blindness, coupled with the belief that acknowledging any vision loss is the first step on the way to blindness. They also often think that others will assume they're going blind if they say they're having vision problems. Most seniors with vision loss have macular degeneration, which doesn't lead to blindness. If that's the case with your parent, you should make that fact very clear.

Second, they don't want to feel "different." Approximately 30 percent of seniors in the United States who are 80 or over have some level of macular degeneration, so that in any assisted living residence many people are dealing with a similar experience. How about talking to the staff at your father's facility and see whether they can arrange a macular degeneration support group and posting a notice about it so everyone will realize how many of their neighbors also have some vision loss?

And finally, the emotional threat of vision loss comes from the enormous fear of losing independence, so empowering your parent to remain as independent as possible will likely reduce the impact of his vision loss and allow him to feel more like himself again. You can do that by putting him in touch with resources like low-vision rehabilitation centers, which teach people how to deal with impaired vision, finding devices (like reading machines or cooking aids) that might be useful, and training him to use those devices, if necessary. When he feels as if he has a handle on his vision loss, he may be more willing to acknowledge it to others.

Community Answers

Deafmack answered...

Also another problem that can be seen is glaucoma which can be seen with peripheral vision loss. Both problems can be assisted with not only the help of an opthamologist but also with the services of the local Blinc and Partially-Sighted Agency which can help with the assitance of readers, magnifiers, books on CD's, etc., thus making life much more enjoyable and enabling the person to keep most if not all of their independence with training and support.