Life at Home with Macular Degeneration
When you’re used to relying on your sight, any amount of vision loss from Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD) can make everyday tasks more challenging. If you lose a significant amount of central vision, it can become more difficult to do things like read, watch TV or cook. Thankfully, there are many resources offering smart ideas and useful tools to help you work around your vision limitations, maintain your independence and enjoy your life.
Your eyecare professional can help with suggestions or arrange for an occupational therapist to visit your home to provide tips that work just for you. Here are some helpful ideas to get you started.
Compensating for Vision Loss
Macular degeneration impacts only your central vision—what you see directly in front of you. Your peripheral vision, what you see to the sides, up and down, will likely remain sharp. Try positioning things to make use of these areas of sharper vision. With practice, you may find you can improve your ability to do tasks with peripheral vision. This is sometimes called “eccentric vision.”
You can also learn how to use your other senses to help you navigate your world. For example, when cooking, try slowly moving your hand about a foot over a pan on the stove to check that it’s centered over the burner. Too much heat in one spot might mean the burner is exposed.
Adjust your home lighting for low vision
With AMD, you may find that spaces start to seem darker. Whether you’re trying to knit, do laundry or chop vegetables, you may find it easier to use your remaining vision when working with good light. Try these tips:
- Increase the light in a room overall or use a lamp focused on a task.
- Place lighting so it shines directly on what you’re trying to do, without shadows or glare.
- Consider using LED lights. Look for bulbs that are labelled as “warm,” which have less blue tone. People with vision impairment typically do well with these.
- Try using a light that clips onto a hat or a cap, which is great for shining light wherever you turn your head.
Use contrast to find things
Another way to make tasks easier is to create more contrast in the colors of objects.
- Get a dark switch-plate or put dark tape around light switches and doorknobs to make them stand out.
- Arrange brightly colored pillows or a throw blanket to make it easier to see seating.
- Place strips of colored electrical or duct tape on the edges of steps to help prevent falls.
- Use paint or nail polish in bright or dark colors to create contrast on objects such as hairbrushes, kitchen items or tools.
Get help from a voice assistant and smart-home gadgets
A voice assistant can do everything from set an alarm, tell you the weather or make a grocery list. Add smart home devices like plugs and lightbulbs, and it can also turn on lights, adjust the thermostat and much more. You can start with the free voice assistant on any smartphone or get a smart speaker for your home.
How to Keep Doing What You Love with Low Vision
You might think that you’ll have to give up your favorite pastimes as your vision deteriorates. In fact, you can make adjustments that may help you keep doing what you love for quite some time.
In addition to using good lighting and relying on your peripheral vision, try these adaptations to make reading easier—or to enjoy your books without having to read.
- Use a magnifying glass to make words appear larger. Electronic magnifiers can put a larger image on the screen. Ask your eyecare professional about these devices.
- Put a clear yellow sheet on top of a printed page to increase the contrast and see if that makes it easier to see.
- On a computer, tablet or mobile phone, you can increase the size of the words and images. You can also switch the view to white letters on a black background, which may be easier to see.
- Explore audiobooks. You can access audiobooks for free from the National Library Service (click here for details). And your local library may have books available on tape, CD or on pre-recorded devices.
- Smart speakers can access audiobooks and read them to you—all you have to do is ask.
- Get a voice recognition program for your computer, tablet or phone that will read written text out loud.
Keep watching TV
If vision impairment from macular degeneration is getting in the way of enjoying your favorite shows, try these ideas:
- Correct any glare on the screen. Close curtains or move the screen away from lights and windows.
- Adjust the settings. Many televisions have controls for brightness and contrast. Try adjusting them to make the picture easier to see.
- Find your visual sweet spot. You might have stronger vision in one eye or be able to make better use of your peripheral (side) vision. Put your chair at a 45-degree angle to the screen and check if that’s better. Try other angles to find the best one.
- An adaptive product called a telescoping viewer can help you see what’s on the screen. Ask your eyecare professional about these devices.