Living with Low Vision: Tips for Home Safety

According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in 2015, approximately 1.02 million people in the United States were blind and approximately 3.22 million had low vision, even after wearing the best prescription corrective lenses available. These numbers are expected to increase significantly in the coming years.

Although low vision can affect anyone, you have a higher risk of developing age-related vision loss if you are over 40. the leading cause of vision loss with age is age-related macular degeneration (AMD), although the risks of glaucoma, cataracts and diabetic retinopathy also increase.

Fortunately, you can take steps to help reduce the impact of low vision. The following tips can help you or a loved one better navigate your home safely, maintain greater independence, and maintain a better quality of life.

Small objects and text may be harder to see. Consider investing in tools to make everyday objects easier to read.

Consider the following:

  • Make large, clear labels for stoves, microwaves, and other frequently used appliances that have small print.
  • Use remotes, phones, and small devices with large screens.
  • Have magnifying glasses around the house to see smaller objects.
  • Ask your pharmacist to use large print for prescription bottles and drug information.

Lighting can help improve vision when performing tasks.

When lighting your home, keep in mind that the further away you are from the light source, the more powerful a bulb you will need to achieve the same level of brightness needed for reading or performing other tasks.

Some feasible steps include the following:

  • Install under cabinet lighting, closet lighting, and lighting in dimly lit areas.
  • Check the wattage of the light bulbs in the house and increase their power if necessary.
  • Experiment with bulb types to find the lighting that works best for you.
  • Keep lights on during the day to help minimize glare.

60 to 100 watt bulbs or their equivalents often provide adequate light in fixtures.

Some objects around the house can be hard to see but easy to trip over. Taking steps to eliminate clutter can help, but you can also do things like:

  • remove the rugs
  • repair loose boards or carpets
  • if possible, level the ground so that it is flat
  • use zip ties or other devices to keep cords out of the way
  • clean up spills immediately
  • keep small furniture and accessories, such as end tables, stools, and other items out of the way

You can also make walkways safer by positioning furniture with large gaps between them. It can help you or a loved one avoid bumping into furniture as you walk around the house.

Other Safety Tips

While keeping pathways clear and wide can help navigate around the house, there are additional steps you can take to make navigating around the house safer. Here are a few tips:

  • Keep the water heater at 120°F (49°C) or lower.
  • Change smoke detector batteries twice a year.
  • Consider adding safety bumpers to oven racks to prevent burns.
  • Install safety bars in the tub and shower as well as handrails on the stairs.

Contrasting colors can help you distinguish and find objects more easily. Try following these steps:

  • Replace doorknobs with lighter colors on dark doors and darker colors on light doors.
  • Use covers for sockets and switches that contrast with the color of the walls.
  • Mark the steps with brightly colored masking tape.
  • Use a light or dark cutting board to contrast with the food being cut.
  • Buy towels that contrast with the bathroom walls.
  • Use a large high-definition TV that provides good contrast.
  • When eating, choose plates, utensils, cups, bowls and napkins that contrast with the table and the food.

Knowing where an item or object should be can help find it or, in the case of walking around, avoid it. Organizing your space or that of a loved one, including closets, living areas, drawers, and cabinets, can help you better navigate around the house and find items.

Once organized, it’s important that you and your family members put things in their place. Labeling with color coding or tactile labeling can also help locate items.

Many smart home devices and tools are readily available for sale. Some devices, from kitchen scales to home assistive devices, have talkback features that can help you if you suffer from low vision or blindness.

By replacing as many devices as possible with voice functions or voice commands, you can help maintain your independence or that of a family member.

Talking devices can allow you to:

  • turning lights or electronics on and off
  • lock and unlock the doors
  • create shopping lists or reminders
  • read audiobooks or articles
  • contact your loved ones or the emergency services

Protecting your vision is an important part of your overall health. Regular eye exams can both help get you on the right script for your glasses and contacts and check for degenerative diseases that may affect your vision in the future.

You should see your eye doctor if you have any sudden changes in your vision, including reduced vision, floaters, or strange lights. Additionally, symptoms related to your eyes often warrant a visit to the doctor, such as eye pain or redness.

It is also important to plan and perform any necessary tests or treatments that are regularly scheduled and recommended by your doctor. Prompt diagnosis and treatment can help preserve vision.

Living with vision loss at any age can be frustrating, but simple changes can improve quality of life and independence.

At home, you can take steps to reduce the need for extra help by eliminating safety hazards, lighting the house well, using organization, and investing in some helpful items.

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