This month we celebrate National Eye Care Month, a great time to remind you to schedule your yearly eye exam and talk a little bit about low vision.
In addition to reminding you about the importance of eye health, we are going to dive a little deeper into the connection between vision impairment and mental and emotional health.
What we often forget to think about when it comes to those suffering with vision problems is the toll it takes on mental and emotional health and wellbeing.
Here’s an example:
Problem: Recently, while driving with dad, you noticed his reaction times were a little slower and he had to squint to read the road signs.
Solution: You request dad limit his time behind the wheel and that he doesn’t drive at night or in bad weather.
What you might not realize is this solution has a little bit of a ripple effect for your dad.
Not driving at night means he can’t go to his weekly meet up at the VFW where he visits with friends.
This leads to his social circle getting a little bit smaller and making him feel a little isolated.
He decides since he’s spending more time at home he’ll read or watch TV but since he has vision problems, these activities can sometimes be difficult and frustrating but he’s afraid to ask for help because he recently lost a piece of independence when his daughter told him when he could and could not drive and he’s afraid something like that will happen again.
The lack of social interaction paired with frustration over not being able to read or watch TV as easily leads to feelings of depression.
We know that this example may sound a little extreme but it’s important to remember that seniors, especially those living alone at home, tend to have limited social circles so losing even a small part of that circle can have a big impact on mental and emotional health.
You may be thinking, but this example doesn’t apply to me. Let’s take a more generalized look at the connection between eye health and mental health.
- Loss of Independence- not being trusted to cook for yourself or drive yourself around because of vision impairment or loss is one of the most common and impactful ways a senior feels they are loosing their independence – this loss of independence will lead to a decline in mental health.
- Medication side effects – seniors may be taking medication for both overall and eye health. It is important to be mindful of any potential side effects medications may have on vision or mental health.
- Isolation- someone living with low vison may develop a fear of participating in their regular social activities because they have started to struggle to see what’s going on or read what’s needed. This reluctance to participate leads to social isolation which may lead to depression.
So what can we do to support those living with vision impairment or starting to experience low vision problems?
- Exercise – being physically active will help with combating feelings of depression that may come from the side effects of vision loss.
- Eating Healthy – like exercise, eating healthy will help with feeling your best. It will also help in lowering your risk of Type 2 Diabetes and Diabetic Retinopathy which are the leading causes of vision loss.
- Support Groups – research low vision support groups in your area to get help with creative solutions.
- Assistive devices – look into low vision assistive technologies that help with activities like reading or watching television.
Here are a few low vision resources in New England:
We’re here to answer any of your questions. Please contact us if we can provide further information or if you would like to schedule a personalized tour. Download our complimentary Family Decision Toolkit.
Blue Cross Massachusetts