How To Make Your Home Safe for a Loved One with Vision Loss

Chad Birt

Written by Chad Birt on Mon May 22 2023.

Father and son at table.

How To Make Your Home Safe for a Loved One with Vision Loss

Age-related vision loss affects up to 3.3 million Americans 40 and older. If you care for someone with glaucoma, cataracts, or age-related macular degeneration, it’s essential to take action. Regular eye doctor visits can prevent symptoms from worsening, and home modifications can help reduce the risk of falls and other injuries. 

Below is an easy-to-follow guide to making your home safer for a loved one with vision loss.

What You’ll Need

You don’t need any special equipment to make your home safe for a loved one with vision loss. We touch on some helpful software applications later in the article, but these can be accessed with a smartphone or internet connection.

How to Make Your Home Safer for a Loved One with Vision Loss 

Step 1: Meet With a Low Vision Specialist and an Occupational Therapist

Visiting an occupational therapist can better help you understand how to adapt your home to help your loved one best.

“Occupational therapists can implement changes throughout your or your loved one’s home and teach your loved one how to use specialized optical devices to better their lives,” suggests Dr. Brad Boyle, an optometrist and the owner of Advanced Family Eye Care in Cedar Valley, Iowa. 

Caregiver Tip

Dr. Boyle says it’s vital to start low vision training before significant vision loss occurs. A low vision specialist can identify diseases, like macular degeneration, early on and help you prepare for the road ahead.

Step 3: Practice Being More Verbal

Vision loss affects your loved one’s ability to see the world. You might scare or startle them if they don’t know you’re in the same room or nearby. These reactions are normal, but they can also cause unnecessary stress.

“If you care for someone with low vision, I recommend being as verbal as possible,” Dr. Boyle said. “Use words to announce yourself when you enter a room. Likewise, tell your loved one everything you’re doing when spending time with or caring for them.”

Step 4: Utilize Technology

Various smartphone and computer applications are designed to make life with low vision more accessible. Dr. Boyle recommends the following:

  • Be My Eyes: “This app connects people who are blind or who have low vision with sighted volunteers who can help with day-to-day tasks,” Dr. Boyle said.

  • The ‘TalkBack’ Feature on iPhone and Android: The ‘TalkBack’ feature uses your smartphone’s camera to read the text in your environment, like posters or signs. Your smartphone translates the text to speech and then says it out loud.” 

  • OrCam: OrCam makes handheld and wearable AI devices that use assistive technology to help people with low vision read. The devices seamlessly attach to any pair of glasses and respond to verbal commands. 

Step 5: Remove Potential Hazards

People with low or impaired vision are likelier to experience trips, slips, and falls. “As far as home safety goes, make sure that stairs are marked off, and the house is picked up,” Dr. Boyle said. 

Keep electrical cords tidy and make sure hallways and rooms are well-lit. Remove boxes, books, and other clutter off the floor and install handrails in precarious areas, such as the bathroom and kitchen.

Step 6: Make Your or Your Loved One’s Home Easier to Navigate

After removing all potential trip hazards, create a permanent layout for the main floor of your or your loved one’s home. 

“Familiarity is the most important thing for people with low vision,” Dr. Boyle said. “Try to navigate your house with no lights at all, and you will be surprised at how well you do. The same goes for people with low vision. Make the layout second nature to them, and you’ll have less to worry about. “

Step 7: Consider a Guide Dog

Think about a guide or seeing eye dog if your loved one is legally blind and in relatively good health. A companion animal can increase their independence and make it easier to leave home. 

Seeing eye dogs are specially trained to receive instruction in various situations and settings, including residential areas, public transportation hubs, and office buildings. They’re taught to have excellent traffic awareness and understand and respond to verbal commands.

Step 8: Encourage Your Loved One to Stay Active

This step is more advice than a safety tip, but it’s still important. “Just because someone has low vision doesn’t mean they can no longer live,” Dr. Boyle said.

“I once had a patient who was completely blind and a hunter. He used a gun with a laser mounted to it and had a spotter. The spotter would spot the game he was hunting and direct his laser. He was successful many times, and he was completely blind.”

Adjusting to low vision can be challenging at first, but your encouragement and support can go a long way toward helping your loved one thrive. 

Need More Information?

We’re here to assist! At Carewell, we routinely help family caregivers with their eye care needs. Our online store has reading glasses, contact lens solutions, and eye patches. If you have questions about any of these products or need additional information, contact our friendly Caregiving Specialists anytime. 

Our team members speak English and Spanish and are standing by. Call (800) 696-CARE or send an email to support@carewell.com today.

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Chad Birt
Chad Birt

Chad Birt is a freelance medical writer who resides in Astoria, Oregon. When he isn't behind a keyboard, you can find him hiking, camping, or birdwatching with his wife Ella and their two dogs, Diane and Thoreau.