June is National Safety and Vision Research Month. People who suffer from low vision can be at increased risk for falls in the home. However, there are 10 simple adaptations that can help improve home safety for someone suffering from low vision. A variety of eye conditions, including macular degeneration, glaucoma, and diabetic retinopathy, can make it difficult to complete daily tasks. Occupational therapy practitioners are skilled in helping clients make adaptations to remain safe in their homes and communities despite vision loss. “There are many simple adaptations that can significantly improve an older adult’s ability to do the things he or she wants to do,” says Jennifer Kaldenberg, MSA, OTR/L, SCLV, FAOTA, a clinical assistant professor and academic fieldwork coordinator at Boston University’s College of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences: Sargent College. “Sometimes, simple adaptations such as improving the light near a favorite sitting area or using raised markings on appliances, can improve an individual’s ability to complete daily activities. Occupational therapy practitioners bring a fresh perspective and can offer adaptive techniques to maximize safety and independence.”
The American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) offers some tips for living life to its fullest with low vision:
1. Maintain good lighting in the home, and remove clutter and throw rugs to avoid falls.
2. Keep frequently used items easily available for quick, unmistakable access. Consider a wall-mounted peg board for common kitchen utensils to avoid digging in drawers.
3. Arrange clothes by color in your closet and drawers, putting navy and black items on opposite sides. Use different hampers to keep similar colors separated when ready to wash.
4. Make a grocery shopping list that coordinates with the store’s aisles and departments. When possible, shop online or utilize delivery services for groceries and clothing.
5. Mark prescription bottles with raised markings, Velcro, or rubber bands to make them easier to distinguish.
6. Arrange refrigerator and pantry items in an order that feels natural.
7. Mark appliance dials with raised markings (bump dots) for commonly used settings.
8. Use items with good contrast, such as white mugs for coffee, or black measuring cups for flour and sugar.
9. Use colored trays or folders to organize bills and important papers. When possible, pay and track bills online so you can enlarge the font.
10. Be sure grab bar colors contrast with the wall colors.
These are just a few of the countless ways to help make life with low vision easier. By working with an occupational therapy practitioner, individuals with vision loss can learn strategies that will improve their ability to manage daily activities and improve their quality of life. Occupational therapy practitioners also provide adaptations and visual training techniques. AOTA offers a tip sheet for helping people with low vision to live life to its fullest.
Founded in 1917, the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) represents the professional interests and concerns of more than 140,000 occupational therapists, assistants, and students nationwide. The Association educates the public and advances the profession of occupational therapy by providing resources, setting standards including accreditations, and serving as an advocate to improve health care. Based in Bethesda, Md., AOTA’s major programs and activities are directed toward promoting the professional development of its members and assuring consumer access to quality services so patients can maximize their individual potential. For more information, go to www.aota.org.