How Can This Guide Help You?
If you or a close relative have been diagnosed with a macular condition there are several things you can do to improve your home environment to enjoy life and live it to the full. These ideas can be useful whether you stay in your current home or move into specialist housing. It includes suggestions about:
- General tips around the home.
- Gadgets and equipment.
Symptoms of Macular Degeneration
Macular degeneration is a disease which leads to a loss of central vision. The macular is a small area of the retina, at the back of the eye. When the cells in this area deteriorate, it affects your eyesight in general, but it can begin with specific symptoms:
- Objects directly in front of you can change shape, size or colour.
- You can only see parts of a page when reading.
- It is difficult seeing in bright lights and glare causes you discomfort.
- It is increasingly difficult to see when moving from a dark to a light room.
Over time there is a loss of central vision, but the peripheral vision remains. Although there are some types of macular degeneration which affect young adults, most macular degeneration is age related. The two types of age-related macular degeneration are:
- Wet Age-Related Macular Degeneration - New vessels form on the retina which ‘bleed’ and cause scarring. Loss of central vision can occur very rapidly and it usually affects both eyes.
- Dry Age-Related Macular Degeneration - As pigment cells under the retina die, vision becomes reduced. This can be very slow - sometimes over many years. A small proportion of people with dry AMD may also go on to develop wet AMD.
These are some simple changes that you can make around the house to make your life easier:
- Make the most of helping tools like non-slip mats, reading stands and magnifiers.
- Use equipment with audio feedback, like microwaves, clocks and timers.
- Books and newspapers are usually available in large print or audio format.
- Use a liquid level indicator when pouring drinks and place the cups on a tray to avoid spilling them.
- An easy way to differentiate the shampoo and the soap is to wrap an elastic band around one of them.
- Keep your shoes in pairs with a clothes peg.
- A writing frame can help keep the writing lines straight, and a signature guide helps when signing documents.
- Keep a pocket dictation machine instead of a pen and paper by the phone to make it easier to take messages.
- Adjusting the distance to your television, or making sure that you have a TV set suitable for your vision, might help improve your viewing.
Using big, bright, bold and contrasting colours (like the homepage of our website) can make it easier to differentiate items. Some examples include:
- Painting windows and door frames a different colour to the walls, or the walls a different colour to the floor.
- Use different coloured chopping boards for different coloured foods.
- Use brightly coloured cups for drinks.
- Wrap brightly coloured tape around kitchen utensils to make it easier to spot them.
- Use raised coloured stickers on kitchen appliances like the oven or washing machine to mark the most common settings.
It's also important to have a good illumination at home to make the most of your remaining vision. This doesn’t mean that you have to fill your house with lamps, but rather to be mindful of the type of light and its location. Some tips that you can put into practice:
- Strong, balanced and glare-free central lighting for rooms is helpful, also combined with bright directional task lighting focused on you what you're working on, e.g. reading lamps by chairs and spot lights for kitchen work areas.
- Maximise natural light: this may be as simple as getting rid of curtains (or at least using half size or very thin white ones if privacy is an issue )
- Place touch lights next to the bed and in hallways and staircase, or at room entrances.
- Rechargeable wall lights might also help.
- Lighting location is as important as the source to avoid blinding glare, but also creating shadows and pools of light that can hinder your vision and lead to falls.
- Choose a neutral decor that reflects light into the room and fittings that are a contrasting colour to the walls.
When Out and About
Consider carrying a symbol cane - a short white cane which indicates that you have a visual impairment. In general, letting people know that you have a visual impairment because of a macular disease helps them understand more about it and can make your life easier. For example, people with a macular disease often worry that they will accidentally walk past friends without recognising them, perhaps upsetting them. Letting people know will help avoid misunderstandings.
Pedestrian crossings have ways of letting people know when it's safe to cross. Some make a repeating beeping sound, others have a small cone-shaped bump under the control box that turns when it's safe to cross.
Low Vision Aids and Technology
There are also many tools and gadgets that can help you carry out daily activities and maintain your independence, whether at home or on the go.
- Watches and mobile phones with large screens can be easier to read.
- Many devices, such as tablets and smartphones often come with apps and software that will help you access information. Large keyboards and audio software can help you make the most of your device.
- Low Vision Aids can be helpful for many daily tasks and range from simple Magnifying Glasses with Lights to Electronic and Video Magnifiers.