|Photo: A WBRC Veteran learns to use a CCTV to read printed material.|
Here's eye-opening news: Currently, 4.2 million Americans ages 40 and older are visually impaired. Of these, 3 million have low vision. By 2030, when the last baby boomers turn 65, the number of Americans who have visual impairments is projected to reach 7.2 million, with 5 million having low vision.
For the millions of people who currently live or will live with low vision, the good news is there is help. Vision rehabilitation can make a big difference to a person adjusting to vision loss and should be considered a key part of a patient’s overall care.
Vision rehabilitation can include the following:
- Training to use magnifying and adaptive devices
- Teaching new daily living skills to remain safe and live independently
- Developing strategies to navigate around the home and in public
- Providing resources and support
But, what is low vision? Low vision is when even with regular glasses, contact lenses, medicine, or surgery, people have difficulty seeing, which makes everyday tasks difficult to do. Activities that used to be simple like reading the mail, shopping, cooking, and writing can become challenging.
Most people with low vision are age 65 or older. The leading causes of vision loss in older adults are age related macular degeneration, diabetic retinopathy, cataract, and glaucoma. Among younger people, vision loss is most often caused by inherited eye conditions, infectious and autoimmune eye diseases, or trauma.
For people with low vision, maximizing their remaining sight is key to helping them continue to live safe, productive, and rewarding lives.
The first step is to seek help.
For Veterans and Active Duty Service Members with vision loss there are a wide range of resources available through the VA Health Care System. The first step is contacting one of the VA’s VIST Coordinators.
The Visual Impairment Services Team (VIST) Coordinators are case managers who have responsibility for the coordination of services for visually impaired Veterans and active duty Service Members. VIST coordinator duties include providing and/or arranging the provision of appropriate treatment in order to enhance functioning such as making referrals to Blind Rehabilitation Centers, Blind Rehabilitation Outpatient Services, VICTORS, VISOR, and low vision clinics. Other VIST coordinator duties include identifying newly identified individuals who have severely disabling visual impairment, providing counseling, problem resolution, arranging a review of benefits and needed services, and conducting educational and outreach programs relating to VIST and blindness.
Veterans and eligible active duty Service Members should contact the VIST Coordinator in the VA facility nearest their home or by contacting the Blind Rehabilitation Service Program office at 202-461-7317.
The VAPAHCS VIST Website is also an excellent resource and can be viewed by CLICKING HERE.