Rehabilitation for Vision Impairment

People diagnosed with age-related vision loss disease such as macular degeneration, diabetic neuropathy, or glaucoma often experience difficulty completing activities of daily living. Intervention through occupational therapy can help individuals with low vision live safely and independently.

With the continuing rise in the age of our population, the number of people with low vision has increased substantially. In response to this growing need, Firelands Regional Medical Center Outpatient Occupational Therapy Services recently established a low vision rehabilitation program.

“People with vision impairment may have problems with every day tasks including personal grooming, safe meal preparation, managing medications and finances, shopping, and dressing," said Meghan Collins, OT, coordinator of Low Vision Rehabilitation at Firelands Regional Medical Center. "With occupational therapy we can help them compensate for vision loss by teaching them how to use their remaining vision as efficiently as possible, modifying their activities, and using adaptive equipment."

Patients are assessed on their functional visual performance in several categories including:

  • Personal appearance – hair care and dressing
  • Health Self-Management – setting up and taking medication, monitoring health, and shopping
  • Meals and Clothing Care – preparing meals, eating, and laundering clothes
  • Financial Management –managing records on paper or computer, reading bills, and writing checks
  • Telephone and Digital Devices – physically operating telephone, retrieving telephone numbers, and operating digital devices
  • Reading – TV guide on TV, books, labels and instructions, forms, credit and debit cards
  • Writing – legible personal list, legible signature, and addressing envelopes
  • Functional Mobility – ascending and descending stairs, adjusting to changes in walking surfaces, avoiding collisions and tripping, locating and reading signs

“Depending on the assessment, we outline a set of goals for the patient and work with him or her to make whatever modifications are needed to improve their remaining vision,” says Meghan. 

What Causes Vision Impairment and the Need for Rehabilitation?

Certain eye diseases and conditions can cause low vision, many of which are age-related. One example of this is macular degeneration, which is when the macula - the area on the retina responsible for sharp central vision-deteriorates, causes blurred vision. Other symptoms of vision impairment from macular degeneration include difficulty reading and and blind spot in the central area of vision.

Diabetic neuropathy can cause vision impairment over time, some days being worse than others. Diabetes can cause blood vessels that nourish the retina to develop tiny, abnormal branches that leak. This can negatively affect vision and over time, damage the retina. 

Glaucoma involves increasing pressure to the eye, which There are no early symptoms in the most common form of glaucoma, but the first signs of damage are defects in side (peripheral) vision and difficulty with night vision.damages the optic nerve. 

Vision impairment rehabilitation patients attend anywhere from four to ten therapy sessions, depending on their goals, with an average of six sessions. The program is covered by Medicare, Medicaid, and private insurances. The patient must have a diagnosis of macular degeneration, diabetic neuropathy or glaucoma with 20/100 or less visual acuity and be referred by an ophthalmologist or optometrist. For more information, call 419-557-7040.