When vision loss occurs some people adjust naturally when they begin to loose their sight and sometimes people just don’t know what to do.

As rehab professionals we look for ways to make daily activities easier for people. When working with a person with vision loss it is especially important to be mindful of their home set up and how things are arranged. When I was just starting off early in my career it felt so good to change something thinking “Yes! This will be much better for my patient…they will love this!” Only to find out that I “Moved their cheese” and they were completely thrown off by what changes I made. Sometimes we make life harder for ourselves than it needs to be with our great intentions.

One story I wanted to share that may help you understand some barriers I observe with low vision clients, is when someone moves from one home environment to a new home when they need a higher level of care. They are often unable to locate familiar items or have the organization in place as they did at their previous home.

A patient that I have been working with confessed to me that she has been so itchy lately she has been up all night scratching at her skin. She could not figure out what is wrong. I went through my initial questioning about changes in medications, food allergies, and new detergents/soaps she is using. She did not have any changes and has been using the same skin care products as she usually does. Upon further inspection of her skin care products I observe there is many bottles of cream and beauty supplies around her home. She has been living in a new home for a few months as she and her husband downsized to a smaller two bedroom apartment. I found one bottle of “cream” next to her bed and asked her if she uses this “cream” often on her skin and she verbalized that she has been using it to help her itchy skin many times a day. I let her know that the “cream” she has been using was in fact body wash and she had been applying many layers on her skin frequently causing her itchy skin. The patient was relieved but embarrassed she had no idea due to her low vision that she was using the body wash as lotion.

For this patient I organized her beauty supplies making sure we place body washes in shower area, cream/lotions on one table with other backup creams under her sink. In her bathroom I removed cleaning supplies from the bathroom and placed under the kitchen sink. I also used black hair bands and rubber bands to identify her shampoo bottles from her conditioner bottles.

Key Organization Essentials

  • ASK AND LISTEN – Ask the patient about your concern and If you can suggest a change. Really listen to understand the reason why they are performing a task a certain way.
  • ONE CHANGE AT A TIME – Making too many changes at once does not allow you to know what change exactly made the impact good or bad for the patient.
  • SET UP IS KEY– When someone looses their sight they need organization. When loved ones or caregivers are involved sometimes items may be moved around creating more confusion for a person who has limited sight. Work closely with your patient to find the best placement of items for success so there is no confusion. Labeling items may be necessary to help maintain success when you are no longer in the picture.
  • CONTRAST WITH COLOR AND TEXTURE– Adding something textured or bold colors helps to label items that may look similar to other items in the home to help the low vision patient identify items more easily.
  • ADVOCATE TO STAY ORGANIZED– Educate caregivers and family members on the benefits of keeping the organization in place so that success is continued with locating objects. This is especially important when someone is doing their laundry or shopping for the low vision patient and puts groceries/supplies away for them.

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