Low Vision Therapy Improving Residents' Lives

Published: Monday, February 19, 2018

Low vision is a condition caused by eye disease in which visual acuity is 20/70 or poorer in the better-seeing eye and cannot be corrected or improved with regular eyeglasses.

Lutheran SeniorLife has developed a program through the occupational therapy department for those who fall into this category. The background and success of the program stems around visual retraining and home adaptation to produce dramatic increases in visual acuity, reading ability and overall function and independence.

Ruth Parker, 94, of Passavant Community was diagnosed with macular degeneration about 10 years ago when she lived in Florida. This is an eye disease where people initially experience wavy or blurred vision. As the disease progresses, a person’s central vision is affected and may be completely lost, but peripheral vision is maintained. In other words, if you were looking straight ahead, there might be a big black dot in the middle of your field of vision.

Ruth has been receiving low vision therapy for about two years with the help of occupational therapist, Georgiann Dieteman and has had a remarkable vision improvement.

Dieteman visited Ruth’s home and was able to determine that the lighting was not sufficient or located in a place advantageous to Ruth’s success. They changed the lighting above Ruth’s table, determined she should be sitting in a different chair at the table for maximum light, and Dieteman taught her how to read by just using her peripheral vision.

Learning new methods for using her field of vision, Ruth has also found it easier to assist her husband with the daily crossword puzzle. Audio books, and large print books are also readily available at local libraries.

“Many people are told there is nothing that can be done with their vision once they have eye diseases,” Dieteman said, “but we have been very successful in helping people retrain their eyes to continue to do what they have always done.”

“I didn’t think I was ready for vision help, but I’m so glad I asked for help,” Parker said. “It has been a blessing for me.  According to Dieteman, it is a common misconception in people with eye issues. Like many other preventative treatments, she said, “some people wait until there is nothing that can be done, but if low vision therapy is started early, so much can be done and life can be so much fuller.”

Ruth doesn’t let much slow her down. She is a past gold medalist in shuffleboard at the National Senior Games, winning a silver medal just last year. Vision training has helped her maintain her activity level and independence.

If you or a loved one could benefit from Visual Rehabilitation, please contact us at (724) 452-3492.

Pictured are Passavant Community resident Ruth Parker and Occupational Therapist Georgiann Dieteman

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