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 considered if you stay in your current home or move into specialist housing. They 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 and 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
- It is increasingly difficult to see when moving from a dark to a light room.
Over time the central part of the vision is lost, but the peripheral vision remains. Although there are types of macular degeneration which affects 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 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.
In The Home
Make the light in your home bright and even. Those living with macular conditions may be more sensitive to glare, so make sure the brightness of your lighting does not cause discomfort. Highlight what you are working on with task lighting. A neutral decor reflects light into the room. Often, improving lighting and reducing glare is enough. Some quick tips:
- Make the most of helping tools like non-slip mats, reading stands and magnifiers (links).
- Use equipment with audio feedback, like microwaves, watches, timers.
- Watches and mobile phones with large screens can be easier to read.
- Books and newspapers are usually available in large print or audio format.
- Adjust the distance to your television, or making sure 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 ) to 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.
- Using brightly coloured cups for drinks.
- Wrap brightly colour tape around kitchen utensils to make it easier to spot them.
- Using raised coloured stickers on kitchen appliances like the oven or washing machine to mark the most common settings.
- Use a liquid level indicator when pouring drinks and place the cups on a tray to contain spills.
- 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.
- Technology 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.
Outside the Home
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 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.
To make the most of the eyes remaining vision, good lighting in the home is important. This doesn’t just mean putting in very bright lights everywhere, as this can cause glare, shadows and light pools which can result in falls.
- Strong, balanced and glare free central lighting for rooms is helpful, also combined with bright directional task lighting e.g. reading lamps by chairs and spot lights for kitchen work areas.
- Maximising 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 )
- Using touch lights next to the bed, hallways and staircase, or at room entrances.
- Rechargeable wall lights might also help
- Lighting location is as important as the source to avoid glare and shadows.
- Choose fittings that are a contrasting colour to the walls
Low Vision Aids, Lighting and Technology
A number of tools and devices can help people with Age Related Macular Degeneration carry out daily activities and maintain their independence. Low Vision Aids can be helpful for many daily tasks and range from simple Magnifying Glasses with Lights to Electronic and Video Magnifiers.