Linda Hepler, BSN, RN  |  3 Comments  | 

Helping Seniors Live with Low Vision

If you're caring for a family member with impaired vision due to glaucoma, cataracts, macular degeneration or diabetic retinopathy, there are many things you can do to help.

A good place to start is by learning as much as you can about the limitations imposed by this eye disease so that you can assist your loved one to function safely and productively at home.

Lighting and Glare Control

People with glaucoma require higher light levels, yet they have problems with glare, such as light shining into the eyes or reflecting off of shiny objects, like a Formica countertop. Contrast sensitivity (the ability to see different shades of the same color) is also affected. Guidelines for providing light and glare control include:

  • Position lighting directly onto tasks such as reading, cards, or hobbies with a small gooseneck or clip on lamp. Under-counter lighting works well for the kitchen or other work areas. Specialized lamps/bulbs to increase contrast and reduce glare are available through low vision supply companies.
  • Avoid large discrepancies in lighting, such as a bright lamp shining into a dark room. As task lighting is increased, the surrounding room lighting should also be increased. Keeping lights on during daytime hours helps to equalize lighting from indoor and outdoor sources.
  • Reduce glare by covering reflective surfaces when possible and making sure that the person is not seated facing the window, especially when reading or working at a task. Encourage her to wear tinted glasses and a visor when reading or working outside.


Magnification is an essential tool for those with low vision, and magnifying devices range from the very simple to increasingly complex technology. Some of these include:

  • Large print books, checkbooks, calendars, calculators, remote control units, clocks and watches, appointment books, and playing cards.
  • Small pocket magnifiers for reading a restaurant menu or a price tag, large illuminated stand magnifiers for reading and performing other tasks at home.
  • Electronic magnification units, which use a camera to capture an image on a printed page and project it onto a built-in monitor, a television monitor or a computer screen. These units can be used to read bills and write checks, look at books, newspapers and photos, read labels on food or medicine and fill an insulin syringe. Available through low vision supply companies, they can be chosen with preference for image size, degree of contrast, and color or black and white. They range in size from large models to small portable devices.
  • Telescopic systems to magnify distance objects, such as the television. These may be handheld or mounted in eyewear called "bioptics."
  • Adaptive equipment for computer use, such as screen enlargement software, large lettered keyboards and near telescopic systems.
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