By Kathy Ferguson, RN, Parish Nurse
So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.
2 Corinthians 4:18
According to the Minnesota State Services for the Blind (SSB) 25,000 Minnesotans will experience vision loss in the next five years. Because of the large number of individuals affected by vision loss, the SSB developed the Aging Eyes Initiative. The initiative is a “community partnership to expand the reach of low-vision services for Minnesota seniors experiencing the beginning of vision loss.” Through the Aging Eyes Initiative the SSB trains community members, including parish nurses, about health conditions leading to vision loss and how to assess for early vision loss. Individuals who are trained are also given multiple resources and tools to assist those experiencing vision problems. As Bethel’s parish nurse, I attended the training for this program in October 2016 and am able to assist anyone experiencing vision loss who is currently not working with the SSB.
There are several conditions that lead to vision loss as we age. These include: glaucoma, cataracts, diabetic retinopathy, and macular degeneration. Some of these conditions are treatable and following treatment, vision usually improves significantly, e.g. cataracts. Others, macular degeneration and diabetic retinopathy, have treatments available but the condition generally progresses and vision loss occurs.
For those experiencing vision loss, denial, depression, anxiety, and a loss of independence can have a significant impact on their lives. The SSB is available to assist those adjusting to living with diminished vision. The following are some of the resources available. Most of them are free of charge.
• Radio Talking Book is a radio reading service available by radio and web. It is accessible 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Materials read include newspapers, magazines, novels, and nonfiction.
• Talking Book provides audio, large print, braille books and magazines.
• Newsline (National Federation for the Blind) provides access to 300 newspapers and magazines and is available by touch-tone phone, computer, and smart phone applications.
• Dial-In News allows the visually impaired to access Minnesota newspapers by touch-tone phone.
If you or a family member is experiencing vision loss and not currently being assisted by the SSB, I have resources and tools to help you. I will do a simple vision assessment and if you qualify, I have many items available in a Low Vision Kit that I may be able to provide for you free of charge. If you are experiencing vision loss, there is help available. Please feel free to contact me by e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org or by contacting the church office (507) 288-6430.