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Moran's Patient Support Program Helps Those with Vision Loss Get Back to Doing What They Love

Barbara LaCoste reads with a magnifier device supplied by the Patient Support Program.
Barbara LaCoste reads with a magnifier device supplied by the Patient Support Program.

Four years ago, Barbara LaCoste began seeing blurry spots in her central line of vision. During an eye exam at the John A. Moran Eye Center, the 78-year-old received a diagnosis that was all too familiar to her and her family: age-related macular degeneration (AMD). 

The disease is a leading cause of blindness for people age 55 and older, and LaCoste says she probably inherited it from her mother, who was completely blind when she passed away in 1996. 

Today, LaCoste is legally blind and can no longer drive. But she often thinks of her mother and is grateful for modern treatment options allowing her to cope with the sight-robbing disease. 

“I wish my mother could have taken advantage of the treatment options that have helped me today,” says LaCoste, who at one time received regular injections to treat blood vessel leaks caused by her form of the disease. 

Another part of LaCoste’s care plan is Moran’s Patient Support Program, which assists people with low vision. The term “low vision” refers to vision loss that can’t be corrected by surgical or medical treatments or eyeglasses. It may result in blind spots, blurry sight, loss of central or peripheral vision, or trouble with depth perception. 

LaCoste has attended informational vision loss seminars and support groups through the program, directed by Lisa Ord, PhD, LCSW. Last year, the program gifted her a pair of magnifiers and another reading device with a screen. LaCoste says the tools have helped her continue to live independently with her husband, who has Alzheimer’s disease. 

“Dr. Ord is such a sweet person, and I’m so glad she’s in my corner,” says LaCoste. “She has not only provided me with resources and emotional support, but the 2x/4x/10x magnifiers help me with everyday tasks like reading our mail or prescription bottles.”

LaCoste was also a patient of Robert M. Christiansen, MD, FACS, who runs a clinic that gives patients with low vision strategies to improve functional ability, such as customized lighting inside the home. 

“I’m so grateful for Moran because I have been able to continue doing the things I enjoyed before vision loss, like cooking and baking; it’s the little things in life that are the most precious,” says LaCoste. “Sit down and do nothing? That’s not for me; I choose life.”

What People with Low Vision Want You to Know

Lisa Ord, LCSW, PhD, director of Moran’s Patient Support Program, shares 10 things to consider when approaching someone who looks like they may need assistance:

  • Introduce yourself. 
  • Ask questions and ask before assisting.
  • Ask before offering an arm or elbow.
  • If you’re unsure about the person’s needs, ask for clarification.
  • Be aware of making assumptions. For example, a person with visual impairment standing on a corner might appear to be lost when, in fact, they are listening to the traffic patterns. 
  • Be yourself, and don’t worry about using terms like “look” and “see.” 
  • Always ask before approaching working guide dogs. 
  • Accept “no” as an answer if someone declines your help. 
  • If they want your assistance, be as descriptive as possible when orienting someone to a space, food selections, or other options.
  • Remember that people are more than their low vision.

“It’s important to treat people with low vision as you would treat anyone else” says Ord. “Keep in mind that low vision does not mean low ability, and that will go a long way.”

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