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Interviewer: When first faced with the reality of vision loss, life can seem overwhelming. Denial, anger, fear, grief, hurt, rejection, abandonment, those are just some of the common psychological reactions that somebody could have when faced with the reality of life without or just even with limited sight. And without proper guidance, in many cases there's a great potential for isolation, depression, and dependence. That's why it is important to intervene early if somebody's losing their vision to help avoid some of these things happening.
Lisa Ord's a licensed clinical social worker. She also has a PhD in social work and is the Patient Support Program Director at the Moran Eye Center. It sounds like that vision loss is a lot more than just a physical issue, which a lot of people obviously know. There's a lot of psychological and mental stuff going on that we might not be aware of.
Dr. Ord: It really does affect every aspect of your life. It affects how you see yourself. It affects your roles with other people. You have to grieve it.
Interviewer: Yeah. And it affects your family. It affects the individual. So I'm somebody that has a loved one that's going through vision loss. And now, because of this first little bit here, I realize that there's a lot more going on than just the physical loss of sight. So how could I better support a loved one going through this?
Dr. Ord: I think the first thing you need to do is acknowledge with them that, you know, Mom, Dad, I know that you don't see as well as you used to, and I know that that can also affect other things that you've got going on in your life, and I want to know how I can best help you if you do want help, or help you to learn how to do what you want to do without as much sight as you've had.
Interviewer: Got you. So just open that dialogue.
Dr. Ord: Open the dialogue.
Interviewer: Do you find that most times that people are pretty responsive with that, or are they like my parents? They'd be like, "Oh, I'm fine."
Dr. Ord: It's the generation. Isn't it? You know, some are, some aren't really. But even if they, you know, "I'm fine," to you, they've heard you, and they know that you're aware and that you're there and that you want to help.
Interviewer: How much should you push the conversation at that point?
Dr. Ord: I would never push too hard. I have patients who say, you know, "My family, they won't leave me alone."
Interviewer: Oh, yeah? And that's all they want, is just leave me alone.
Dr. Ord: And there's others, they're just like, you know, "I really need some help, and there's nowhere to be found." So there's a happy medium.
Interviewer: That's right. Okay. So do you have any tips on how to approach the conversation? I think you gave us one already, just open up with, "I understand that this can be an issue that can lead to other issues. How are you doing? How are you feeling? Can I help you?" What other tips?
Dr. Ord: Exactly. I think, you know, acknowledging that maybe what you've been seeing in the anxiety of, "Am I going totally blind, or am I just losing some of my vision? What's going to happen? How am I going to manage?" Those kind of conversations I think are super important to have and just opening up to them and saying, you know, "I've been reading. I've heard that things can be very difficult. And how are you doing? How are you feeling about this?" Allow them and encourage them to continue doing the things that they want to do. And there is a way of doing everything if you know how to do it without sight. Sometimes they just need some tips and tricks on how to do something without being able to see it as well as they have in the past.
Interviewer: So tell me about some of the programs that you have at the Moran Eye Center.
Dr. Ord: So we have support groups. It's very important they get a lot from being able to talk with other people going through very similar things that the individual is going through at the time. We also have psychotherapy because it is a loss. You need to grieve it. There's a lot of anxiety. There's a lot of depression, so we do counseling. We also do skills, some basic vision loss skills and how to do things. We have an orientation to vision loss once a month on a Saturday that we talk about magnification, lighting, contrast, using your other senses, giving some tips on how to do things in a different way.
Interviewer: Yeah, my dad had macular degeneration, and I didn't really realize any of these things existed, and it would have been great to have had access to that sort of thing. We're very lucky here in Salt Lake City to have access to, you know, those resources at Moran Eye Center. Somebody who's not in Salt Lake City, how can they find resources?
Dr. Ord: There is a great website. It's the American Foundation for the Blind or afb.org, and there is a directory that you can search by state to find services in your area. Every state will have some kind of services for the visually impaired and blind. Sometimes it goes through the Office of Rehabilitation, sometimes it goes through the Office of Education, but every state will have some services.
Interviewer: And it sounds like people that use these resources find them very beneficial.
Dr. Ord: Oh, very beneficial.
Interviewer: It might be difficult to get somebody there at first but well worth it.
Dr. Ord: Absolutely. If you're losing your vision, it's okay to really have some strong emotions about it. It's okay. Then it comes to a point where it's like, "Okay, what am I going to do about it?" So then you take the next steps in learning how to live life fully, even with your vision loss.
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