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When a loved one loses their sight

Blindness is something that affects the whole family. When a loved one loses their sight the effects can be devastating for everyone involved, making the need for specialist support to help everyone overcome the challenges faced absolutely vital.

Currently in the UK, 1.8 million people are living with sight loss in the UK, and 1.4 million of these are over the age of 85.

The role of Blind Veterans UK

Over 59,000 ex-Service men and women are experiencing severe sight loss1. Most of these are battling sight loss alone, without any of the specialist support available, because they don’t know about the support available or they don’t realise they’re eligible.

Blind Veterans UK is the national charity for blind and vision impaired ex-Service men and women, providing lifelong training, equipment, rehabilitation and emotional support to help veterans, and their families and carers, adjust to life with sight loss and live full, independent lives.

When Sally Baldwin’s 91-year-old mother Eleanor lost her sight, she says her mum’s world got a lot smaller as she felt unable to do many things for herself. But, that’s all changed now, since Eleanor’s son told her about Blind Veterans UK and encouraged her to get in touch, because of her time as a Wren in the Second World War.

Since getting in touch with Blind Veterans UK, Eleanor says the support she has received has been so valuable in helping her realise that she can still do so much despite her sight loss. She’s been able to regain much of the independence she lost when she first lost her sight, and has even ridden a tandem bike and tried her hand at hobbies such as acoustic rifle shooting, archery and bowls.

Blind Veterans UK provides specialist sight loss support to veterans at home, in the community and at its three centres, in Brighton, Sheffield and Llandudno, so that each and every veteran can access support wherever and whenever they need to.

Eleanor is one of over 4,000 veterans currently receiving support from Blind Veterans UK, and just like Eleanor, 87% of the veterans supported are over the age of 75 and 61% have lost their sight due to age-related macular degeneration. What this means though is that there are still tens of thousands of veterans with sight loss currently battling sight loss alone.

Sally says: “Blind Veterans UK has supported my mum superbly. I would definitely encourage anyone who has a parent who served in the Armed Forces and now lives with severe sight loss to get in touch with the charity.”

Tips to help anyone with severe sight loss

If your parent or relative is now battling severe sight loss, here’s some of the ways you can help them at home:

  • Making things easy to find – Establish places for things around the home, and make sure they’re always in their ‘right’ place, making themmuch easier to find and help facilitate independence
  • Verbal communication – This is so important when someone loses their sight. Conversations like introducing yourself when you’re nearby, or letting your loved one know when you’re putting something near them, will help them know what’s going on
  • Technology – There are plenty of gadgets, apps and software that can help when someone loses their sight, such as a liquid level indicator that sits on the side of a mug and beeps when the mug is full, so they can make a cup of tea without having to rely on someone else to do it for them.
  • Social – Sight loss can be incredibly isolating, so finding activities and groups can make the world of difference. Being able to meet other people in a similar situation through Blind Veterans UK often inspires veterans to realise that sight loss is not the end
  • Seek specialist support – There are lots of local and national organisations, like Blind Veterans UK, that are there for people with sight loss

1 Blind Veterans UK’s survey of the vision impaired ex-Service population, 2015-40

If your parent has lost their sight, has just been diagnosed with sight loss, or is beginning to notice their sight deteriorating, and they have served in the Armed Forces, or did National Service, then get in touch with Blind Veterans UK. Call 0800 389 7979 or visit www.noonealone.org.uk for more information.

This article was published in April 2016

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