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Living with AMD: Home Safety and Reading Aids

Joshua Dunaief, MD, PhD

Scheie Eye Institute, University of Pennsylvania

  • Expert Advice
Published on:
mother and daughter using stand based magnifier

Learn about helpful changes you can make at home to improve safety and your ability to read.

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) can cause distortion, blind spots or complete loss of central vision. Fortunately, most AMD patients retain their peripheral vision and are able to make adaptations to help them use this side vision.

Health care professionals, including optometrists who specialize in low vision, can prescribe special glasses and recommend lighting and electronic devices. Occupational therapists with expertise in this field can visit the home and make specific recommendations to enhance safety and activities of daily life.

Planning, patience, and professional assistance can help the AMD patient maximize daily life activities and safety.

Tips for Home Safety

Reducing Risk of Falls

Safety is an important issue, and a number of adaptations in the home can help.

  • If possible, it is best to live on a single-level home without stairs.
  • Thresholds should be flush with the floor.
  • If stairs are unavoidable, they should have handrails on both sides.
  • Marking steps with tape or painting them in contrasting colors can make them more visible.
  • Floors should be kept clear of low furniture, movable rugs, and clutter.
  • Grip bars on the walls of bathrooms near the toilet and shower are recommended.
  • A shower with a low barrier is generally safer than having to step over the side of a bathtub.
  • Use non-skid, brightly colored mats and a contrasting color toilet seat.
  • Night lights are generally helpful.

Lighting Tips

  • Lighting is important; bright, warm LED lighting can be helpful. “Warm” lighting does not refer to the temperature, but rather the color. Warm lighting tends to emphasize the reds and greens, while “cool” lighting emphasizes blue. Light bulbs are usually marked “warm” or “cool.”
  • Moveable lights like “architect’s lamps” can help illuminate specific tasks.
  • People who experience glare may benefit from using amber colored glasses lenses.

Kitchen Safety

In addition to the lighting suggestions mentioned above, the following tips would be helpful to employ in the kitchen:

  • Dials can be marked with bright tape or “glue bumps” to indicate specific settings, such as the 400 degree position on the oven.
  • Sharp implements can be marked with tape to help identify the handle.
  • For some people, high temperature cooking and sharp objects should be avoided.
  • Microwaves can be safer than ovens and stovetops.
  • Label medications in large print and have bright lighting and/or magnification available to read them, or a helper can put daily medications in a pill organizer box.

Reading Aids

  • Optical devices including high-power reading glasses, hand-held or stand-based magnifiers, and closed-circuit TVs can help with reading.
  • If central vision is significantly impaired, viewing objects with the eyes turned to the side (eccentric viewing), can help find a “sweet spot” on the retina that is not affected by AMD and can provide the best vision.
  • Small telescopes can be built into glasses to view objects at a distance.
  • Miniature telescopes can also be implanted into the eye (known as Implantable Miniature telescopes (IMTs)), and can be helpful for certain patients (an eye doctor can help determine which patients might benefit), although, as with all surgeries, there are some risks associated with the surgery required to implant the telescope.

Other devices that can be helpful include:

  • Large screens for TV and computer. The font size, magnification, color balance, brightness and contrast on the screen should be adjusted to maximize vision.
  • Computer keyboards with large letters are available.
  • Voice recognition software on computers and cell phones can convert the spoken word to text. It can also read text aloud.
  • Many audio books are now available on specific websites.
  • For patients who like print newspapers, large print versions of some newspapers are available.

About the author

dr._joshua_dunaief_new

Joshua Dunaief, MD, PhD

Scheie Eye Institute, University of Pennsylvania

Joshua Dunaief, MD, received his BA magna cum laude in Biology from Harvard (1987), MD/PhD from Columbia College of Physicians and Surgeons (1996), completed ophthalmology residency at the Wilmer Eye Institute, Johns Hopkins in 2000, and medical retina fellowship at Scheie Eye Institute, University of Pennsylvania in 2004.

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