Macular Degeneration Research

Macular Degeneration: Home & Personal Safety

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Age-related macular degeneration can cause distortion, blind spots, or complete loss of central vision. Fortunately, most people with age-related macular degeneration retain their peripheral vision and can make adaptations to help them use this side vision.

Healthcare 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 maximize daily life activities and safety. With some adjustments, people with low vision can live independently, continue to carry out daily activities and take pleasure in their hobbies.

Seek help through friends, family, and volunteer groups to implement adaptations that reflect your needs, help you function better in your home, and increase your enjoyment of life.

Home Safety for People with Macular Degeneration

In your home, the general guidelines include:

  • Increase lighting for tasks
  • Control glare
  • Use magnification
  • Increase contrast

The following suggestions can make the home safer and easier to function in:

Adequate Lighting

  • Bright, warm LED lighting can be especially 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.”
  • Use overhead lights (determine which type of bulbs are best).
  • Use task lights to direct light where it is needed. Moveable lights like “architect’s lamps” can help illuminate specific tasks.
  • Install under-cabinet lighting and extra lighting in hallways and on stairs.
  • Use dimmer switches to control the amount of light in rooms.
  • Use night-lights.
  • Control glare by using blinds and curtains in windows when necessary. 

Kitchen Safety

  • Mark dials, such as those on the oven, with bright tape or “glue bumps” to indicate specific settings, such as the 400-degree position on the oven.
  • Sharp instruments 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.

Stair Safety

  • Be especially careful on stairs.
  • Make sure there is plenty of light, especially on the top and bottom steps (or paint them in contrasting colors).
  • Install handrails on both sides of stairs
  • Consider marking the edges of the steps with bright tape.

Safety in the Bathroom

  • Install grab bars in the bathtub or shower.
  • Put contrasting tape around the edge of the tub
  • Use non-skid, brightly colored mats.
  • Always turn off the hot water first.
  • Use a contrasting-colored toilet seat.
  • Use contrasting colored towels and a bright rubber bathmat inside the tub.

Functional Spaces

  • Consider either removing doors and replacing them with bright curtains or painting them with contrasting colors
  • Use magnetic door stops.
  • Ensure that thresholds are flush with the floor.
  • Use brightly colored tape to mark light switches, electrical outlets, thermostats, and other fixtures.
  • Ensure that area rugs are skid-proof and properly tacked down.
  • Use area rugs with colors that contrast with the floor to better see them.
  • Replace worn or broken tiles and worn carpeting.
  • Arrange furniture so that it does not impede movement, especially in hallways.

Living with Macular Degeneration: Suggestions for Daily Activities

The following suggestions can ease daily tasks:

  • Use optical devices such as magnifiers, telescopes, and closed-circuit TVs. A vision rehabilitation specialist can determine which is best for each individual.
  • Macular degeneration can make it difficult to see road signs, traffic, and people walking, and may affect your ability to drive safely. Learn more about safe driving and when it may be time for you to stop driving.
  • If glare is a problem, consider wearing sunglasses with amber or yellow lenses to help control it, even inside the home.
  • Label medications with large print stickers or use special magnifiers for bottles. Keep medications organized.
  • For the computer, use a large type keyboard, larger monitors, and screen magnifiers. Consider audio aids such as screen-reading software. Many websites have adjustable print size and contrast options.
  • Use large text when reading, doing puzzles, playing cards, and the like. Listen to audio tapes and books on CD.
  • Sit closer to the TV. Ensure that lighting is optimal and glare is controlled.
  • Use the array of available household items designed for those with low vision:
    • Clocks, watches, and telephones with large letters
    • Talking scales and tape measures
    • Special safety cutting devices
    • Large print labels for medications, grocery items, etc.
  • Organize household items in the kitchen, bedroom, and bathroom by always putting them in the same place, especially frequently used items such as keys, shoes, coats, glasses, pots, and pans. Develop a system for grouping clothes and arranging food.
  • Use large stickers on the thermostat, stove, and other appliances; mark key positions with raised labels (nail polish or spots of glue work).

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