How to Make the Holiday Season Brighter for Visually Impaired Relatives

This time of year, many family members and caregivers are facing concerns about how to make sure the holidays are a problem-free and joyous time for their visually impaired and blind relatives. Here are some tips to keep in mind this season to ensure the holidays are brighter for your visually impaired relative or loved one:

When decorating for the holidays, do not reorganize major items. Visually impaired adults rely on their knowledge of a home’s layout in order to navigate rooms and avoid bumping into walls or furniture, or falling down stairs. While hanging up lights and other holiday decorations, avoid rearranging furniture, belongings and other common household items. Consistency is vital for someone with vision loss. Moving things, especially necessary items such as medications and canes, can confuse and distress a visually impaired individual.

Opt for safe alternatives to decorations that can become dangerous. Candles, for example, can cause fires if the table they are on is accidently bumped by someone who is unable to see it clearly. Choose battery-powered candles instead, or set candle holders in a dish of water, just in case.

Use contrasting colors on and around the dinner table when planning your big holiday meal. For those with limited vision, items tend to blur into one another. If the floor in the dining room is a light color, a dark tablecloth will help distinguish the table from the floor and the walls so that the low vision individual will not bump into the table. To make it easier to eat, use dark colored dishes when serving light colored food and vice versa.

Photo Courtesy of Stock Exchange.

Choose and wrap holiday gifts with vision impairment in mind. Consider gifts that can help him or her live life more easily, such as products with larger-than-normal features and audio capabilities. Examples of gifts include large print playing cards, jumbo remote controls, a large analog clock, iPads or Kindle Readers, and audio books. Use gift bags instead of wrapping paper and ribbon, which can be difficult for low-vision adults to maneuver.

A MABVI large-print calendar would make a great gift for the holidays!

Narrate your holiday gatherings and parties. Be sure to verbally introduce yourself when you walk into a room or join a group conversation, as it is often difficult for a visually impaired individuals to recognize people by their voices, especially in a large group setting. When speaking, make an effort to be verbally descriptive and avoid pointing to things in the room with phrases like “over there” or “this way.” Describe gifts that are being opened and suggest that they might be passed around to ensure the low-vision family member feels a part of the ceremony.

Empower everyone to participate. For low-vision relatives, it’s incredibly frustrating not to be able to be as active during holiday celebrations as their sighted loved ones. Too often the visually impaired person is guided to the living room while everyone else gathers in the kitchen to work. Instead, give him or her a job – like folding napkins or drying dishes – so he or she can feel part of the group.

People gathered around a table

During the holidays and always, be supportive. Patience is key. Offer advice and resources without being overbearing. Actively listen to what the individual needs. If necessary, consult resources, like the Massachusetts Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired, who can connect you and your family with medical professionals that help visually impaired and blind adults live with confidence and dignity in their own homes.

Happy holidays from the Massachusetts Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired!

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About mabvi

Pressing Need The number of seniors with low vision is expected to double by 2030, as the “baby boomers” experience sight loss such as glaucoma, cataracts, diabetic retinopathy and macular degeneration. Low vision makes it difficult to complete activities of daily living, puts elders at increased risk of falls, and complicates health care compliance. There is a pressing need for low vision services today more than ever, to ensure people with vision loss can continue to live the lives they want. Elders are the fastest-growing and most vulnerable population of persons with sight loss. Four of the five major causes of blindness are directly related to the aging process: age related macular degeneration, diabetic retinopathy, glaucoma and cataracts. According to data published by the Commission for the Blind and the National Society for the Prevention of Blindness, there are an estimated 105,000 elders in Massachusetts with serious sight loss who cannot receive state-funded services because they are not “legally blind.” Nevertheless, their vision impairment is serious, and without appropriate intervention, can have a devastating impact on their independence.

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