Macular degeneration – preparing for changes to vision

Harry was born in Fremantle and was a postman in the city for most of his working life. It means he knows the people and his community well. Twenty years ago, he was diagnosed with glaucoma. A decade later, he developed macular degeneration.

VisAbility Occupational Therapist Keearny, who has been his OT for seven years, provides ongoing support to Harry. As he explains, she visits him at his home every six weeks.

“I can’t speak highly enough of Keearny. It’s wonderful to have that continuity of care. She is patient and explains everything so simply. She’s always investigating techniques and equipment which may benefit me as my vision worsens.”

How to get support

If you have a diagnosis of vision impairment, please contact our friendly team to find out what low vision services and support we can provide to you both now and into the future.

There are also a number of low vision support groups within Perth and across the state, which can connect you with like-minded people to build friendships and offer support.

Enquire about low vision support services

Providing support for macular degeneration

There are plenty of living aids, home modifications and assistive technology to support Harry who was diagnosed with wet macular degeneration.

“Initially I had medications injected into my eyes regularly to stabilise my condition. I’m under the care of Professor Constable at the Lions Eye Institute.”

Keearny stands next to Harry with floral borders behind
Keearny has been Harry’s OT for seven years offering continuity of support

Despite his vision loss, the 86-year-old still leads a busy life, whether taking his dog Cindi for a walk or reading the paper using a desktop magnifier (link opens in new window). He lives with his partner Eleanor. However, Harry is aware that his vision is worsening.

“It’s the simple things I can’t do anymore. When we go shopping together, I struggle to see the labels on the food items in a supermarket.”

An ardent follower of sports, Harry listens to his beloved Fremantle teams on the radio rather than watch the games and matches on the television.

“I am an AFL Fremantle Dockers supporter, a life member of Fremantle Cricket Club, and I support Freo at WAFL level.”

“Watching sport on television, especially if my focus is on a ball, makes me nauseous and dizzy because of my condition.”

Harry – VisAbility client

Macular degeneration support

Age-related macular degeneration is a leading cause of vision loss for older people with one in seven Australians over the age of 50 developing the condition.

“It occurs when the macula, part of the retina, at the back of the eye becomes damaged. Harry had wet macular degeneration when blood vessels grow under the retina and leak.”

The macula controls sharp, straight-ahead vision, so Harry has blurred central vision and glare sensitivity.

Keearny – VisAbility Occupational Therapist

Keearny stands next to a large desk magnifier. Harry is looking at a yellow and black print on the screen.
Black on yellow is one contrast option for people with macular degeneration

Macular degeneration won’t cause complete loss of vision.

“It doesn’t affect the vision at the outer edges of the eye – that’s the side or peripheral vision. It’s just the central vision impacted.”

Magnifiers in older age

Harry currently uses a large desktop magnifier to read newspapers to keep up with his sporting interests.

Keearny has advised me to use the yellow-black combination with my magnifier. It provides a strong colour contrast, but I can tell it’s better for my glare sensitivity than black and white.

Harry – VisAbility client

Keearny explains that moving forward, Harry might like to move onto a text-to-speech device such as the ReadEasyMove 2. 

“It’s a portable machine that takes a photo of print and verbally reads it out. It’s ideal for reading letters and bank statements and a great solution if your vision is expected to deteriorate further.”

Aids and support at home

Because Harry enjoys reading, Keearny has also been demonstrating a Victor Reader Stratus talking player, so he can listen to DAISY audio books.

Keearny sits around table with Harry and she is helping Harry to feel his way around a Victor Audio Book
A Victor Talking Book Player will enable Harry to listen to audio books

The audio books are on DAISY cartridges, an acronym for Digital Accessible Information System. DAISY cartridges slot into the talking book player. It’s specifically designed for people with low or no vision.

Harry can listen back to the books as and when he wants.

With this device he will never lose his place. Books can be ordered from the VisAbility Audio Library. Membership is free to people with low or no vision.

“An occupational therapist recommending the Victor Reader Stratus talking book machine can review funding options to subsidise or cover the total purchase cost,” Keearny explains.

Harry is also considering home modifications to make his home more accessible. As well as losing his vision, his mobility is deteriorating. One of his priorities is removing a slight lip on the entrance to his shower cubicle.

Keearny is keen to do another review to identify future services Harry may require as his vision changes. Together they’ll prioritise areas to assist him at home such as improved lighting and assistive technology.

Facts about macular degeneration

  • Certain risk factors make you more prone to the disease. For example, if you have a family history of the disease, are over 50, are overweight or smoke. High blood pressure and a diet high in saturated fats may make you more prone to the condition as well.
  • There are two types of macular degeneration – Dry and Wet. The dry type is more common, progresses slowly and is less acute than wet macular degeneration. The macular gets thinner with age. If you have dry macular degeneration in one eye, you can take steps to protect your other eye and make the most of your remaining vision. Dry macular degeneration can turn into wet macular degeneration.
  • The wet type is more likely to cause a sudden change in vision resulting in severe vision loss. It occurs when abnormal blood vessels grow in the back of the eye and damage the macular. There are treatment options available for wet macular degeneration, such as injections.
  • Macular degeneration will reduce central vision in one or both eyes. People with MD may also experience visual distortions, blurriness and sensitivity to glare in bright sunlight.

How to get support

Please complete the form below to make an initial enquiry about the low vision services and support we can provide.

Our Client Experience Team will contact you to discuss your individual needs both now and into the future.

If you are a provider and wish to refer a client, please use our low vision medical certificate (online referral form) to make your referral.

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