A Bo’ness resident with sight loss has called for more public awareness about the impact of living with a visual impairment.
Lois Lauder, 90, has age-related macular degeneration – a common eye condition which impacts central vision.
Lois’ sight loss has made day-to-day tasks like reading extremely difficult, as well as being able to see faces, which can often lead to misunderstandings when she is out and about.
Sometimes, she says, people don’t “believe” she has sight loss, not understanding the impact of a condition like macular degeneration on day-to-day activities.
Lois, who is originally from Falkirk and has lived in Bo’ness for nearly 40 years, said: “I find it terribly difficult to explain my sight loss to people because they see me going about, and yet I can’t see. Sometimes people don’t believe that I can’t see. I don’t look as though I can’t see.
“There absolutely needs to be more public awareness about how it is to live with sight loss.
“I can’t see faces. I find that very difficult because I have to say to people, ‘I’m sorry, I can’t see your face’ and I can’t see if they are looking at me or not, or whether they are speaking to me.
“It is worrying if I’m with people I don’t know or who don’t know me well. People need to understand that sight loss affects everybody in different ways.”
Lois was diagnosed with macular degeneration around three years ago, and she was concerned that her deteriorating vision is threatening her independence.
But the great-grandmother says there is help and reassurance out there, having received practical and emotional support for her sight loss from the charity Sight Scotland.
She is now in regular contact with one of Sight Scotland’s community workers from the charity’s Family Wellbeing Service.
She has been introduced to magnification options to keep her independent at home and receives emotional support to help her adapt to life with sight loss.
Lois said: “As the doctors said they didn’t know how fast my sight would deteriorate one just hopes for the best, but it gradually became obvious to me that things were getting worst. I felt depressed when I started to notice it. Giving up my car was the first thing – that took a lot of adjustment.
“I really don’t like depending on friends all the time. I started not being able to read telephone numbers and letters.
“Sight Scotland’s help has been fantastic. Emma Hope, one of the charity’s community workers, has introduced me to equipment that I didn’t know was out there. I have an electronic magnifier now, that’s been a terrific help for checking numbers and things as it has colour contrast option.
“It’s terribly important to have people who can support and help when you have sight loss, and who understand its impact.”
Sight Scotland’s freephone Support Line can offer information and advice to people with sight loss, as well relatives and carers and friends of people with visual impairment on more how they can help. Relatives and carers can also receive support themselves.
Lois said: “When I learned I had macular degeneration I was stunned. I didn’t know anything about it. If there is anything I am unsure of to do with living with my sight loss now, I know I can contact Sight Scotland and they will help where they can.”