Learning > Health

Helping those with low vision live well

Kash Cheong on 15 Jan 2015

The Straits Times


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When Mr Ang Kheng Chong, 66, recovered from a stroke a year ago, he thought his ordeal was over.


But his vision deteriorated and soon he could not see clearly on the right side of both eyes. He was nearly hit by an oncoming car while crossing the road last year, and is still shaken by the incident.


"I was quite upset," said the retired carpenter. "I wondered if I could be independent again and live life as normal," he said. Doctors referred him to the occupational therapy department at Tan Tock Seng Hospital (TTSH).


Senior occupational therapist Debbie Boey did exercises with Mr Ang and taught him how to compensate for his visual impairment.


She would place number cards in different corners of the room and ask him to search for these numbers while sitting still. She also recommended a game where he had to find matching pairs from cards spread out on a table.


Such exercises taught Mr Ang to turn his head more so he would scan his wider surroundings before walking or crossing the road. Ms Boey also went to Mr Ang's home to ensure there was no clutter in the hallways that could cause bad falls.


"Many elderly (people) feel down when they suffer from low vision as it affects their daily life. In reality, there are many things we can do to help them live more independently," said Ms Boey.


Low vision refers to partial visual loss that cannot be corrected by surgery or medication. It can be caused by conditions such as macular degeneration, glaucoma and diabetic retinopathy. The risk of these eye conditions mostly increases with age.


Since TTSH started its low vision occupational therapy programme in 2013, the number of patients has grown. It saw about 40 patients in 2013 and around 100 last year. Ms Boey expects a greater demand for these services with Singapore's ageing population.


Institutions like Singapore General Hospital, Khoo Teck Puat Hospital and National University Hospital also provide occupational therapy for low vision sufferers.


TTSH also held a one-day exhibition on Tuesday to show caregivers how they can help those with low vision.


Caregivers can place a black table mat under the pill box, for instance, so that low vision patients do not lose their pills when they drop them.


They can install additional lights in the closet so that patients reach for the right clothes. The hospital also has a series of talks on low vision till tomorrow.


Mr Ang still has trouble with reading, but after undergoing occupational therapy, he is able go to the hospital on his own. He even goes out on leisure trips to Sentosa with his friends.


"Living with low vision might take a bit more effort, but I am still able to live a good life," he said.


Source: The Straits Times © Singapore Press Holdings Limited. Reproduced with permission.

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