Nova Scotians learn how to help loved ones adjust to blindness or partial sight

5/27/2015

​Having spent many years of his career as a Biomedical Technical Assistant in the field of medicine that deals with eye diseases, Sheldon Bisson was surprised to learn that his own wife was losing her sight.

“I have a medical background and work in ophthalmology, but when it hits home it’s a little different – you don’t pick things up as quickly when it happens to you,” says Bisson.

Diagnosed with macular degeneration – the leading cause of vision loss in Canada – his wife Joan’s loss of vision was affecting her to the point where she was no longer doing the things she once loved, like reading, quilting and other crafts.

Bisson initially felt at a loss for how to help Joan – due to a lack of information and resources to help his wife as she adjusted to living with low vision.

In November 2014, he participated in a pilot program that was designed to cater to the needs of individuals who are helping their loved ones adjust to the emotional and social impacts of vision loss.

“The program gave me a better understanding of my role as a caregiver for someone with vision loss,” says Bisson. “It was comforting to connect with other individuals who shared similar experiences – and it gave us the opportunity to share ideas and discuss everyday scenarios.” 

The success of the pilot program resulted in the launch this week of CNIB’s first-ever Supporting Loved Ones Vision Loss Program. The weekly sessions will be offered face-to-face at CNIB’s Halifax Centre from May 28 to June 18.

“Adjusting to vision loss can be a difficult time, not only for the individual experiencing blindness or partial sight – but also for their loved ones supporting them during the transition,” says Robert Ganong, CNIB’s counsellor who is facilitating the program.

“Loved ones often have a tendency to want to do things for their partner, when the best way to assist is to help them do things for themselves. It’s about finding a balance between being there in a supportive role and encouraging their independence.”

Ganong says participants will discuss this in the program along with other topics including understanding vision loss, non-verbal communication and effective communication techniques and stress management.

To learn more about the program or to register today, please contact CNIB at 902.453.1480 ext. 5705 or email robert.ganong@cnib.ca.

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