Q. My father was recently diagnosed with vision loss. I’m having a hard time dealing with my emotions while at the same time helping my dad. What support should I get for myself?

A.Dealing with vision loss is difficult not only for the person directly affected, but for their family members as well. Both you and your father are going through a period of adjustment that is not only hard but can also be very emotional. It is quite normal to feel sad, frustrated and overwhelmed, especially if it was a recent diagnosis.

Losing your vision is comparable to any other major loss in life. You and your father should support one another and give each other time to grieve. You will both go through periods of shock, denial, mourning, and finally acceptance and adjustment. Mourning will bring feelings of depression, resentment and withdrawal, and as difficult as mourning can be, it is an essential part of accepting what has happened and moving on. Some of us can work through this phase on our own, but others can find it quite difficult. I recommend that you seek out counselling if you haven't done so already. CNIB counsellors are available to assist you through any stage of this adjustment process.

You can speak to a CNIB counsellor with your father or on your own (or both), depending on what you prefer. Counsellors can offer emotional support and can also refer you to appropriate resources within CNIB and with other community agencies.

One key to dealing with your emotions is to understand that you are not alone. You may be surprised to learn that there are services available - such as support groups - where you can meet and talk to others who are in the same situation you are. CNIB offers group sessions where you can talk to other families and exchange helpful tips you've come across to overcome day-to-day challenges. Talking to others about what you are going through may even be all you need to feel better.

Learning more about your father's eye condition can also help you to be more patient and to better understand his circumstances and needs. For example, if your father has AMD (age-related macular degeneration) it can be confusing because he may no longer be able to see you but still be able to see objects around him. But once you understand that people with AMD typically have some peripheral vision and almost never lose all vision completely, you will have a much better idea of what your dad can and can't do or see. Your eye doctor or a CNIB low vision specialist can provide you with information so you can fully understand your father's eye condition.

CNIB can also teach you practical tips to assist your father with day-to-day tasks, such as getting around his community, cooking and so on. CNIB specialists can teach you sighted guide - a technique that will allow you to walk safely with your dad while maximizing his independence. CNIB staff can also teach you and your father about assistive technology such as screen reading software or DAISY talking book players that can provide him with access to reading material or computers.

CNIB programs and services are provided in communities all across Canada; however, availability may depend on your location. For more information about counselling and other CNIB services in your area, visit CNIB in your community.

Colour photo of Melinda Duggan

The Expert:

Melinda Duggan has been a CNIB Counsellor in Newfoundland and Labrador since July 2006. She graduated from Memorial University of Newfoundland and Labrador in 2001 and from The University of Manitoba with a Bachelor of Social Work in 2005.