PRISM – November 2011

In This Issue

Share the Vision Walkathon 2011: Big Success Deserves Big Thanks!

Over 125 walkers joined the staff and volunteers of SightConnection on Saturday, October 1st at Magnuson Park in Seattle to help us raise awareness, funds and support for those impacted in our local community by vision loss.

Despite a backdrop of gray skies and sporadic rain showers, walkers came together to advocate for the low vision community and recognize their achievements, contributions and needs by walking to raise much needed funds for the services, products and training provided to the low vision community by SightConnection.

Musicians, speakers and a variety of vendors and groups made the pre-event and post-event a fun celebration, where people connected and shared music, stories, balloons, healthy snacks, goodie bags and canine companions.

Steve Gokey, who has been blind since birth, but who continues to run marathons, does not let his vision loss stop him from sharing his message of living life to the fullest despite not being able to see. Gokey believes you have two choices – “Stay home and be blind or go out and do what you are going to do,” and it was this spirit in which he opened and led the walk.

SightConnection client Norman Lawrence and STORM played a wonderful set of acoustic music on the main stage to get the walkers going, and participant awards were given out at the end of the walk. Other gracious volunteers and participants include: the SeaTac Guide Dog Puppies for the Blind, Washington Talking Book and Braille Library, Rainier Lions, Seattle Cajun band Capuchon, UW Pre-Optometry Club, and vendors Pirate Booty and Jamba Juice. Finally, through the generosity of our sponsors and hundreds of donors, we are very close to reaching our fundraising goal of $60,000. We cannot thank everyone enough!

It is still not too late to make a donation to help us reach our goal. Make a donation now!

Client Story: Norman Lawrence

Here at SightConnection our staff of specialists sees a wide variety of clients with different needs when it comes to learning how to live well with vision loss.

It’s not uncommon for many people impacted by low vision to feel fear and reluctance at the challenges that face them. But often, once they realize that they are not alone in their experiences, much of that fear and reluctance falls away. Having the help of a professional often encourages such people to try new ways to deal with those challenges. Working to master new skills to adapt to vision changes can empower individuals, allowing them to rebuild their confidence and self-identity in subtle but powerful ways.

Longtime SightConnection client Norman Lawrence wasn’t so sure at first about taking on the challenges of working with magnifiers to help his reading, or especially, about learning to use a white cane to enhance his ability to travel safely and independently. “I didn’t like the idea of using a white cane when I first came to SightConnection. I didn’t want to use one, didn’t think I really needed to use one,” he says.

Norman is a sixty-three year old man who first came to SightConnection six years ago after being referred by his health care provider. He was having difficulty with a number of activities, from reading and communication to transportation and managing his diabetes, despite help from a caregiver. These impacts, resulting from the effects of Macular Degeneration compounded by Diabetic Retinopathy, were becoming roadblocks to living the life he wanted to lead. Because of his difficulties and fears, Norman was also feeling down.

Norman began working with SightConnection’s counselors, specialists, and the Low Vision Clinic to get a prescription for magnification and to how to best use magnifiers. He has learned to work with several different styles of magnification over the years. For a long while he was able to continue reading for pleasure, and since reading had always been one his favorite activities, he says he was very pleased with the results of his training. At one point he even received a closed circuit TV (CCTV) to help him despite the continued decline in his ability to read. Unfortunately, he says he now must limit his CCTV reading to his mail, as it has become too difficult and tiresome on his eyes.

Because he was also experiencing some falls, Norman decided it really was time to pursue getting a white cane and learning how to properly use it. So he requested the help of SightConnection’s Orientation & Mobility specialist.

Over time, she made several visits with him to provide independent living skills instruction and training to learn white cane skills. “She helped me learn to cross the street by myself, get my bearings in new surroundings, use my building’s fire stairs and travel safely to my performances in downtown Seattle at the Pike Place Market.”

Because Norman lives in Everett, traveling on public transit safely was a big deal. Using his white cane skills, he has now mastered safe travel. He told us he especially enjoys his new cane with its easy to use rolling-ball tip, and he says triumphantly, “I haven’t fallen since I learned how to use my cane!”

Norman now travels safely to work, appointments and gigs. A powerful musical performer, his relaxed confidence as a guitarist and singer reflects newfound capacities gained by facing the challenges of living well with his vision loss. “All the work and time it took for me to learn to use my white cane, and get used to using it daily, was very well worth it” Norman says. As a matter of fact, that was him onstage at SightConnection’s first annual Share the Vision Walkathon, rockin’ the walkers! He and his friend Jerry Dine volunteered their time and gave an inspiring performance, providing a terrific background of rhythmic encouragement to all the participants. We can’t thank him enough!

Encouraging others who are dealing with the difficulties of living with low vision to connect with SightConnection for assistance is only one way Norman gives back: “I tell them it changed my life, and it’s a gateway to re-opening the doors to sharing one’s self with your community, too.” Recognizing that community is a two-way street, Norman offers his music to us all by continuing to volunteer and participate in events related to supporting the local vision loss and low vision community.

Below is a slideshow from SightConnection’s Share the Vision Walkathon with a photo of Norman and Jerry performing.

November is National Diabetes Month

World Diabetes Day, November 14th

Each year, National Diabetes Month and World Diabetes Day are observed in November to engage people worldwide in diabetes advocacy and awareness. These observances were created in 1991 by the International Diabetes Federation and the World Health Organization in response to growing alarm over the epidemic growth of diabetes.

We at SightConnection want you to understand diabetes’ role in maintaining visual health. Nutritional choices and one’s level of physical activity greatly impacts overall, and specifically, visual health. Diabetic Retinopathy, a complication of diabetes, adds a greater risk for developing Glaucoma and Cataracts. For good visual and overall health, it’s imperative to make healthy lifestyle choices.

Diabetic retinopathy is caused by changes in the blood vessels of the retina and is the leading cause of blindness in American adults. Because early detection and education are the best line of defense against this devastating disease, we encourage you to get a comprehensive, dilated eye exam annually.

For those of you who are dealing with diabetes-induced vision loss, SightConnection provides services designed to help persons living with diabetes to remain independent, including offering demonstrations of products such as blood glucose meters, talking glucose monitors and magnification devices.

Additionally, the American Association of Diabetes Educators (AADE) has developed and copyrighted a set of lifestyle changes that are necessary to manage diabetes effectively, including: Healthy Eating, Being Active, Monitoring, Taking Medication, Problem Solving, Healthy Coping and Reducing Risks.

For more information and to find a list of diabetic resources visit the American Foundation for the Blind’s Senior Site at www.afb.org/seniorsite.

If you are interested in products for diabetic management please check out our store website at www.sightconnection.com. If you would like assistance in determining which devices might best serve your needs, please contact us at (206) 525-5556, Toll Free (800) 458-4888 or by e-mail: egreer@sightconnection.org.

SightConnection: “Enhancing the ability of people with vision loss to lead active, independent lives.”

Diabetes

The Dire Disease
Diabetes is a metabolic condition that interferes with the body’s ability to properly process blood sugar, (directly influenced by what you eat and drink) resulting in an excess level of sugar remaining in the blood stream. Consequently, damage to blood vessels decrease the ability of the circulatory system to properly circulate blood throughout the body, creating adverse consequences for the entire body – including our eyes.

More than half of all Americans will have diabetes or pre-diabetes by the year 2020, a new analysis conducted by the United Health Group’s Center for Health Reform and Modernization says. That means that many more people in the near future will be dealing with the many negative health aspects that diabetes brings including associated vision loss.

The most common and fastest growing type of diabetes, Type 2, is strongly associated with obesity and a sedentary lifestyle. It’s also important to note that, according to the Mayo Clinic, Type 2 diabetes may increase the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and vascular dementia. The poorer your blood sugar control, the greater the risk appears to be. So what connects the two conditions? One theory is that cardiovascular problems caused by diabetes could contribute to dementia by blocking blood flow to the brain or causing strokes. Other possibilities are that too much insulin in the blood leads to brain-damaging inflammation, or lack of insulin in the brain deprives brain cells of glucose. Taking steps to prevent or control diabetes may help reduce your risk of Alzheimer’s disease–and Diabetic Retinopathy.

Diabetic Retinopathy is the most common diabetic eye disease and, according to the American Optometric Association, the leading cause of blindness in American adults. It is caused by changes in the blood vessels of the retina.

In some people with diabetic retinopathy, blood vessels may swell and leak fluid. In other people, abnormal new blood vessels grow on the surface of the retina. The retina is the light-sensitive tissue at the back of the eye. A healthy retina is necessary for good vision.

If you have diabetic retinopathy, at first you may not notice changes to your vision. But over time, diabetic retinopathy may progress and cause vision loss. Diabetic retinopathy usually affects both eyes. According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, about 80% of people who have had diabetes for at least 15 years have some damage to their retina. Those with diabetes are also at increased risk for other eye conditions, including glaucoma and cataracts.

Risk Factors
Obesity, being overweight and the lack of physical activity are among the primary risk factors for developing diabetes. With more than 2/3 of American adults and 17 percent of children overweight, the risk continues to rise. But, because diabetes follows a progressive course, often starting with obesity and then moving to pre-diabetes, there are multiple opportunities to intervene early and prevent this devastating disease before it is too late. Positive lifestyle changes can have dramatic, preventative health impacts.

Maintaining weight is vital to preventing diabetes. According to the same study, weight gain of even 11-16 pounds doubles the risk of Type 2 Diabetes, while a weight gain of 17-24 pounds triples that risk. Controlling elevated blood pressure and cholesterol can help reduce the risk of associated vision loss, while regular exercise improves all the biological processes of the body, including circulation, digestion, strength and balance. Physical fitness in the visually impaired helps decrease the dangers of falling and it can also help prevent the onset of such eye diseases as Diabetic Retinopathy.

Prevention
Don’t wait for symptoms! Often there are no symptoms in the early stages of both the disease of diabetes or with diabetic retinopathy. Be sure to have a comprehensive dilated eye exam once a year, because the earlier problems are detected, the more successful treatment can be! People diagnosed with diabetes will be advised by their care providers how often to schedule regular, comprehensive eye examinations.

Remember, Diabetes is a self-managed disease. A person can significantly reduce or delay their chances of vision loss or blindness by keeping blood glucose levels within target range. That means watching what you eat, getting regular physical exercise and carefully following your doctors’ recommendations. You’ll feel better, look better and help to stave off visual and overall health problems.

At SightConnection we have specially trained vision rehabilitation specialists that can demonstrate the latest adaptive aids, for example, a talking glucometer for checking glucose levels, or tactile insulin delivery pens for administering insulin. If you have impaired vision resulting from complications due to diabetes, ask your eye care professional about vision rehabilitation services.

If you are interested in products for diabetic management please check out our store website at www.sightconnection.com. If you would like assistance in determining which devices might best serve your needs, please contact us at (206) 525-5556, Toll Free (800) 458-4888 or by e-mail: egreer@sightconnection.org.

SightConnection Store: November Lighting Promotion

Ott-Lite wing-shade table lampLighting is very important for anyone with low vision. One of our new products at the SightConnection store is the new Ott-Lite wing-shade table lamp. This natural light lamp provides excellent controllable illumination with its wing-style shade, and the included Ott-Lite HD bulb will last up to 10,000 hours. The base measures 5 1/4 inches in diameter, and the height adjusts from 13 1/2 inches to 23 inches. This lamp is controlled by an easy on/off switch and two pencil/pen holders on the base. This Ott-Lite is excellent for reading, working at your desk, crafts, or anywhere you need a bright, natural light!

Visit the Store or browse our online store and check out our Lighting Promotion running through the end of November!