Your Health

Macular degeneration: What to do when the lights fade

Few authors understand the challenges of fading vision as well as Peggy R. Wolfe.

Wolfe wrote “Vision Loss: Strategies for Living with Hope and Independence” (Park Publishing, 2014) after she was diagnosed with an eye condition – macular degeneration.

Fourteen years after her diagnosis, she remains upbeat about her progressive loss of eyesight.

“You can still do the things you have been doing – though you may need to do them in different ways,” she tells readers in the third edition of her book.

The book doesn’t delve into the medical reasons or even treatment for vision loss. Rather, it offers practical strategies for everyday life for everyone affected by vision loss, including friends and family of people coping with poor eyesight.

Among the practical tips: If you feel grief or anger over your fading eyesight, allow yourself to experience it. Talk to others about it. Then try to be patient and accepting of yourself.

When you feel ready, figure out what things in your life bring you happiness and joy – and make plans to do them. Your choices don’t have to cost money; they could include taking a walk with a friend in a beautiful park or visiting someone you haven’t seen in a long time.

“Getting to know others with vision loss is reassuring and inspiring,” Wolfe writes. “You are not alone, and your hope will be replenished by learning how others navigate their lives.”

One surprise is that the author recommends that people with vision loss keep their minds active by reading. Chapter 4 is all about the many ways people with vision loss can still read, from large print books to electronic books and audio books. “Vision Loss” itself is in large print, on glare-resistant, heavy paper in a font that’s easy to see.

The author also recommends the free library program operated by the National Library Service for the blind and physically challenged. The program sends braille and audio materials to eligible borrowers via postage-free mail. There’s also a bimonthly “Talking Books Topics” newsletter that lists free digital talking books and magazines.

Other chapters offer tips for organizing your living space to accommodate your eyesight level, cooking and eating strategies and developing the senses of touch and hearing. There’s also a section on learning how to accept help.

One chapter, “Embrace Technology,” includes a description of optical scanners that convert written material into spoken words. It also lists several apps like Newsline, a free service that provides access to 300 newspapers and can send selected publications directly to digital audio-book players.

The book lists other resources in its appendices, including helpful new technology products and information for parents of visually impaired children.

“Vision Loss” and many more books are on the shelves of Stanford Health Library. Electronic books are also available in the collection, accessed through the library website at Using the login and password available on the main screen, click the blue “EBSCO Host” button and enter the login and password.

The main branch of the Stanford Health Library is located at Hoover Pavilion, 211 Quarry Road, Suite 201, Palo Alto. Hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays. Other locations include Stanford Cancer Center in Palo Alto, the Ravenswood Family Health Center in East Palo Alto and Stanford Cancer Center South Bay in San Jose.

Donna Alvarado is health library specialist at Stanford Health Library. For more information, call 725-8400 or visit

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