A Guide Dogs Australia survey has revealed that people with vision loss are increasing their risk of trips, falls, isolation and depression, with that 50 per cent of respondents waiting more than two years between diagnosis and seeking assistance from the organisation. A many as 26 per cent waited more than 10 years before contacting a Guide Dogs organisation for help.
The survey revealed a range of reasons why people wait including not realising their vision was limiting their mobility until an incident occurred such as a fall, relying on family members to get around and a lack of understanding that a person doesn’t have to be totally blind to receive help.
In response to these findings, Guide Dogs Australia member organisations launched a new national campaign, Don’t Delay, Seek Help Today, during this years International White Cane Day, encouraging people who are experiencing issues with their vision to seek support sooner rather than later.
“Vision loss in those aged over 40 increases the risk of falls by two times, the risk of depression by three times and the risk of hip fractures from four to eight times, so it is important people contact us to find out about the services we offer at no cost to reduce their risk,” Guide Dogs Australia spokesperson and CEO of Guide Dogs NSW/ACT, Dr Graeme White said.
“Every day 28, Australians are diagnosed with uncorrected table vision loss, including nine who become blind, so it is important we reach out to ensure those who are experiencing problems with their sight maintain their independence to live the life they choose.”
Concerns about the stigma associated with using a white cane and denial that a person was losing their vision, were two psychological barriers outlined in the survey findings.
When it becomes clear that there is no treatment or ‘cure’ for their vision impairment, a person might experience great sadness, sometimes depression, and often loneliness. After some time, they begin to have more clarity of thought and consider the practical problems that this presents to them. Then they can begin to think about how they are going to reconstruct their life.
It is at this point that assistance from Guide Dogs can mean a world of difference. “While training Guide Dogs is an important part of our work, our most common program is showing people with vision impairment how to safely move through different environments, using a range of mobility aids such as the long cane and electronic devices,” Dr White said. “Each year our highly trained specialists work with people of all ages to help them achieve their mobility goals. Programs are tailored to meet the lifestyle needs of each individual, and most training is delivered locally, in the person’s home, community, school or work environment, at no cost,” he said.
To find out more about the services offered by Guide Dogs Australia member organisations, visit: guidedogsaustralia.com