What to do if you have a patient who is visually impaired

If you have a patient who is blind or visually impaired….

  • Always identify yourself when entering a room by name and position.  Before manipulating or treating the patient, tell them what you are going to do.
  • Orient a person to their surroundings by showing them where the bathroom, door to hallway, phone and call button are using their bed as the reference point.
  • If you need to move furniture, water pitcher, personal belongings, always put the object back where it was.  If you can’t, be sure the patient knows what you have done.
  • Painting the doorframes a dark color would provide good contrast for a person with some vision.
  • Control glare in the room by adjusting the shades as necessary.
  • Let the patient know where the food is on the tray either by describing it using a clock system or show them using the silverware in their hands.
  • Try to use contrast on the tray. If the dishes are a dark color, a white placemat under them may help the person find their plate.  Black coffee is more visible in a light colored mug.  Coffee with milk is more visible in a dark colored mug.
  • Talking books, Audio books or a Maine Airs receiver in a persons’ room may be a welcome change from watching television.
  • Don’t point when giving directions; instead, use words like “right” or “left.”  Remember that when you are facing a person, your right is his/her left.  Always give directions according to their orientation.
  • Don’t be afraid to use words like “look”, “see” or “watch”. Changing your vocabulary will make the person feel awkward.
  • Usually there is no need to speak loudly to people who are blind or visually impaired; in most cases their hearing is just fine!
  • Use Sighted Guide technique, when walking with people for exercise.
  • Ask the patient how you can assist them, rather than assuming you know what  they need.
  • When walking with a person in the hallway, refer to points of orientation as we would (ie: walk out of your room and turn left, the nurses station is on your right…).

Click here for information on Sighted Guide Techniques from the Braille Institute

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