Devon in Sight’s Jennie Benham met with Veronica Wood at her home in Sidmouth. The octogenarian has impressed the team at Devon in Sight by how she faces life head on and takes every challenge with tenacity.
Although Veronica has suffered with sight problems all her adult life, matters only became serious about 12 years ago. In coping with sight loss Veronica’s advice to somebody experiencing this is to make full use of all the professional services available, including the counselling services freely available, from the Macular Society and the RNIB.
Veronica herself, preferring not to place an emotional burden on her daughters, eventually sought help from the Macular Society. Finding a counsellor helped her to put everything in perspective and enabled her to move on and to cope with bad days when they happen. She soon realised that she had to stop saying, “I can’t do this”, and look at what she could do. This realisation opened the way forward to a world of possibilities! Now if she finds that she cannot do something her first instinct is to try and find another way round the problem but she also knows when to quit the impossible!
For many years Veronica has opened her garden for the National Garden Scheme raising money for that and other charities. Now no longer able to be actively involved in gardening, she can still enjoy the tranquillity and sounds of her garden, by careful choice of plants for their scent and their strong and vibrant colours. To compensate for lack of exercise Veronica has now joined a local gym to try and keep fit.
After many trips, falls and breaking three bones, Veronica decided it was time to have long cane training from Gisella Storm, the Rehabilitation Officer in East Devon. Gisella taught her skills to use the cane in her home environment, building up to walking familiar routes around Sidmouth without relying on her vision at all. By doing this Gisella showed Veronica that she could still function even if she was completely without sight. Veronica felt this was hugely reassuring, because even if the worst happens she felt she wouldn’t have lost everything.
Eccentric Viewing training through Devon in Sight’s ‘Skills for Seeing’ training has helped her to use her peripheral vision to see her grandchildren’s faces, to do her own online banking and to continue with her cooking. Her Eye Consultant noted at a recent assessment that she was getting on very well with eccentric viewing and that there had been an improvement in reading the vision chart.
Veronica has also embraced Assistive Technology and uses Amazon Alexa and assistive technology on her IPad to help her to be as independent as she can be. She is keen to tell people who are less confident that, for example using Siri on the IPad or iPhone is easy and hugely helpful without requiring lots of training.
For example, using Siri, Veronica can now easily make phone calls to people on her contacts list using her IPad. This is so easy, particularly if a younger family member can compile the contact list for you.