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Marcie Kennedy is 94-years-old.  She has sustained several falls within the last year.  She has a bad knee; her hearing has diminished, and she has been living with macular degeneration for at least 20 years.  Despite these challenges, Marcie lived independently in senior apartments until very recently.  Daughter Ruth Kocvara and daughter-in-law Karen Kennedy attribute this amazing fact in large part to the products and referrals Marcie has received from the Council.

Ruth recalls learning about the Council from Gary Goyke, a member of the Council staff, while both were serving on a strategic planning committee for St. Vincent de Paul, where she has worked for the past 12 years.  Gary told Ruth about the macular degeneration symposium which she attended at least three or four times and that provided her and Marcie with “a goldmine of information.”   After attending one of these symposia, Ruth was able to educate Marcie’s vision doctor about Charles Bonnet Syndrome, a condition related to macular degeneration that is characterized by hallucinations, and from which Marcie suffered.

Karen goes down the list of items she and Ruth have purchased from the Council over the years for Marcie.  They include a white cane,  large-print bank account statement book, dark ink pens, a large TV remote, talking watches, wrap-around sunglasses, a preprogrammed telephone, and the sticky raised dots that were placed on Marcie’s thermostat, microwave and phone.  Ruth notes that Marcie uses four or five talking clocks, and she keeps them in strategic places like her walker basket and purse. 

One of Marcie’s most valued items is a CCTV or “reader” that helps her read medication labels and lunch menus and enjoy looking at photos of her great-grandchildren by magnifying them.  “Marcie’s reader,” Karen noted, “is a priceless gift, and it’s one of the most important resources we’ve gotten from the Council.”  Ruth and Karen are unanimous in their ranking of talking books as “the biggest godsend for Marcie, because she was always an avid reader, and she’s able to continue to enjoy this pastime.”  Marcie’s new space at the nursing home is small, so she had to be judicious about what she could put in it.  She insisted that her reader and talking books have a new home there. Karen and Ruth agree that Council products have “helped extend Marcie’s independence and quality of life by at least 10 years.”

What advice would Ruth and Karen offer to individuals who are coping with vision loss?  “First, be proactive.  Go to a doctor and find out if there are treatments and procedures you can get to improve your condition, slow its progress, or at least deal with it as best as possible. Learn as much as you can so you are empowered.  Second, take full advantage of the products and services available through organizations like the Council.  Attend vision presentations, including the macular degeneration symposium, and you will learn about the latest in research and treatments, plus you’ll see that you’re not alone. Third, have a home assessment done so you can live safely and confidently there.”  Both caregivers see these as key components of a comprehensive “package” for health management.