Dealing With Vision Loss in Your Partner, Parent or Best Friend

Back view of older man walking down medical hallway with a woman's coat under his arm
Back view of older man walking down medical hallway with a woman’s coat under his arm

You are the closest relation or partner of someone who is losing vision, or has a diagnosis of a blinding disease.  The shock and grief for you can be almost as great as for your loved one.  You aren’t getting any of the special attention or professional care either. You’re just holding her (or his) coat and looking at a long future of burden and responsibility.


At this first stage of diagnosis and maybe surgeries, your life can be thrown into shambles by constant driving to appointments and filling out the insurance paperwork, which she (or he) can’t now do herself. All the meal preparation, the bill-paying and the laundry now fall on you. Often you do everything for your partner, sibling or parent who seems to have such a tragic future.


You pour out time and effort without counting the cost. This time can be a beautiful example of family generosity and love, and you can find yourself elevated to greater sensitivity and intuitive understanding than before. But there is a high cost in stress and private grief which you have to keep hidden from your loved one. You can’t share your dread of how life will be with someone who has a major disability.


On the other hand, if the relationship is new, or had problems before, you may know that you aren’t the partner for someone who can’t see much. If so, it may be better to say so sooner rather than later.


After this first emergency stage, you are looking at something different. If it’s your parent who is losing vision, don’t rush to move him or her. We all do better in familiar surroundings and this is twice as true with vision loss. If you can get your parent some more support in a way that leaves him or her in control, that is usually the better solution. Many seniors with vision loss live safely at home.  Don’t let your fears decide his or her future!


This is also true if it is your other half who is losing her eyesight. Don’t let your fears, or your desire to have everything stay the same control the situation.  Remind your partner and yourself that she is still the same person. Be as flexible and encouraging as you possibly can. If you encourage her (or him) to get a ton of training – using hearing, touch and remaining sight – in time your household will find a new balance of responsibilities. The tasks will be distributed differently, but life can go on.


Now the situation isn’t primarily medical. Instead there is someone you love who is struggling to begin a giant shift in how she uses her senses.  She will depend a lot on you at first before finding new ways of doing things.


What may be more difficult for you is becoming accustomed to not having a companion for many ordinary pleasures.  TV, movies, photos, the comics, a cute kid on a tricycle, and so on. It’s really rough! You and your partner, best friend, or sibling now may have not only different ways of experiencing life but also mostly different pleasures.


This is a very big issue indeed and includes everything from how the kitchen is organized to choosing a vacation.


Just about everything gets thrown into the blender. It’s so uncomfortable, so difficult! But if you can stick it out together, a deeper trust and understanding may develop. Your ability to communicate and understand other people will also be enhanced by your acquaintance with grief. You will grow more compassionate and more loving, and in doing so may find a richer experience yourself.



4 thoughts on “Dealing With Vision Loss in Your Partner, Parent or Best Friend

  1. Thank you so much for sharing. I am experiencing a very difficult time with my partner who has become blind in one eye and now the possibility of losing his sight in the other. We’ve had some counselling for preparation of possible unsuccessful surgery and beyond. It did help us though the depression of what’s ahead is overwhelming.
    Weve bought a new home and are meant to shift in soon., bad timing!!
    Im finding it very difficult. My man is doing his best to keep positive as I am, especially in front of him. I can’t express frustration, tiredness (I’m exhausted), how can I, compared with what he is going through.I’ve completely lost freedom as I feel I can’t leave him alone. I’m scared for him for me for us.

    1. Hello Grace, I am so sorry that you are both going through this very traumatic time. I don’t agree that it is worse for your husband. In the long term of course he is the one who has to live with this life-changing event, but just at this point I think you may be suffering at least as much.
      Please find ways to get support and help for yourself. Is there someone you can talk to at leat every week? Someone you trust – it could be a member of the clergy , or a therapist, or your sister – whoever you choose has to be a very good listener and not think they have any quick answers.
      You also need some breaks! I don’t see why you can’t leave your husband comfortable in a room he knows well with the radio or TV and a refrigerator nearby, while you either go out somewhere for a break and a diversion, or get some much-needed rest – a long nap. You should also try to go out with a friend for the evening once a week. Leave your husband well-cared for perhaps with a neighbor who knows and will drop in during the evening for a chat.
      In my marriage, I was the one who lost sight and I know that I thought that my husband’s situation with all his hidden grieving and looking after me and being brave was more difficult – I was the one getting all the sympathy and the attention!
      If you would like to continue corresponding , please email me :
      All good wishes to you both, Hannah PS It will very slowly get easier. H.

    2. This is such a vivid description of how things are in the first year or so. There is so much awaiting your husband and you after this first period which is so painful, confusing and messy. Let me know if you don’t receive a contact email from me. Hannah

  2. Hannah, your point of view really spoke to me. Thank you for offering a dialog. How do you communicate in writing now that you don’t have vision?

    My husband has macular degeneration, rapidly progressing. Both of us are grieving and just beginning to talk about how we’ll manage. We need both emotional support and practical advice. Where to turn?

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