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.



11 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?

  3. hello im Sandy, my husband lost his eyesight in 2014. It seems there are many many many emotions. For us both we also have 2 children, son 14 daughter 17 at the time he first began to notice his eyes began to get blurry . within 16 hrs he was raped of his on indpendance for the rest of his life. We are and have been fighting for 3 years for our home , bills, DR appoints for 3 dependants now 4 did i mention we care for his 83 yrs. old mother. Im so glad to share in a postive way. i truly need somene.

  4. It was lovely to hear someone describe, what it is like to live with someone who vision loss. My husband Rob lost his sight over night in March, 2013. We are still struggling to come to terms with his sight loss. Fortunately he now friends he can talk to who have also lost sight over night. I do realise that it is much worse for my husband. However unfortunately for myself, although I have many friends and family for support, which I do appreciate. I don’t have anyone I can share my concerns regarding Roberts sight loss, who have been it through it themselves. Please can anyone in the same situation, contact myself Ruth, and may be we can help each other emotionally through a very difficult situation. Only positive advice and support would be very welcome.

    1. Hi Ruth, thank you for this rarely-spoken comment. The experience of minute-by-minute loss never ends for your husband. On the other hand he gets the sympathy, special care and offers of training. You just soldier on, trying to deal with your feelings which must include all the same great loss and grief. I am so glad you have plenty of people to talk to, and you are wisely reaching out to search for a support group. I wonder if an email to BBC In Touch might get results? Here is the address: I also wonder if you might consider professional help as well – a good psycho-therapist would be someone you could confide in each week. It’s not easy to find someone really good – I suggest you interview 3 therapist before picking the one you feel most comfortable with.Thank you for reaching out, Hannah

    2. My partner just had a tire explode in his face and lost his “good eye”. His other eye has very limited vision since childhood… the doctors have told him repeatedly he’s blind and he keeps saying “if they come tell me my eyesight is gone, I’m fucked”…. sigh

      1. Hi Cheri, what a terrible shock for you both! Numbness and denial or disbelief are common and a way of protecting yourself for a while. It must be very hard to listen to, but it’s how he is bearing the loss. Later he can have a low vision assessment to find out whether the sight in his other eye has survived the explosion and how he can use the remaining vision. If he is still being treated for the effects of the explosion that will allow him some time to begin to grieve. It’s a long process, but depending where you live there should be vision rehab services available when he is ready. all good wishes and please contact me again if you would like to. Hannah

  5. My husband has lost most of his eye sight he can no longer drive and tells me he feels like a dependent which makes me feel terrible. What can I say to him to make him feel better?

    1. Hi Laurie, Thanks for your comment. What your husband said is how almost everyone feels when they lose a lot of sight. At this point your best ways to help are by checking out all the services that your husband may (or may in future) be eligible for in your city or state. If your husband can start making the calls himself that will be the very best – with you supplying the numbers. There is a website called Vision Aware which has a free app that can be downloaded onto a smart device which will list all the organizations in your area. Once your husband can get started with whatever services are on offer, he will begin to feel just a little better. After that it is go on…go on….go on ! There is so much to learn and some of it is really cool.

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