From the Direct Services Coordinator

From the Direct Services Coordinator

 

       Bijoy Mahanti

Picture of Bioy Mahanti, Author of the article

The Lions Low Vision Rehabilitation Network (popularly known as LOVRNET) is a model for a new community-based healthcare program that addresses the current shortage and distribution of low vision rehabilitation services. As we know, Low Vision is a general term used to describe permanent disabling visual impairment, mostly caused by age–related eye diseases such as macular degeneration, glaucoma, and diabetes retinopathy. Approximately 5.7 million people in the U.S. have low vision, with more than 70% over age 65. Only 25% of people with low vision are eligible for blindness related benefits and there is a severe shortage of services for those who do not meet legal criteria for blindness. Our Multiple District 22 has been resilient in effectively addressing new ways to serve our communities. LOVRNET is a unique organization and is one of a kind in Lions Clubs International. The Lions of Multiple District 22, in partnership with low vision rehabilitation experts at the Lions Vision Research and Rehabilitation Center of the Johns Hopkins Wilmer Eye Institute (Lions Vision Center) have created this program to address the need for service. The Multiple District 22 has been a trend setter and now Multiple District 33 in Massachusetts and other Multiple Districts have adopted our model of service.

I have been privileged to serve this unique population as an Interviewer and as a Direct Services provider. As an interviewer we interview clients before their appointment with the Low Vision clinician. This process tremendously helps the clinician to have information available during the client’s visit and saves time in further planning the care. This is a great opportunity to make virtual contact and be of service to a per- son with low vision; this is a very rewarding experience.

Direct Services include providing transportation to the doctor’s office for those who need it, delivering equipment to clients’ homes, trouble shooting and, as appropriate, solving their problems. The Direct Services also include helping make safe- ty and adaptive modifications to the clients’ home environment, and solving their problems with their use of vision- assistive equipment in the home. These services need a referral from the Low Vision Occupational Therapist and a combined visit to the clients’ home with the therapist and her/his various recommendations. The Low Vision Occupational Therapists are highly trained and specialized to meet the needs of lifestyle changes of people with Low Vision.

I have had opportunities to make several home visits to clients and to be of service! It is very satisfying to see this service as a significant way to improve the quality of life of clients with this condition in our communities. Twice I delivered and set up CCTV to two different clients. Another client needed assistance in placing bump dots on washer, dryer, oven, and micro- wave controls. These bump dots help clients to feel and align desired temperature control and various settings in appliances. One 58 year-old female client with severe visual impairment needed major assistance in her unexpected changing life style. With the referral and recommendation of the Low Vision Occupational Therapist, I was able to help her navigate and adapt her life-style changes. She identified various needs and we were able to mutually solve many of her problems. We decluttered and organized the food pantry and the refrigerator. We organized various shelves with similar items and labelled them with electronic labelers. We organized and labelled a spice rack using a talking wand. This talking wand (label pen) comes with a tactile label and she was able to record the names of the items in the container. She needed help in organizing binders with color-contrast paper and tactile labels. The binders contained telephone numbers by categories, medical information (bills, insurance etc.), bank accounts, utilities, emergency and various contacts etc. Reading and organizing mail was very challenging to her for which I was able to help. We identified several safety hazards in the home and made several adjustments like replacing throw rugs, high-contrast duct tape for carpet, good lighting, high-contrast receptacles etc. I was informing the Occupational Therapist periodically of various needs and accomplishments. This is always a two-way communication. These are only some of the examples of the Direct Services I have provided.

Nothing replaces human contact and connection. It is so gratifying to have the experience of making a small difference in another person’s life and to hear their appreciation. Never underestimate the “Power of One”. Being of service to other people is how Mother (now a SAINT) Teresa lived a long and fulfilling life. Our Lions motto is “We Serve”. Let us elevate our service to a higher level in this simple path to a life full of purpose. Life provides so many opportunities! Para- phrasing Mark Twain; “Years from now, you will be more disappointed by the things you did not do than by the things you did.”

 

You can find more information at the LOVRNET website:  www.lovrnet.org;
by calling (410) 737-2671, or contacting me at: bmahanti@msn.com.

 

With much gratitude,

Bijoy Mahanti
Direct Service Coordinator, Multiple District 22