Fight for Sight highlights difficulties faced by people with sight loss during second lockdown

11 November 20

written by:

Róisín Treacy

(more articles)

An elderly woman sitting in a chair looking out the window.

Fight for Sight is raising awareness of the difficulties people with sight loss are facing as a result of renewed lockdown restrictions.

A survey of people with sight loss carried out by the eye research charity in May found that half of working age people said their eye condition made it harder to cope with the lockdown restrictions, while almost half said their mental health had got worse since the pandemic began.

Jurgen Donaldson, 36, from Southwest London is blind and says he’s deeply concerned about what the new wave of lockdown restrictions will mean for him and his quality of life. 

Jurgen when blind in September 2019, at which point it was discovered that he had a brain tumour that was pressing on his optic nerve. Jurgen underwent nine and a half hours of brain surgery and luckily, 95% of the mass was removed – however Jurgen’s eyesight did not come back.

A man in a bar with a toy skull sitting on his shoulder.

Jurgen returned to London in February this year ready to restart his life, after spending several months recovering from his surgery.

He said: “I moved into a small one-bedroom apartment in London, and was excited to start finding my independence again. I wondered what my new normal was going to be like. Over the weeks, I started going back to the gym, going out to meet friends with the help of taxis, it really started to feel as if I was moving forward. Then suddenly it all stopped when the lockdown happened.”

Jurgen continued: “Almost immediately when the lockdown was enforced, all of the processes I had put in place to help me live on my own fell apart. I could not get supermarket deliveries. Being blind and living alone, I couldn’t get to the shops. In the first couple of weeks of lockdown I actually came close to running out of food. Going from being an incredibly active person, to being trapped in my flat took an incredible emotional toll. I wouldn’t see a friend or a family member until the end of May.”

Jurgen is far from alone in his experience of navigating lockdown with sight loss, according to Fight for Sight’s survey, more than half of people with sight loss said that their access to food and other products has got worse since the beginning of the pandemic, while two in five respondents with significant sight loss reported finding it difficult to follow social distancing rules due to their eye condition.

Jurgen learned to adapt to the ‘new normal’ and with the help of Twitter, was able to find a butcher that was willing to deliver to him on a same-day basis, and a café that was selling fruit and vegetable boxes and could deliver to his door. As lockdown restrictions eased, he began to find his feet and his independence once more. However with the UK now back in lockdown for at least another month, Jurgen is worried about what’s ahead. 

He said: “The first lockdown took a lot from me. Like many others, I have lost my job as a result of the economic recession this virus has caused. I now find myself unemployed and struggling to find work with hundreds of people applying for every job. As we begin another lockdown, the fear and the anxiety have come back, and I’m worried that we are going to go through this again and again. It seems unlikely that this will only be four weeks, and the uncertainty that that has created is difficult.” 

Fight for Sight’s survey of 325 people with sight loss also found that 73 percent of respondents were struggling to access treatment during the pandemic, with some reporting cancelled surgeries, as well as cancelled injections for age-related macular degeneration. Four in ten people surveyed say they are concerned that their eyesight has or will further deteriorate as a result.

Chief Executive of Fight for Sight, Sherine Krause said: "We know from our research and speaking to our supporters what a negative effect lockdown restrictions have on people with sight loss - hugely impeding independence, livelihoods and mental health. As the Covid-19 pandemic continues, it’s of course vital that the government takes action to stop the spread of the virus, but the immediate need of people with eye conditions to access treatment must urgently be addressed, so they don’t become blind because of missed appointments. We would also urge that any extension of lockdown restrictions is not taken lightly and with a view on the impact on those most negatively affected.”

If you are in need of support at this challenging time or would like to share your experiences or concerns around managing an eye condition during the pandemic, please contact info@fightforsight.org.uk. You can also visit our FAQs page.

Information and advice for people with eye conditions surrounding Covid-19

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