By Nora Laberee and Kristen Mulvihill
Scheie Vision Annual Report 2018
With its first meeting held in January 2017, the Penn Center for Low Vision Rehabilitation’s Vision Loss Support Group continues to expand in size and impact.
Led by Ranjoo Prasad, OD, the center provides support to individuals with visual impairments that can no longer be improved through medical or surgical means. The support group embodies this mission, serving as a platform for members to share their experiences and learn from various guest speakers.
“I feel that the support group is going very well, beyond our expectations,” said Dr. Prasad. “There is an amazing connection that the members have found among each other.”
Meeting each month in the Ralston House, the Vision Loss Support Group is led by Sheri Grand Drossner, a Clinical Research Coordinator at the Scheie Eye Institute with a Master’s Degree in Social Work. Each meeting consists of individuals with a range of diagnoses and visual abilities, all of whom share a desire for emotional support and encouragement.
“I’m seeing the connections, which is great, and I’m hearing the participants voice that they truly value coming and they look forward to coming,” said Sheri. “The group gives them hope and inspiration to accomplish things they’ve been struggling with.”
The group hosts occasional guest speakers who share knowledge on various topics, including the assistive devices and technologies available for patients with vision loss. In addition to guest speakers, the participants hold valuable open discussion during meetings.
“The group discussion just takes a life of its own,” said Sheri. “People do talk about their fears and anxieties, and then people are there to encourage and support. People have questions about services, or maybe something we’ve discussed in the past.”
Several participants expressed how the support group has introduced them to information and resources to which they would not have otherwise been exposed. As more technologies are developed to assist individuals struggling with vision loss, learning how to properly use and find adequate funding for these technologies becomes difficult.
One member, Marlene, emphasized how she learns from both the speakers and the other members. “We get good information and a great speaker who lets us know that there is stuff out there that can help us,” Marlene said. She has been a member for a while. “I haven’t missed a month that I can think of.”
Another member of the group, Yvonne, acts as an advocate for other individuals struggling with their vision loss. “My whole goal is to educate and empower people,” she said. “Some people say they don’t think they can make it, they say, ‘Oh losing your sight, that’s it.’ But I’ve learned, that’s not it. There’s so many resources.” Newer members of the group look to experienced members like Yvonne to help them through the unfamiliar and difficult parts of vision loss or impairment.
In the last year, the group has steadily grown. If the group continues to expand, Sheri and Dr. Prasad plan to incorporate caregivers into the sessions, or if opportune, create an entirely separate group for caregivers.
Both Sheri and Dr. Prasad also intend to implement outcome measures to determine the group’s impact on patients with low vision or blindness, and how the group enhances their quality of life.
The Vision Loss Support Group meets on the last Tuesday of each month at the Ralston House from 3-4PM. For more information, please contact Sheri Drossner at 215-662-8177.