Monday, 12 June 2017

What I got from the Optimeyes Project - Mike

MikeOptimeyes was a two year project running from April 2015 to the end of March 2017 and its objectives were to: 

  • identify people over 50 who are at risk of developing, or who are living with sight loss
  • support older people living with sight loss and in need of help, and link them in with their local sight loss organisations to help them access the required support
  • prevent isolation and encouraging independence
  • raise awareness of the importance of eye health and regular eye health and sight checks

Optimeyes, a good play on the word 'Optimise' which means to make something as good as possible, for example, we need to optimise our use of existing technology.

On a personal basis, Optimeyes has changed my lifestyle considerably. Following two strokes and a heart attack, I was certified visually impaired in both eyes. I was seeing visions and was convinced that I was suffering with dementia.

I became housebound for three months, not mentioning that I was convinced I suffered from dementia to anyone, not to my wife, my two sons, my doctor or my Neuro-opthalmology Consultant.

Then my life change came. I was put into contact with SRSB and received a visit from Joanne, a Community Advice Officer, who mentioned that some VIPs (Visually Impaired People) experience visions called CBS (Charles Bonnet Syndrome) and that there was a support group at SRSB. I joined the group and for the last two years I have produced a monthly CBS poem for them.

I also belong to the Creative Writing Group. It was at the Writing Group that I met Liz Bowman who had just started as Mobile Information Officer. Liz also became a project worker for Optimeyes. I immediately offered to become a volunteer with that unit, and also Optimeyes, and was accepted.

Later, Liz became Community Engagement Officer which included work for the Optimeyes project. I assisted her with VIA (Visual Impairment Awareness) training sessions, eye health talks, etc.

All these tasks led to me campaigning to raise awareness of CBS through outreach events, online research, joining focus groups at SRSB and RNIB Action Group and potentially becoming involved at a national level with Esme's Umbrella and with the RNIB Action Group.

I have taken part in focus groups and a research project called 'Improving detection and support for older people with sight loss' at The University of Sheffield.

I thank Liz Bowman at SRSB who gave me an opportunity to attend an Action for Sight Loss six week course run by Action for Blind People held in Rotherham. Liz also arranged a two day residential course Confidence Building Volunteer Peer Facilitation at York funded through the Optimeyes Project and a ten week WEA 'Skills for Volunteering' course based at Voluntary Action Sheffield.

Now I want you to think of an electric plug, it has three prongs. Earth, you can go to earth. Negative you can take the negative way, or Positive, and I chose the positive way.

Positive thinking is more than just a tagline. It changes the way we behave. I firmly believe that when I am positive, it not only makes me better, but it also makes those around me better. There is a new tomorrow - and life still has meaning. I am optimised. Thank you for reading!

About Charles Bonnet Syndrome
A note from SRSB

Charles Bonnet Syndrome (CBS) or ‘Phantom Visions’ as the syndrome is often called, can be a very worrying side effect of sight loss, where the brain tries to compensate for not seeing by creating visual hallucinations or sees things which are not really there.

They may be simple images such as grids and patterns, or elaborate, complex images of objects including animals, people or landscapes.

 Charles Bonnet hallucinations are not a sign of dementia or any other sort of mental illness. They are a normal response of the brain to the loss of vision.

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