"Ms. P." always had been in excellent health and did not realize the significance of what was happening to her eyesight as she enjoyed her ninth decade of life.
As the struggle with daily activities became more difficult, Ms. P. decided to visit an eye doctor and was diagnosed with macular degeneration. Despite visual acuities of 20-400 in both eyes, she was determined to maintain her independence at her home in rural eastern Lycoming County for as long as possible.
As the disease progressed, Ms. P. started to suffer from anxiety issues and depression due to this drastic change in her lifestyle and compromised independence. Then she learned about North Central Sight Services.
In 2003, Ms. P. became a specialized service customer through North Central Sight Services in the social services program. Lynn Siddle, a life skills assistant, visits her every other week.
"We take her to all of her medical appointments and errands," Siddle explained. "Ms. P. not only relies on North Central Sight Services for these physical services, but thrives on the social interaction. Much of the time, we are the only contact that she receives in her home.
"Because of the remote location of her home, it is sometimes difficult for us to visit her in the winter and she goes weeks without seeing anyone. For some people this would be an invited retreat, but for Ms. P. this sets her back both mentally and emotionally. Although she has contemplated moving into a more social setting, she always decided against it. She feels very strongly about staying in her home as long as she can."
"The social services program at North Central Sight Services provides transportation and assistance to and from the grocery store, pharmacy, doctors' appointments and other essential errands. Lynn helps me with reading prices and finding items at the grocery store, refilling prescriptions and scheduling appointments," Ms. P. explained. "With their assistance, I can maintain my independence and stay in the home I grew up in and love. I can't thank the people at North Central Sight Services enough. I think of them as family."
"Our agency philosophy focuses on helping people help themselves. Our mission is to provide exceptional programs, services, and employment to the blind and visually impaired, as well as excellent education, prevention services, and products to all customers.
"We emphasize the abilities and capabilities of the blind and visually impaired people we serve. To accomplish this mission, we offer a variety of rehabilitation services, an Industry Program that provides various types of employment opportunities for the blind and visually impaired, and a Prevention of Blindness Program that includes eye screenings, public education, referral services and the provision of low vision aids," explained Bob Garrett, president and CEO of North Central Sight Services.
"With funding from Lycoming County United Way for prevention of blindness and social services, we are able to promote public awareness about potential blinding eye disease and offer screenings," added Garrett. "The social services program provides a comprehensive line up of activities and courses designed to help individuals who are blind or experiencing vision loss. Our goal is to keep people living as independently as possible."
Through its annual funds distribution process determined by community volunteers, United Way allocated $21,000 for the Prevention of Blindness Program and the Social Services Program at North Central Sight Services for the last year.
"We are pleased to be able to fund these programs at North Central Sight Services because they make a real difference in the lives of their clients, their families, and the local work force right here in Lycoming County," said Scott N. Lowery, executive director for LCUW. "Preventing just one case of blindness or helping an individual to overcome obstacles from a disease such as macular degeneration is using United Way money raised for its intended purpose."
For more information on NCSS, call 323-9401 or visit ncsight.org. For more information on Lycoming County United Way or to support the campaign that funds programs like these, visit lcuw.org or call 323-9448.