After working for decades, it can be hard for Californians to have to give up a job because of health problems. Unfortunately, as America’s population ages, some age-related medical conditions can result in disabilities that render afflicted persons unable to continue working. Fortunately, the Social Security Disability Insurance program provides benefits for workers who find themselves in such a situation.
An age-related condition: macular degeneration
Perhaps one of the most distressing conditions that can affect a person at age 50 and above is vision loss due to age-related macular degeneration, known as AMD.
The macula is the part of the eye that produces sharply focused central vision. AMD damages the macula, ultimately destroying it. The condition can develop very slowly so that the person who has it will retain vision for a long time, or it can accelerate and lead to rapid loss of central vision in one or both eyes.
Even though central vision is lost, people with AMD will still have peripheral vision, which allows them to see off to the side. It will be difficult or impossible, though, to do close work, operate a motor vehicle or read.
In its early stages AMD can be detected only through a comprehensive eye examination. Careful eye inspection and tests can determine if there is any early damage to the macula.
According to the National Eye Institute, some people are at higher risk for AMD and will want to be especially sure to have regular eye care. Smokers are twice as likely to develop AMD, and a family history of AMD is a red flag, indicating a higher risk.
In everyone who has AMD, the condition begins with the breakdown of light-sensitive cells in the macula. As the cells deteriorate, central vision starts to blur. For most people, this so-called “dry” AMD is the only cause of macular degeneration. It may continue to progress through intermediate and advanced stages and eventually results in complete loss of central vision.
Less commonly, “wet” AMD develops after the initial dry AMD begins. Wet AMD is likely to be more severe, as blood vessels develop abnormally and start leaking under the macula. This particular form of AMD can destroy central vision rapidly.
Help with AMD
According to the National Institutes of Health, some precautions may help prevent or delay AMD, though there is no definitive proof that these measures are effective. Once AMD has begun, a dietary supplement rich in zinc and antioxidants may be prescribed and could avert severe loss of vision.
Given the effects of AMD, it may be impossible to continue working as the condition progresses. At this point, SSDI benefits may be available. To qualify for SSDI, people who qualify must be unable to do work they did before or to adapt to other work. The disabling condition must have lasted or be expected to last for a year at minimum, or to lead to death.
Applying and qualifying for SSDI is a complicated process, and the assistance of an experienced disability advocate is advisable.