While gains have been made in treating conditions such as glaucoma and cataracts and the use of bionics has shown promise with some forms of blindness, the fact remains that there are times when the interventions fail and a person either loses functional vision or becomes totally blind. When that happens do you mention to the person that he or she is now eligible for disability and figure you have one less patient to worry about?
As a healthcare professional, one would hope not. Still, many people who experience vision loss are not told about options, such as occupational therapy or training on electronic aids that can enhance quality of life. So, it is no wonder that they feel cast aside when they lose their vision.
Yet, these interventions aren’t just busy work to take the person’s mind off of their vision loss. In fact, they not only do they help people to cope with the loss, they help improve functionality. One study showed the improvements that low vision patients experienced when they had access to occupational therapy. In this study, only 31 percent participants could correctly read an electric bill. Once the therapy was done, 96 percent of participants could correctly read an electric bill. The most interesting thing about this study involved identifying money. While all subjects could identify money correctly before receiving therapy, once they received the appropriate therapy, the time it took decreased from 23 to 16 seconds.
With results like this, why aren’t more eye care professionals recommending therapies or aids that can enhance the quality of life? Unfortunately, therapies and aid to help those who are blind and have low vision are the best kept secrets in healthcare. Yet, they really shouldn’t be, considering the aging population and how more people are being diagnosed with blindness and low vision conditions, such as macular degeneration.
So take the time to learn about services available in your community to those who are blind or have low vision and share the information with patients. It more than just good customer service. It can help these patients realize that blindness or low vision doesn’t mean that they sit in a corner somewhere and stop living.
For more information about low vision and blindness, go to:
Lighthouse International – www.lighthouse.org
This organization works to prevent vision loss via prevention, treatment and empowerment. It supports research, rehabilitation education and advocacy
National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped – www.loc.gov/nls/
This is a network of libraries that circulates Braille and audio materials to eligible person via postage free mail.
American Foundation for the Blind – www.afb.org
This organization works to promote independent and healthy living for those with vision loss and to provide tools to professionals who work with the blind and visual impaired.