Low Vision in the Elderly

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As we age, our bodies lose some of the functionality of our youth. This holds true for most body systems, including our eyesight. This decline in our visual acuity can result in an inability to perform our daily tasks of living. While our ancestors may have had to simply accept these changes as a fact of life, there is treatment available to the elderly of today’s generation.

Low Vision Rehabilitation Services

Elderly patients who have lost some independence because of low vision can benefit from low vision rehabilitation (LVR) services from a trained optometrist. Low vision specialists can design and provide a program of care and advice to help their patients regain some of their independence. Activities of daily living that can be improved with low vision rehabilitative services can include:

  • reading
  • paying bills
  • facial recognition
  • walking and maintaining balance
  • engaging in hobbies you enjoy
  • getting back to work
  • performing household tasks
  • driving
  • social interaction

Could You Benefit from a Low Vision Services Consultation?

Optometrists trained in the treatment of low vision difficulties in the elderly can supply you with a variety of visual enhancement devices to help you regain or maintain your independence and quality of life.

To determine whether or not you are a candidate for a low vision consultation, ask yourself the following questions:

  1. Is your ability to conduct your daily living activities hampered by your vision?
  2. Do you have difficulties with household chores and activities, such as shopping, cooking, cleaning up spills in the kitchen, or finding items in the house?
  3. Do you have difficulty with personal grooming, such as dressing, applying makeup or shaving?
  4. Are you falling or stumbling, slipping or bumping into things?
  5. Do you have difficulty walking and getting around?
  6. Are you experiencing difficulty reading?
  7. Do you have problems managing your medications or eye drops?
  8. Have you been forced to give up your hobbies because of vision problems?

If your answer to any of the above questions is “yes,” or you’re having other problems because of vision problems, you may be a candidate for a low vision services consultation. You can be evaluated for the functional problems that your vision loss is causing. The optometrist can determine your personal visual needs and set goals for your vision therapy. The optometrist can determine if you can benefit from any devices that can help you perform tasks you’re having trouble accomplishing. Medicare and most private insurances will often cover the cost.

How Can Low Vision Services Help?

Before you begin your low vision services, you’ll need an examination by a trained optometrist. You’ll also need to understand that the treatment is a rehabilitation process and is not going to restore your lost vision back to what it was when you were young. You will, however, be taught ways to effectively use your remaining vision to your maximum benefit.

A few of the ways that you may be helped by low vision therapy are:

  1. You can learn to use the vision you have remaining more efficiently. You can be taught to use eye movement skills to enhance your vision.
  2. There are alternative measures which you can learn that will aid you in performing some tasks. Some of the measures that may help you include improved lighting in your home, providing for a higher contrast between light and shadow in your home, and making use of enlarged print. You may also benefit from auditory or hearing devices and training.
  3. You can learn to use special optical devices to augment your visual capabilities. Items such as magnifiers may be beneficial in helping you see more detail.
  4. Prism glasses or other optical devices can enlarge text and increase contrast to help expand your reading ability.
  5. Through vision therapy, you can learn to move blind spots out of your field of vision through a technique called eccentric viewing (EV).
  6. One of the most devastating losses in an elderly person’s life is the loss of driving ability. Returning to safe driving may be possible with the vision therapy and rehabilitation technologies available today.
  7. Improvement in walking and balance may be accomplished through the use of prism lenses and visual field expanders. Your vision therapy specialists can teach you how to use these devices to minimize dizziness by stabilizing your vision. This will help decrease your likelihood of suffering a devastating fall.

The first step to improving your low vision is to be evaluated by a vision care specialist who can develop a plan to meet your specific condition. See your vision care specialist and ask about low vision services for the elderly to get started on your own road to better vision.

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