There’s troubling news regarding regarding health care services for elderly nursing home residents.
Many seniors residing in long-term care facilities fail to receive routine vision care services, even though they are eligible to receive such services.
Your first impression may be, “No big problem. All they do is sit in their room and watch TV, they don’t even drive anymore.”
Well, it is a big problem. Poor eyesight (especially when it is correctable) leads to sensory deprivation, social withdrawal, depression and a decreased quality of life. Did you know that nursing home residents in the United States have high rates of vision impairment, with estimates ranging up to 15 times higher than corresponding rates for community-dwelling adults?
Ophthalmologists from the University of Alabama at Birmingham studied 142 local nursing home residents who needed corrective lenses in order to see clearly. Seventy eight of this group received corrective eye glasses immediately and were surveyed again after two months. They were compared to a control group made up of the remaining 64 residents who received their corrective eye glasses after the follow-up survey.
Following two months of corrected vision, the first group (the immediate correction group) reported dramatic improvement in vision-related quality of life activities and less depression than the delayed correction group.
According to findings published in Archives of Ophthalmology, compared to those who did not receive new glasses immediately, the group who received their new glasses promptly reported less difficulty in reading and other activities of life, including writing, using the telephone, playing cards or watching TV. They also reported engaging more in social interactions such as visiting with others and participating in group activities.
The UAB doctors concluded that good vision is associated with a more positive nursing home experience. Such research could serve as a strong impetus to increase the availability of eye care services in nursing homes.
The National Nursing Home Survey found that only half of USA nursing homes have contracts for vision and hearing services. Studies have estimated that more than half of nursing homes residents have no evidence of having received eye care, even when an eye care provider is available.
Bottom line: If you know someone living in a long-term nursing facility inquire when was the last time they had an eye exam. The answer may surprise you!