Do I Need an Eye Examination?

Who needs eye examinations in nursing homes?

Everyone needs regular eye care, whether they are in a nursing home or not.

But for many people in nursing homes, getting eye care is not a simple matter of just popping down to their local optometrist. Leaving the security of the home can be a real challenge. Unfortunately, that often means that they simply don’t have eye examinations until something goes badly wrong—by which time it’s usually too late.

What makes this a particular problem is that people in nursing homes have a high prevalence of eye problems that need early treatment. For instance:

  • Half of all 90 year olds have macular degeneration. Wet-type macular degeneration needs prompt treatment to prevent blindness.
  • One in ten 90 year olds have glaucoma—and half of them will be undiagnosed. Untreated glaucoma can cause blindness.
  • One in three nursing home residents are diabetic, and so should have a proper screening for potentially blinding diabetic eye complications every year.
  • Parkinsons disease often causes significant and distressing vision problems.

But even for those with good healthy eyes, many have poor vision and reduced quality of life simply because they have lost, broken or underpowered glasses.

Wouldn’t it make more sense to have the optometrist come to the home? That’s where we come in. Hobart Optometry’s service is designed to provide an appropriate level of eye care to everyone, and you don’t have to leave the security of your home.

Why bother?

Occasionally we are asked why we bother—what point is there in examining people’s eyes when they are near the end of their life, or they have dementia limiting their ability to understand what they read?

The answer is that we always tailor our care to the individual patient’s own circumstances and needs, to help them keep the best quality of life possible. It’s not always about reading, and it’s not always about longer term eye health.

In the case of a person who is clearly quite frail, we shift our emphasis away from screening for chronic eye disease, and instead concentrate our efforts on making sure they have the best vision they can have for whatever most improves their quality of life—whether that be reading comfortably and being able to see family photos, getting around safely, or just seeing the television and friends’ faces clearly.

In contrast, when we are dealing with a person with advanced dementia, we are less likely to spend time trying to get perfect reading glasses. But we know that sensory stimulation is important to reduce the progression of dementia, and blurry vision can make people with dementia quite distressed. So instead, we concentrate on making sure there are no eye diseases endangering their current vision, and providing appropriately simple and safe vision corrections if needed for whatever pastimes they enjoy.