By Sarah McGoldrick
Vision loss is often a traumatic and frightening experience. Many People Experience Vision loss for the first time in their Early 50s When adults are at a higher risk for developing age-related eye problems.
This is also a time when eyecare providers (ECPs) are called upon to do more than just prescribe lenses. Patients are also looking for emotional support and to answer questions and provide resources related to dealing with this life changing experience.
ECPs can point their patients in the direction of Canadian National Institute for the Blind (CNIB) who offer many ways of assisting pa- tients who are experiencing vision loss for the first time.
Client service manager Jennifer Urosevic said patients could better prepare themselves for vision loss and potentially reduce the severity by ensuring they get regular check ups and care.
“Patients should be going to see an optician on a regular basis (every two years in Ontario),” she said. She added ECPs need to stress to patients the importance of understanding that vision loss is often not noticeable until damage is too far along.
The preventative benefits of regular check ups such as early diagnosis of diseases such as diabetes are vital to instill in patients. Once a diagnosis has been made, patients can be referred to the CNIB so that an assistance program can be put into place to help with the transition process.
“We help teach people to use their residual vision,” said Urosevic.
“We also teach them to use magni- fiers. Many people want to continue to use technology as we offer soft- ware to help enhance the screen displays.” Urosevic said it is important when seeing a referral for the first time, to establish what is important to them.
Many people have lost their drivers license and need to learn how to use other modes of transportation or learn how to adapt to traffic patterns when walking through cities. The psychological toll on a patient can be high and counsellors and social workers are available to help ease the stress of this life- altering experience.
“We offer peer-to-peer support that pairs clients with volunteers to who act as mentors,” she said. Families are invited to join the programs
in order to understand what their loved ones are going through.
“We want them to help reinforce and work on skills,” she said.
She added many areas in Canada are too remote for regular visits
or one-on-one engagement, so phone support has been set up as well as programs where volunteers within the community take on a mentor role.
The CNIB has actively utilized social media to offer support to clients and their families includ- ing YouTube videos and regular resource postings to Facebook and Twitter.
Advocacy is a large component
of helping both patients and society deal with vision loss. CNIB will come into workplaces to help employers provide an accessible environment.
This usually involves very little
cost to employers and often only includes improvements to comput- er screen magnification or install- ing additional lighting.
“We will do a full workplace assessment to help build a better environment,” she said.
To learn more about the resources available through the CNIB visit www.cnib.ca
By Sarah McGoldrick