The first thing anyone experiencing vision loss should do is see an ophthalmologist. Many times an optometrist will be the one to make this referral. These eye care professionals are the first line of defense when vision problems arise. But sometimes, a cure or surgery is not a possible course of action. Then the ophthalmologist has one more key role in the life of the low vision patient: referring to one of the 18 local agencies belonging to the statewide Florida Agencies Serving the Blind. There is one near you.
People living with blindness or visual impairments are not the only ones who must deal with the impact of vision loss. Their families also face the fear and grief that comes with such a diagnosis. And their friends. Their employers. Their teachers. Florida Agencies Serving the Blind can help all these constituents.
Florida leads the nation in numbers of blind persons and growth of this population. Florida has 21 million residents (Census as of July 2016) of which 19.4% are 65 years old or older. Applying Florida’s population to findings from a nine-year longitudinal study of Medicare recipients performed by Duke University (2003), the number of severely visually impaired Florida seniors is currently in the range of 2 million older individuals. An annual census performed by the American Printing House for the Blind yields a total of 3,000 severely visually impaired children in public schools.
For the American Society on Aging (January 2018), Kendra Farrow and Dr. Priscilla Rogers wrote about older individuals beginning to experience the “inability to visually complete tasks.” They note that often an older man or woman struggling to see starts to feel lonely and also faces a decrease in “economic well-being, mental health, satisfaction with activities of daily living, satisfaction with life, and perceived quality of life.”
Ophthalmologists do recognize they play a vital role in preserving the emotional and physical well-being of these patients, even before they become “legally blind.” The American Academy of Ophthalmology announced in October 2016, “Referring low-vision patients (those with visual acuities less than 20/40 or scotomas, field loss or contrast loss) to vision rehabilitation services connects them with services that lessen the impact of their vision loss, and improves their independence and quality of life. Joseph Fontenot, MD, Chair of the Academy’s Vision Rehabilitation committee, led the production of a six-minute video, titled “There is Something Else You Can Do.” Introduced by David W. Parke II, MD, Academy CEO, this video emphasizes the impact of vision loss on the individual and the responsibility of the ophthalmologist to refer or provide vision rehabilitation. With advances in technology, modern vision rehabilitation can help most patients with any degree of vision loss. Provision of, or referral to, vision rehabilitation is now the standard of care for all who experience vision loss. For full details, click to view the short video!
Florida Agencies Serving the Blind are the premier resource for modern vision rehabilitation. Do you, or someone you know, need more information? Find an agency near you.
Thanks to authors Kendra Farrow, a research and training associate at the National Research & Training Center on Blindness & Low Vision at Mississippi State University and Pris Rogers, Ph.D., VisionAware program director at the American Foundation for the Blind for use of material quoted above from American Society on Aging.