Occupational Therapy services benefit adults with low vision

WOODRUFF, WI— Do you have difficulty reading small print such as labels of medicine bottles or food labels? Difficulty seeing steps, curbs or stairs, even with glasses? Difficulty recognizing people when they are close to you, even with glasses? Difficulty writing checks or setting oven/burner dials? If so, you might be one of the many persons in our society with low vision.

Low vision is a chronic medical condition affecting one in six adults over 45 years of age (Lighthouse National survey on Vision Loss, 1995). Two-thirds of persons with low vision are over 65 years of age. Three eye diseases account for a majority of low vision in older adults: macular degeneration, glaucoma, and diabetic retinopathy. These diseases are age-related and increase in incidence as a person ages.

People with low vision may have difficulty using their remaining vision efficiently and effectively enough to complete many necessary daily living activities—such as grooming, meal preparation, financial management, driving, medication management, and shopping. Their safety is often at risk. These persons may have difficulty accurately monitoring and identifying medications; difficulty identifying dials on stoves or recognizing spoiled foods or noticing water spilled on floors. Also, persons with low vision may experience difficulty using sharp knives to cut foods. Accurately dialing emergency numbers such as 911 can become difficult.

Occupational Therapy personnel enable persons with low vision to engage in their chosen daily living activities as safely and independently as possible. The person is taught to use their remaining vision as efficiently as possible. The person may be instructed to modify activities so that they can be completed safely even with reduced vision. Occupational therapy personnel may also train persons in use of adaptive equipment to compensate for visual loss and create a safer home environment to prevent falls and injuries. The main focus of occupational therapy is to have persons with low vision or other visual impairment participate in activities that are meaningful and contribute to their quality of life.

Many health insurance programs, as well as Medicare and Medicaid, provide coverage for rehabilitation through occupational therapy. Under many payment systems, eye doctors are able to refer patients for occupational therapy services. Occupational therapists work closely with the optometrist/ophthalmologist. The eye doctor may prescribe optical aids and the occupational therapist can then teach the patient to use these aids in various activities of daily living.

For more information, contact Howard Young Medical Center 715-356-8870

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