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Majority of aged care residents don’t receive eye health care, study finds

Use of optometrists and other eye health professionals in Australian care homes is low, despite over 40 per cent of residents having one or more eye condition, a new study has found.

The study, published in the Translational Vision Science and Technology Journal, evaluated the prevalence of eye diseases, use of eye health care services and eye medications by almost 410,000 aged care residents, aged 65 years or older, who entered residential care between 2008 and 2015.

The researchers found that 44 per cent of the care home residents had at least one eye condition, 33 per cent had a chronic eye condition and 20 per cent had an acute eye condition.

Adding to these alarming figures, the investigation also found that the majority of residents who required eye care were not having regular appointments with an optometrist. Only 46 per cent of residents with eye conditions accessed an eye health service in the first year of entering residential aged care, despite 71 per cent using at least one ophthalmic medication.

Lead researcher Dr Jyoti Khadka said the findings were worrying. He said: “If you have proper eye health services, simple kinds of treatments and corrections related to eye rehabilitation can help significantly. If you leave them like that, these eye conditions may lead to blindness.”

He also noted that if patients suffering from unnecessary low vision and blindness isn’t bad enough, it can also lead to injuries and hospital admissions from falls.  

Luke Arundel, Optometry Australia’s Chief Clinical Officer, said: “No matter your age or circumstances, if you have an eye condition then it’s vital that you regularly see your optometrist or ophthalmologist. This is to ensure that the condition is being treated properly and that you’re using the right medications, and to reduce the risk of further damage to your eyes.  

“It’s concerning that many home care patients, who are among the most vulnerable in or society, are not being supported enough when it comes to eye health. It’s not acceptable to just accept vision loss in the elderly – around 90 per cent of the time this is avoidable with early detection and proper care.

“There are options available for Australians who can’t make their own way to an eye examination. The Good vision for life website’s Find an Optometrist allows you to search for a nearby mobile optometrists who will provide comprehensive vision checks and eyecare in homes and aged and residential care services” he said.

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