Eighty percent of older adults surveyed reported improvement in their quality of life, ability to function and ability to live independently after an educational program increased knowledge of services available and strengthened relationships between providers and the Olmsted Center for Sight in Buffalo.
The Bulger Vision Rehabilitation Center’s Low Vision Rehabilitation Program Expansion Project in Buffalo increased the number of referrals to the Bulger Clinic by improving relationships with providers through an aggressive education process with the region’s approximately 68 ophthalmologists.
According to the results of an evaluation of the project published in spring 2013, before April 2011, providers referred a median of two older adults to the center per year; a year later, the number of senior referrals had increased to 10 per year per provider. Almost all providers were referring older patients to the center after the education program, and the overall referral rate increased 400 percent.
Over one year, the low-vision educator used a time- and labor-intensive education and awareness system, modeled after those used by drug companies, to establish and improve relationships with the region’s medical eye care providers and their staffs. The educator treated practices to a healthful lunch, and then presented information about the Olmsted Center for Sight and the Bulger Clinic. Participants received literature about the programs, referral forms and general patient information. Follow-up visits allowed educators to maintain visibility while providing and reinforcing information.
Several doctors and/or office managers called the clinic educator between visits, suggesting a growing interest in the vision services and referral program. A survey of participants in Olmsted’s low vision center showed that participants were pleased with the services they received.
The vast majority of patients reported experiencing significant improvement in the ability to see large print materials and/or televisions. They also reported a high level of satisfaction in using adaptive tools, such as illuminated hand-held magnifiers, illuminated stand magnifiers, talking time pieces, writing guides, large print calendars and talking calculators.
Almost 50 percent of respondents reported feeling better about cooking and reading as a result of services and adaptive tools provided. Respondents also reported feeling more safe and said they felt better about their ability to participate in activities including watching television, using the telephone and doing laundry.
The respondents reported feeling safer and more confident after receiving Olmsted services.
Specific responses include:
72 percent said they could accomplish more.
78 percent said daily activities were less stressful.
47 percent reported accomplishing tasks more quickly.
91 percent reported feeling better.
Health services for seniors are crucial as the aging population grows. By 2030, the number of Americans 65 and older will more than double, going from roughly 35 million in 2000 to about 71.5 million, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. About one in six people over age 65 is visually impaired. Vision loss can increase the likelihood of falls and injuries, increasing nursing home admissions, disability and death. Further, vision loss is associated with depressive symptoms.
The Olmsted Center has worked since 1907 to help adults and children with vision impairments and other challenges live independently without barriers. The Bulger Clinic is a subsidiary of the center that provides Medicare and Medicaid reimbursable low vision and related services to severely vision impaired, frail elders. Learn more at www.olmstedcenter.org.
The increased focus on vision services for older adults was facilitated by a $55,000 grant from the Health Foundation for Western and Central New York.