Victoria Johnson from Vision Loss Rehabilitation Canada sheds light on the connection between vision loss and mental health
As Canada’s Baby Boomer generation moves into their later years, the number of age-related vision loss patients is set to double, meaning that the challenge and needs of this population must be tended to in order to ensure their safety.
This is where vision loss rehabilitation services come into play, as they can provide programs and services to clients so they can live safely and independently.
Well-being and eye health
There are approximately 5.4% of Canadians over the age of 15 who currently live with vision-related disabilities. The four most common eye conditions are:
The latter three have been significantly associated with depression and depressive symptoms, and anxiety. There are several risk factors for developing these symptoms, including living alone and living paycheque- to-paycheque. Other contributing factors are having problems adapting to macular degeneration or vision loss and experiencing a reduced health-related quality of life.
Studies have shown that depressive symptoms can be directly linked to the effects of vision loss. There is a correlation between the severity of a person’s vision loss and poor psychological outcomes. Simple things, like having a social network available, can aid in reducing levels of depression.
For many people, the realisation of losing one of their senses can be devastating and adjusting to vision loss can be complicated and jarring. There is a feeling of loss of life and ability, with older adults being at greater risk for suicide ideation because of it.
Growing demand for services
The demand for rehabilitation services is only going to rise. With the ageing population increasing, the number of Canadians with vision loss is expected to double within the next 25 years. In 2019 alone, 84% of the clients receiving vision loss rehabilitation services were over the age of 45.
While waiting for rehabilitation services without any assistance, depressive symptoms can increase substantially. It is increasingly important for people to reach out for help sooner. Early referrals to vision loss rehabilitation are readily available and highly recommended by eye care specialists.
It is important to recognise symptoms and apply for an early referral. This allows people to combat grief-like symptoms caused by vision loss. Certified specialists can offer life-changing services. These services include:
• Providing a functional assessment to determine how vision is impacting daily living and to determine what compensatory skills will be utilised during the vision rehabilitation program,
- Explaining eye diseases and how they affect vision in an easy-to-understand way,
- Teaching techniques for maximising eyesight, such as how to use lighting and contrast,
- Giving one-on-one instruction on helpful sight- enhancing devices, like speciality magnifiers.
Other services offered by certified specialists are essential skills for daily living, such as:
- Safe methods to perform household tasks,
- Simple techniques for labelling and identifying common items like money, phones and medications,
- Learning how to utilise large print, braille, audio products and adaptive technology in a day-to-day setting and,
- Finding community programs, financial subsidies and other helpful resources available in your local area.
“We’re confident that a blended approach to service through in-person and tele-practice enables teams to provide the services that support clients’ needs to remain active, safe and independent in times of isolation,” says Jennifer Urosevic, Vice President, Healthcare Operations at Vision Loss Rehabilitation
Canada. “It’s during those times that vision rehabilitation programs become even more important to our clients.”
The earlier these obstacles can be tackled and managed, the better a person will be able to manage coping. With increased understanding and ability, the risk of depressive symptoms is greatly reduced.
While coping with sudden or onset changes can be difficult, getting the assistant and rehabilitation for those changes should not be. It is the goal of certified specialists to prioritise making things easier and more inclusive for people who struggle with the loss by offering a wide variety of services for people of all ages and all types of vision loss. Mental health is important, and no one should be without support.