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Eye care for older Australians

Australia is said to be a lucky country. But does your luck run out when you reach old age? Research shows that Australians have a 36 per cent chance of requiring residential aged care during their life. It is a sad, but true reality that up to two thirds of older people in residential care may be visually impaired and there is currently no comprehensive eye care service model available.

Thanks to support from the Equity Trustees Foundation and the Australian Government’s National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) is filling this significant void. A new model of eye care for people in residential care facilities has been created: the Residential Ocular Care model. This comprehensive model was developed by a multidisciplinary team, including behavioural researcher Dr Gwyn Rees.

Elderly maleThe model provides:
•    a thorough on-site eye examination
•    refraction and spectacle provision
•    cataract surgery
•    referral to an ophthalmologist for medical or surgical treatment
•    low vision aids and low vision rehabilitation.

The grant from the Equity Trustees Foundation is important in providing funding support to determine the effectiveness of the model not just on visual acuity, but also quality of life, residential care daily functioning, depression, rates of falls and eye care utilisation.

The project is a true partnership across the vision sector, with low vision aids being prescribed by the Australian College of Optometry and Vision Australia providing professional development training in low vision rehabilitation techniques to staff members of each aged care facility.

Dr Rees said funding from Equity Trustees and the NHMRC is critical in enabling projects, such as the Residential Ocular Care model, that make a real difference to the quality of life for older Australians in residential care.

“At a time in people’s lives, when they rely on others to provide support, this project will ultimately provide the care they need to look after their vision and independence,” she said.