Clinicians in the skilled nursing facility setting work hard to stay up-to-date on the newest treatments and latest technologies that will help them improve their residents’ health and quality of life. But sometimes, making a real difference in a resident’s life doesn’t require expensive equipment or groundbreaking procedures – there are plenty of simple ways to change your residents’ lives for the better and help them enjoy the time they’re under your care.
The Eyes Have It
For example, monitoring and protecting your residents’ eye health can have a major impact on their ability to live a satisfying, fulfilling life while in your facility.
Research has shown that one in three Americans will suffer from some type of vision loss or eye disease by the age of 65. There are many causes of vision impairment, including age-related eye diseases such as cataracts, glaucoma, age-related macular degeneration (AMD), and diabetic retinopathy. Underlying chronic conditions can also cause vision loss, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol and vitamin deficiencies. Monitoring your residents’ eye health on a regular basis can alert you to issues with declining vision in those who suffer from these conditions – or identify residents who may have undiagnosed chronic conditions that need ongoing treatment and maintenance.
But vision loss doesn’t just take a physical toll on your residents – it can also result in other serious consequences that may affect their overall quality of life.
Studies have shown that vision loss can have a negative effect on mental health. Residents with vision impairment issues may no longer be able to enjoy hobbies, like reading. Their ability to see obstacles may be affected, leading to decreased stability and increasing their fall risk. They may not be able to accomplish some activities of daily living, affecting their sense of personal autonomy and hastening cognitive decline. They may also begin to experience feelings of social isolation.
Luckily, there are many easy steps a skilled nursing facility can take to help their residents better manage and protect their vision and eye health.
Small Steps, Big Results
Scheduling regular eye exams with an ophthalmologist for your residents is the most important step you can take to help them maintain their vision and quality of life. Seniors who are 65 and older should receive a comprehensive eye exam every one to two years, and those with known eye disease or other conditions causing vision loss may need to be seen even more frequently.
There are also other simple actions you can take every day to promote good eye health for your residents:
- Nutrition plays a large part in supporting eye health. Providing your residents with a well-balanced diet rich in leafy greens, berries, citrus, fish high in omega-3 fatty acids, eggs, and other non-meat proteins can help prevent age-related eye diseases.
- Providing your residents with regular exercise can lower their risk for diabetes and high blood pressure, which are two main causes of age-related eye problems. It can also ward off or forestall advanced eye disease – studies have shown that physical activity is associated with delaying the onset and progression of age-related macular degeneration.
- Ultraviolet radiation can contribute to the formation of cataracts, so when your residents are outside, make sure they have access to sunglasses or other protective eyewear to block out UV rays.
- Stay vigilant for changes in a resident’s behavior. If you notice an increased reluctance to socialize and participate in community activities, a lack of enthusiasm about previous hobbies and interests, or if a resident is having new problems with balance or instability, check to see if an eye exam is in order.
- Your staff’s continued daily efforts to help residents manage their blood sugar and blood pressure levels will also help them maintain good eye health.
Protecting your residents’ eye health and vision may only require small changes to your daily operations, but they will have outsized results in improving your residents’ quality of life. Ensuring they get regular eye exams and assisting them in the management of their chronic conditions through treatment, medication, exercise, and good nutrition will safeguard their sight for years to come.