For the last 20 years, UMSL Optometry students have had the special opportunity to participate in caring for Low Vision patients at SLSBVI with their Low Vision professor. I proudly am one of those original students.
I have dedicated my career to providing Low Vision Eye Care and Rehabilitation ever since I graduated, for the last 18 years. For my patients, there is nothing more important to them than to remain independent and safe when their vision declines. My patients tell me they want and/or have to continue to do the many things they have always done for themselves and still care for others. They have strong pride and determination to still perform their daily routines and responsibilities. They say they don’t want to be a burden on anyone else.
It’s not uncommon for Low Vision patients to be unsure of what they will experience at SLSBVI. Many are apprehensive and fearful of what I will tell them and/or can’t bear to hear any more bad news. They are all dealing with a loss of some of their vision and a decline in function. All of my patients will go through their own grieving process and react differently to stress and change. Family and friends are going through a lot of this grief with them. They themselves can often react differently when they are in a different stage of grief, such as a daughter who’s in a state of denial as their mother is in a state of depression.
Our staff at SLSBVI take our patients’ Low Vision needs extremely seriously. When one calls for a magnifier, let’s say, we have Social Workers who will spend the time needed to determine if there are other needs for daily function. I will examine the patients first in our team of experts and start with a LV Evaluation. I will spend whatever time is necessary to explain their eye condition(s) thoroughly in easy-to-understand terms and examples. From there, a detailed case history and conversation allows me to learn the specifics about their goals. I always ask them what their needs are as well as their wants since their vision has changed. We openly discuss realistic expectations. Additional testing and a Low Vision refraction is done to assess the patient and determine if new eyeglasses will be more helpful. I take great pride in providing a realistic, customized treatment plan. I focus on every detail in order to know how to best help and guide my patients. I know how overwhelming it is for the patient and those close to them.
I determine what techniques, eyeglasses, adaptations, and devices are going to best suit them functionally, visually, physically, and emotionally. I then describe in detail and demonstrate my plan to the patient and those that have accompanied them. Most importantly, I also relay these details and my customized Low Vision Rehabilitation plan to our expert Low Vision Therapists who will instruct, demonstrate, and repeat and reiterate how and what to do in order for the patient to perform and function on their own. If others need to assist the patient, we work and educate them as well. If at any time later a patient is having difficulty performing with their new devices and techniques, or their vision has changed, the expert LV Specialist will troubleshoot and instruct on the proper ways to use and succeed with the new adaptations, techniques, and LV devices.
We carry all of the recommended devices so the patient can be certain to be able to go home with those they decide to pursue and start with them ASAP. We do not expect and push the patients to purchase devices. We focus on explaining, teaching, and providing the knowledge, skill, and all of the patients’ options so they can work on attaining their goals.
If a patient is having trouble with their computer, tablets, and cell phones, we can have them meet with our expert Assistive Technology specialists. If a patient is having trouble with their Activities of Daily Living (ADLs), we would recommend a home visit by our expert Occupational Therapist to figure out a different and more successful way to continue to do their ADLs. If a patient has trouble with depth perception or fears walking because of their vision, our expert Orientation and Mobility specialists can personally discuss their plan to best safely guide them.
If the patient struggles with how they are adapting emotionally with the new changes in their lives, our expert Social Workers will offer guidance and their series of six-week support group meetings. If the patient would like to participate in some leisure and recreational activities, our expert Leisure Activity Specialist will contact them to discuss the fun and interesting activities that have been planned. We also have opportunities for volunteers, just inquire!
From the first interaction with our expert Support Services receptionists, or with our expert Transportation Coordinator, and with our expert Medical Records Coordinator… we treat our LV patients respectfully as individuals seeking something new, different, and more helpful. We strive to enhance, empower, and enrich their lives and those close to them.