The National Eye Health Education Program is coordinated by the National Eye Institute, National Institutes of Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. This administrative document may be reprinted without permission.
In This Issue:
Health professionals can play an important role in enhancing quality of life for people living with low vision. Immense frustration and even depression can grow out of difficulty in performing everyday activities such as reading, writing, or getting around independently. Fortunately, vision rehabilitation allows people with low vision to make the most of the vision they do have by using devices and services that help them adapt to their vision loss. Although vision problems might not be medically reversible, part of the continuum of care for our patients is referring them to services that can help them improve their quality of life.
During Low Vision Awareness Month this February, I invite you to visit the National Eye Health Education Program (NEHEP) Low Vision Education Program page to find a variety of resources and links to video testimonials about how devices and services have helped individuals with low vision continue to live independently.
I also invite you to view the archive of the NEHEP webinar, Living With Low Vision: How You Can Help, during which Dr. Mark Wilkinson, chair of the NEHEP Low Vision Subcommittee, and Neyal Ammary-Risch, the NEHEP director, discussed how health and social service providers can determine whether someone is having vision problems; where to turn for information and assistance; and how to address the depression, anxiety, and confusion that people with vision loss often experience.
This issue of Outlook also features an article, Low Vision: What to Do When “There is Nothing More That Can be Done” which addresses how people can cope with the psychosocial effects of vision loss and where they can find help. This issue also highlights VisionServe Alliance, a consortium of nonprofit organizations that provides services to people with vision loss and blindness. A variety of articles from other Partnership organizations also appear in this issue.
Please contact us to let us know about your work in raising awareness about low vision. We would especially appreciate comments on how you have used NEHEP materials and how we can better support your eye health education efforts. As always, we look forward to hearing from you.
Anne Louise Coleman, M.D., Ph.D.
Chair, National Eye Health Education Program Planning Committee
The Fran and Ray Stark Professor of Ophthalmology
Jules Stein Eye Institute
David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA
and Professor of Epidemiology
UCLA School of Public Health
Low vision is defined as a visual impairment that is not corrected by standard eyeglasses, contact lenses, medication, or surgery and that interferes with the ability to perform everyday activities. The National Eye Institute estimates that low vision affects 3 million Americans ages 40 and older. This figure is projected to reach 4.5 million by the year 2030. Most people with low vision develop it because of eye diseases and health conditions like macular degeneration, cataract, glaucoma, and diabetes. While vision that is lost usually cannot be restored, many people can make the most of the vision they have.
The National Eye Health Education Program’s Low Vision Education Program offers resources that provide people living with low vision and their loved ones information about the benefits of vision rehabilitation and services and devices can help them live independently and maintain their quality of life. These resources include:
Living with Low Vision Booklet and Companion DVD
Download or order this booklet with a companion DVD and share it with people with vision loss and their families to help them better understand how to get help and live more safely and independently. You can link to the videos on the DVD from your website or share them on your social media outlets.
Low Vision Education Module
Use this education module to conduct educational sessions in your community about low vision. You can inform others about signs of vision loss, the benefits of vision rehabilitation services, where to get more information, questions to ask a specialist in low vision, tips for managing medications and more. It includes a PowerPoint presentation, speaker’s guide, participant handouts, and other useful tools.
Low Vision Infographic
Share this infographic to provide at-a-glance information about low vision, the number of people affected, and how they can get help. It’s perfect to use on your social media outlets or add it to an article, story, newsletter, or website.
Print Public Service Announcements (PSAs)
Enlist the mass media. NEHEP offers PSAs that can be used to promote low vision awareness. Ask the editor of your local newspaper to run them or use them in your own publications or social media outlets.
For more resources and ideas visit https://nei.nih.gov/nehep/programs/lowvision.
“I'm sorry, but there's nothing more that can be done. There is no cure for your eye condition.”
In your work as healthcare professionals and health educators, it's likely you've encountered a significant number of adults and older adults who have been on the receiving end of this devastating news.
When an eye care provider says, “There's nothing more that can be done,” what he or she likely means is, “There's nothing more I can do for you surgically.” But instead of saying, “There's nothing more that I can do,” the discouraging message delivered to the patient is, “There's nothing more that can be done.”
Thus, in many cases, the discussion ends there. Patients will either exhaust their resources searching for an elusive cure or become resigned to a life that is restricted and defined by incurable vision loss.
When receiving a diagnosis of vision loss, many adults who have managed to overcome a host of obstacles in their lives may now believe they are facing an obstacle with no viable solution. A natural, and understandable, initial reaction is to focus instead on the devastating losses that are seen as an inevitable accompaniment to blindness and low vision such as:
- Loss of independence: “How will I prepare meals, clean my home, or shop? Will I become a burden to my family and friends?”
- Loss of confidence and self-worth: “All my life I've been physically active and self-reliant. Has my life as an independent person come to an end?”
- Loss of privacy: “I won't be able to handle my finances independently. Will I have to surrender control of my life to someone else?”
- Loss of employment: “I'll have to quit my job. How will I earn a living?”
It's important to let your clients and patients know that there is indeed hope—and life—after vision loss. A wide range of vision rehabilitation services enable adults who are blind or have low vision to continue living independently. The term “vision rehabilitation” includes highly trained professionals and comprehensive services that can restore function after vision loss, just as physical therapy restores function after a stroke or other injury.
Vision rehabilitation professionals include:
- Low vision therapists, who teach the use of residual vision with optical devices, non-optical devices, and assistive technology, and help determine the need for environmental modifications in the home or workplace.
- Vision rehabilitation therapists, who teach adaptive independent living skills that enable adults to perform a wide range of daily activities, including cooking, reading and writing, braille, home repair, personal self-care, financial management, and leisure activities.
- Orientation and mobility specialists, who teach safe and independent indoor and outdoor travel skills, including the use of a long cane, electronic travel devices, public transportation, and service dog guide, human guide, and pre-cane skills.
Additional vision rehabilitation services can include:
- Peer support and counseling: talking with peers, sharing common concerns and frustrations, and finding solutions to vision-related problems
- Vocational rehabilitation: vocational evaluation and training, job training, job modification and restructuring, and job placement
- Veterans' services: vision rehabilitation and related support services for blinded veterans of all ages.
There are many resources available to help your patients and clients locate vision rehabilitation services. For example, the VisionAware Directory of Services allows you to browse by state and type of service, including counseling resources, support groups, low vision services, independent living skills, and orientation and mobility. The VisionAware “Getting Started” kit provides tip sheets on specialized services and products that can assist with everyday life after vision loss.
Watch Living with Low Vision: Stories of Hope and Independence from the National Eye Health Education Program (NEHEP) to learn more about how you can help your patients with low vision make the most of their remaining vision and improve their quality of life by referring them for vision rehabilitation services. Share it with your colleagues, too. You can find additional resources and ideas for promoting vision rehabilitation on the NEHEP Low Vision Program page.
In today’s media environment, not only are people using a variety of traditional media to get information, they are also using social media to stay informed. The use of Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, and now Pinterest to disseminate health information has grown significantly and continues to trend upward. Using social media has become an effective way to expand reach, foster engagement, and increase access to credible health messages.
The National Eye Institute (NEI) and its National Eye Health Education Program (NEHEP) are disseminating eye health information in a variety of platforms. “Follow” us, “like” us, “repin” us, and “share”!
YouTube — NEI and NEHEP have more than 40 videos ranging from eye diseases to important advances in eye and vision research. Watch and share interviews with clinicians, patients, and NEI scientists; learn about NEI-supported research; view archived NEHEP webinars and more.
NEHEP on Facebook — Like the NEHEP Facebook page to learn more about common eye diseases and conditions, find tips for preventing vision loss, take fun eye health quizzes, learn about new educational resources, and more.
NEHEP on Twitter — If you’re not on Facebook, follow @NEHEP to learn about eye health, educational activities, research, and more.
NEI on Twitter — Follow @NatEyeInstitute to get the latest news on eye and vision research, funding opportunities, data facts, eye health information, and the latest in NIH news.
NEI on Pinterest — Follow the NEI Pinterest page to find and share eye health resources. You can repin or “like” pins NEI posts to its boards, pin content you find useful, or comment on pins to let NEI know what you think of our resources.
NEI on Flickr — Find eye-related images to use with your social media posts, on your website, or in your publications by visiting NEI’s photostream on Flickr.
The National Eye Institute (NEI) has launched new options as part of its online knowledge base. In addition to being able to search for answers to your eye health questions, you can submit an inquiry or provide feedback. You also can choose to share an answer via social media, print it, or e-mail it to someone else. NEI added these self-service options to help visitors easily interact with NEI and improve their online experience.
The knowledge base includes more than 300 answers to the most frequently asked questions (FAQ) NEI receives from the public. Visit the FAQ at https://www.nei.nih.gov/faqs.
The American Society of Ophthalmic Registered Nurses (ASORN) is offering FREE copies of the education module, Mitomycin C: Indications for Use and Safe Practice in Ophthalmology. The module includes a series of articles, written by both nurses and physicians, addressing the use of mitomycin C in glaucoma, pterygium, and refractive surgery. The module also includes a laminated tip sheet for easy reference, a workplace posting, and a Material Safety Data Sheet.
It has become commonplace to use mitomycin C in a variety of ophthalmic surgical procedures. Given the potential risks to both patients and healthcare providers, it is essential that those who administer the medication are knowledgeable about safe handling, use, and disposal of mitomycin C.
To obtain your FREE copy, visit the ASORN website at http://asorn.org/resources/mitomycinc_learning_module.
Understanding and navigating health insurance coverage, including benefits for eye and vision care, can be a challenge. To help address this issue, Prevent Blindness, the Nation’s oldest nonprofit eye health and safety organization, has created a new online resource, Health Insurance and Your Eyes. There you can download free fact sheets and information about health insurance, Medicare benefits, the Affordable Care Act, and eye care.
For more information, please call 1–800–331–2020 or visit http://www.preventblindness.org.
The 6th annual Falls Prevention Awareness Day (FPAD), sponsored by the National Council on Aging (NCOA) Falls Free® Initiative on September 22, 2013, was the largest yet, with 47 states and the District of Columbia participating. NCOA annually surveys the State Coalitions on Falls Prevention Workgroup to estimate national reach and the number and type of activities held, and to provide insight into the states’ biggest successes and challenges in their plans and activities.
The 2013 FPAD theme, Preventing Falls—One Step at a Time, was selected by the states’ Awareness and Advocacy Committee after careful deliberation of numerous suggestions from the field. The theme was intended to unite professionals, older adults, caregivers, and family members in raising awareness and preventing falls.
Eighty-seven percent of the reporting states held fall risk screenings as part of FPAD 2013—including individual screenings of balance, medications, or vision—or held multi-factorial screenings. The majority of states reported conducting balance assessments (78%) and multifactorial screens (56%). Additional screenings included vision, feet, blood pressure, bone density, glucose, hearing, fracture risk, and home safety.
Fourteen states engaged professional students from schools of ophthalmology, social work, kinesiology, nutrition, psychology, and public health. The summary report, A Compendium of State and National Activities, includes rich examples. Across the states completing the survey, an estimated 2,076,041 individuals were reached during FPAD 2013 activities. Of those:
- An estimated 17,351 older adults were physically screened for fall risks.
- More than 511,000 were reached through evidence-based programs.
- More than 1.5 million older adults, family caregivers, professionals, and policymakers were reached through advocacy events and education and awareness campaigns.
Join NCOA on September 23, 2014, for the 7th Annual Falls Prevention Awareness Day.
VisionServe Alliance, founded in 1911 and based out of the headquarters of the St. Louis Society for the Blind and Visually Impaired, consists of a group of 110 non-profit organizations that provide vision rehabilitation services to people who are blind or visually impaired. Members include organizations focusing on national advocacy and/or service issues, employment and manufacturing, adult vision rehabilitation, K-12 residential and on-line schools, early intervention and pre-school, dog guides, low vision clinics, and Braille production.
The goal of these organizations is to enrich the lives of those living with vision loss and to remove the barriers to the pursuit of opportunities by:
- Promoting, supporting and encouraging the delivery of quality services for persons who are blind or visually impaired through its member agencies and through public education.
- Providing a communication channel to members for sharing information and addressing issues related to services to people who are blind or visually impaired.
- Providing a means of collaboration and cooperation among organizations, associations and entities related to services to people who are blind or visually impaired.
- Providing a forum for chief executive officers to collect data, share information, and update executive level skills to improve services provided by the private not-for-profit organizations they lead.
VisionServe’s members utilize much of the informational/teaching tools and materials offered by the National Eye Health Education Program (NEHEP), including its educational toolkits, drop-in articles, webinars, and videos. These organizations also distribute many NEHEP publications and handouts to thousands of patients/clients with macular degeneration, glaucoma, and diabetic retinopathy receiving low vision exams, orientation and mobility training, training in daily living skills, and more.
Additionally, VisionServe and its members take advantage of the data and statistics section on the organization’s website, which offers supporting documentation for funding and legislative issues.
For more information on VisionServe, visit http://www.visionservealliance.org.
The National Eye Health Education Program (NEHEP) regularly presents at national meetings across the country. Presentations provide an opportunity to share information and publications, promote NEHEP messages and resources, and strengthen links with Partnership and other intermediary organizations. An upcoming NEHEP presentation is listed below. If you plan to be there, please stop by and say, “Hello!”
American Society on Aging
2014 Aging in America Conference
March 11–15, 2014
San Diego, CA
Presentation: Living With Low Vision: Helping Older Adults to Help Themselves
March 13, 8:00 a.m.
The National Eye Health Education Program (NEHEP) wants to know what you think about Outlook. Let us know what you find beneficial, ideas for content you would like to see in upcoming issues, or suggestions for improvement. We’re always interested in hearing about your eye health education efforts and especially how you have used NEHEP resources and materials.
Please contact us. We look forward to hearing from you!