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Barbara M Junghans, Anthea Cochrane, Peter L Hendicott, Anna Palagyi, Robert J Jacobs; Gerontology and low vision services provided by Australasian optometrists. Invest. Ophthalmol. Vis. Sci. 2016;57(12):5570.
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© ARVO (1962-2015); The Authors (2016-present)
Anecdotally, few optometrists specialize in the care of persons with permanent vision impairment by providing clinical assessments, rehab services or training in adaptive technologies. Is this due to inadequate training or is there some other reason? We investigated optometrists’ practice preparedness and management patterns for the older patient and those with low vision (LV).
Cross-institutional ethics approval was gained in 2009 to survey all members of Optometry Australia and the New Zealand Association of Optometrists. The survey covered 39 areas including demographics and practice management, range of visual aids prescribed and referral patterns to visual rehabilitation agencies.
Of 359 responding optometrists, 56% had graduated within the past 20 years, 41% were employees, and 26% were practicing in rural areas. 12% of respondents did not cater at all for elderly clients through longer consultations, physical access assistance, or domiciliary visits, and 9% of respondents claimed a lack of confidence to do so. Only 11% provided almost all LV services (mainly older practitioners) and 58% essentially provided no LV services. 59% of all respondents referred LV patients to a rehabilitation agency, with 17% claiming this was due to lack of ability to manage the patient themselves. Even the most active LV care optometrists referred 9% of their LV patients to an agency. Of respondents who did provide LV services, 91% prescribed high addition spectacles, 75% hand magnifiers, 60% stand magnifiers, but only approximately 10% prescribed hi-tech aids. Of all respondents, 13% use an ophthalmic assistant in providing LV aids. Alma-mater did not affect prescribing habits significantly. Educationally, 24% and 29% of all respondents (the majority of whom were younger optometrists) indicated that an experience during optometric training helped them decide to provide gerontological and LV services respectively. Passion and empathy in teachers was reported as a strong motivator for graduands to take up these fields of care. Lack of experience with elderly and LV patients while at university appeared to underpin the lack of confidence in many.
These data provide valuable insight into optometrists’ present capability to service an ageing population in Australasia, and to support directions for curriculum review to ensure graduating optometrists are appropriately skilled.
This is an abstract that was submitted for the 2016 ARVO Annual Meeting, held in Seattle, Wash., May 1-5, 2016.
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