Medicare beneficiaries diagnosed with dementia are less likely to receive eye care, which may have implications for injury prevention, physical and cognitive function and quality of life, according to a recent study.

This retrospective, claims-based analysis included 4,451,200 Medicare beneficiaries who received care over a 10-year period. Researchers identified patients with dementia and compared the likelihood of receiving eye care between those with and without dementia, adjusting for potential confounders such as demographics, urban/rural residence, systemic health and ocular comorbidities.

The team found that, overall, 85.5% of study participants received eye care. Of the 7.9% of the beneficiaries who had dementia, 70.4% saw an eye care provider and 54.7% saw an ophthalmologist specifically. Of those without dementia 86.8% saw an eye care provider and 73.9% saw an ophthalmologist. This indicates that beneficiaries with dementia had a lower likelihood of seeing any eye care provider and were even less likely to see an ophthalmologist, the study authors noted. For patients who did see an ophthalmologist, those with dementia were also less likely to receive a cataract diagnosis and subsequent surgery compared with healthy patients (18% vs. 82%).

“Further work is needed to identify barriers to receiving eye care, determine eye care services and settings that provide greatest value to dementia patients and implement measures to improve access to appropriate eye care,” the study authors concluded in their paper.

Pershing S, Goldstein MK, Henderson VW, et al. Receipt of eye care services among Medicare beneficiaries with and without dementia. Ophthalmology. February 25, 2020. [Epub ahead of print].