Nursing home residents may not be receiving adequate eye care, according to a study in the July issue of Archives of Ophthalmology. Researchers from the University of Alabama at Birmingham examined a total of 380 residents from 17 nursing homes in the Birmingham area.

The authors found that 57% of residents had distance visual acuity worse than 20/40 in the better eye. One in ten reported visual acuity worse than 20/200. Additionally, while 90% of the subjects had health insurance, two out of three residents had no documented record of an eye examination since entering the nursing home.

Much of this impairment is due to correctable conditions, including refractive error and cataract, write the authors. Other factorssuch as a shortage of eye care professionals who routinely examine patients in nursing homes, limited transportation to eye care clinics, and mediocre patient compliancemay contribute to the overall problem.

It is important for optometrists to understand that there is a great need for eye care in nursing homes and assisted-living facilities, says Satya B. Verma, O.D., whose practice includes patients in assisted-living communities. He also is on the board of directors of the National Council on Aging. Many nursing home administrators do not sufficiently consider the importance of their residents visual abilities, he says.

The authors of the study say more research is required to pinpoint the fundamental cause for unsatisfactory eye care in nursing homes. Ultimately, Dr. Verma contends, if both facility administrators and optometrists could forge a policy change to require nursing homes to provide regular eye care for their residents, the problem may be corrected.

Owsley C, McGwin G, Scilley K, et al. The visual status of older persons residing in nursing homes. Arch Ophthalmol 2007 Jul;125(7):925-30.

Vol. No: 144:08Issue: 8/15/2007