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From scheduling their eye exam to helping them pick out new frames, we’ll show you how to be there every step of the way.
There’s a lot that goes into providing care for a loved one. You help them plan meals, get them to and from medical appointments, and manage their medications. With everything that needs to be handled, don’t forget to take care of their vision.
Many medical conditions, such as high blood pressure and diabetes, can cause vision problems. Catching those issues early on, when they’re more easily treatable, can help prevent complications like vision loss from setting in.
Proper vision care can also help protect against falls — a leading cause of injury among older adults.
“Being a caregiver can be a little overwhelming because you have to make sure all the appointments are made,” says Mary Fazelian, O.D., a Niles, Illinois–based optometrist who sees patients at America’s Best Contacts & Eyeglasses. “You have to anticipate your loved one’s needs ahead of time.”
If you’re a caregiver to an older adult or you’ve taken on a more active role in caring for a loved one’s health, it’s important to schedule regular vision screenings for them. Here are six things you need to know about how to help a loved one before, during, and after an eye exam.
Have questions about your vision or eye health? Reach out to your America’s Best optometrist, who is an important part of your care team. Find an exam time that fits your schedule here.
1. Schedule an eye exam for your loved one at least once a year
Not everyone notices (or wants to admit) that they’re having trouble seeing, Dr. Fazelian says. During a routine eye exam, an optometrist can determine whether your loved one is having vision problems or showing signs of eye disease. Adults ages 65 and older should have at least one eye exam every year, according to the American Optometric Association.
If your loved one does complain about changes to their eyesight, such as blurry vision, floaters, or halos around lights, schedule an appointment with their optometrist right away, Dr. Fazelian says. Some of these problems may be normal or age-related, she says, but they could also be a symptom of a medical emergency, such as a detached retina (which occurs when the retina starts to pull away from the back of the eye).
When you schedule the eye exam, it’s a good idea to ask the staff what types of tests will be performed — such as a refraction, retinal imaging, or a glaucoma screening, she says. If your loved one needs to be fitted for new eyeglasses, allow extra time for selecting new frames at the end of the visit. A typical appointment at America’s Best can take around one to two hours.
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2. Prep for the exam by gathering their medical paperwork
Before the appointment, gather any prior exam records from other eye health centers, as well as contact information for your loved one’s doctors. Bring them with you to share with the optometrist.
“You should also bring a list of all your loved one’s prescriptions and over-the-counter medications, as well as any dietary supplements or vitamins they take,” she says. “Include the dosage and schedules too.”
If your loved one already takes eye medication and needs a refill, you can ask their eye doctor for another prescription, she says.
And ask for printed records from the eye exam to share with other members of your loved one’s health care team. If they have diabetes, for example, their diabetes specialist will likely want to see the results of their eye exam, Dr. Fazelian says.
3. Come to the exam, but don’t take over the appointment
If you’re a caretaker, you may need to accompany your loved one into the eye doctor’s office, especially if they have mobility issues or will need help answering questions. If the person you’re caring for has a hard time remembering instructions, you may want to take notes to reference later on, Dr. Fazelian says.
But remember that you’re playing a supporting role — not the starring one. “The patient should always be the main focus,” Dr. Fazelian says. “The discussion shouldn’t be a two-way conversation between the caregiver and the optometrist.”
Unless you’ve already agreed to speak on behalf of your loved one — and they have given their consent — the patient should ask their own questions and volunteer their own answers, Dr. Fazelian says.
4. If they have mobility issues, be an advocate on their behalf
If your loved one is in a wheelchair, they don’t necessarily need to get out of it. “The equipment will accommodate them,” Dr. Fazelian says.
At the beginning of the visit, you can wheel your loved one to the testing equipment. They can remain seated in their wheelchair while the optometric technician performs some of the basic vision tests, Dr. Fazelian says.
Afterward, during the exam with the optometrist, the exam chair can be moved back.
“The patient can remain in their wheelchair, and I can perform the refraction and slit-lamp examination from the comfort of their own chair,” Dr. Fazelian says. “We try to ensure that everyone is as comfortable as possible.”
5. Help them pick out new glasses
Does your loved one need a new pair of eyeglasses? Then it’s time for the fun part: helping them pick out frames.
Once they select a pair of frames they love, the optician can discuss the types of lenses that are available. These can include anti-glare lenses, which help reduce reflections and bright lights, and blue-light blocking lenses, which help filter the blue light emitted from computers, TVs, and smartphones.
You can help your loved one by taking notes — or simply by reassuring them that they look fabulous.
6. Be on the lookout for signs of poor-fitting glasses
Anytime someone picks up their new glasses at an America’s Best location, an optician or doctor will make sure that the glasses fit properly. But if you notice your loved one’s glasses falling when they look down or slipping off their face when they turn to the side, you may need to bring the eyewear back to the store for an adjustment, Dr. Fazelian says.
Or maybe they dropped their glasses on the ground, stepped on them, or sat on them. If your loved one’s frames have become bent, you can bring them back to the store to see if they can be readjusted.
“We do eyeglasses adjustments and cleanings for anyone, even people who aren’t patients,” Dr. Fazelian says. “Anyone can come in.”
Good vision is a key quality of life measure and helping a loved one see their best is an important role, she adds. Follow up with their eye doctor or optician whenever you have questions or concerns.