Resources developed to help deliver dementia-friendly eye care

To break down barriers to eyecare for people living with dementia, researchers from the Department of Optometry and Vision Sciences and the Department of Social Work have worked to make regular eye tests easier, more comfortable and more accessible for people living with dementia and their support persons.

A woman (seated) gets her eye checked by an optometrist in an eye clinic.

Resources have been developed to support people with dementia to see as well as possible for as long as possible (Image: Optometry Australia).

Good eyesight enables people with dementia to live independently for longer, by supporting spatial navigation and interaction with visual memory aids, while also supporting their wellbeing by making it easier to engage in visual hobbies and social participation. However, people with dementia are more likely to be overdue for an eye test, leading to an increased likelihood of preventable vision loss.

Research leads Dr Marianne Coleman and Dr Bao Nguyen have developed an online training course for optometrists and a series of information booklets co-designed by Dementia Advocates with lived experience. The booklets, which include information about eye tests as well as a card to discreetly declare a dementia diagnosis to eyecare professionals, are now freely available online and have been shared widely with dementia and carer support organisations across the country. The training course has been developed with other University of Melbourne collaborators such as the Mobile Learning Unit and the Academic Unit for Psychiatry of Old Age.

Optometry Australia have also modified their Find an Optometrist search tool to include a ‘dementia-friendly’ filter, with a social media campaign encouraging optometrists to update their details. This change has made it easier for people living with dementia and their carers to find optometrists who can offer dementia-friendly eyecare.

As more clinicians complete the online course, more optometrists in Australia will become confident in adapting their clinical practice to offer dementia-friendly eyecare. By responding to some of the barriers identified in the research, these resources are improving the accessibility of eye care services for people living with dementia, supporting them to see as well as possible for as long as possible.

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