This article describes what we do at our Vancouver eye clinic when we provide rehabilitation services to people with low vision.

The basic goals of vision rehabilitation are to maximize functional independence, to improve quality of life, and to help the patient adapt to the psycho-social aspects of vision loss. Before and during rehabilitation, we evaluate and treat the patient’s existing medical eye condition using standard techniques with the goal of maximizing or maintaining the patient’s vision.  

Vision rehabilitation trains patients to use their remaining vision (or other ways to compensate for lost vision) to make practical and effective adaptations in their behavior and their environment to facilitate activities of daily living, ensure safety, and maintain independence.

Rehabilitation is individualized to the particular patient.  It is tailored to the patient’s goals, limitations, and resources (e.g. availability of transportation, finances, and caregivers). Some patients even have other physical limitations that impact the design of the individual rehabilitation program.  For example, hearing, mobility, and neurological problems can prevent or make it difficult for the patient to use some standard devices and to undertake some types of rehabilitation. A proper rehabilitation effort will take these limitations into account and work around them or through them.

There are certain things that we want a patient to get our of their rehabilitation program and they include the following:

  • Improved understanding of emotional and psychological adjustments to vision loss.
  • Improved ability to independently complete the activities of daily living.
  • Improved knowledge and effective use of devices that can improve their quality of life and other resources that are available to them.

Vision rehabilitation has economic benefits. It is widely accepted that vision rehabilitation can drastically reduce the costs associated with injuries (for example, falls resulting in broken bones, brain injury, hip fractures, etc.) that are associated with vision loss as well as the loss of independence that accompanies vision loss. Vision rehabilitation can also prolong the productivity by people who are able to stay active in the community and even continue working despite vision loss.Vision rehabilitation also has social benefits. Vision rehabilitation has been known to have significant positive effects on seniors’ physical and mental health and the well-being of their families. There is literature supporting the positive effects of vision rehabilitation on function, social and pychological well-being, as well as quality of life generally (see Horowitz, A. The prevalence and consequences of vision impairment in later life. Top Geriatr Rehabil. 2004;20:185-195.).l

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