eLearning Course Helps Older Adults Adapt to Vision Loss

A nurse interacts with a senior aged female patient.

Vision loss can present different challenges in older adults compared with younger clients. Lighthouse Guild offers an online continuing education course called Low Vision in Older Adults: Foundations for Rehabilitation (Second Edition). The program helps occupational therapists (OTs) recognize how different types of visual impairment in older adults can affect daily activities; learn about treatment strategies for these individuals; and identify approaches and adaptive devices that help clients maximize their remaining vision.

“Occupational therapy for low vision is a growing area. This program helps occupational therapists recognize they are an integral part of the vision rehabilitation team,” explained Annemarie O’Hearn, Vice President, Education and Training at Lighthouse Guild.

Low Vision in Older Adults

Visual impairment in older adults may result from eye disease or other health issues such as eye cancer and eye or brain injury.  The most common eye diseases are:

  • Age-related macular degeneration, the leading cause of vision loss in older adults, resulting in loss of central vision.
  • Glaucoma refers to a group of diseases that can cause vision loss by damaging the optic nerve. Too often is not diagnosed until irreversible loss of peripheral vision has occurred.
  • Cataracts, a clouding of the lens, which causes blurred vision. Though they can be  removed surgically, not everyone chooses or can have surgery.
  • Diabetic retinopathy, a complication of diabetes which can cause blood vessels in the retina to leak fluid or bleed, distorting vision. It is the most common cause of vision loss in people with diabetes.

In older adults, vision loss is typically one of several comorbidities. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that older adults with vision loss often have higher rates of diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and hypertension; poorer quality of life; and increased social isolation and depression. They’re also more likely to fall and experience a serious injury.

The Role of Occupational Therapy

Occupational therapists take a “whole-person” approach to treating clients, helping them establish realistic goals and identifying the most effective strategies to optimize function in daily activities, especially when comorbidities exist. For example, using a hand magnifier to read may not be the best option for someone with hand tremors from Parkinson’s disease. “This course is designed to help occupational therapists incorporate meaningful goals into the overall treatment plan for clients with low vision,” noted Yu-Pin Hsu, EdD, OT, SCLV, Manager, Vision Rehabilitation Projects and one of the authors of the course.

The online program includes four modules, which can be completed as a whole or individually:

  1. Orientation to Vision Loss
  2. Low Vision Devices
  3. Modifying the Environment
  4. Technologies, Devices, and Strategies for ADLs (Activities of Daily Living) and IADLs (Instrumental ADLs)

The program is offered in partnership with the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) and is approved for 0.8 AOTA CEU (10 NBCOT PDUs/8 contact hours). Partial CE credits are offered for those who complete individual modules.

“AOTA recognizes the expertise that Lighthouse Guild brings to vision rehabilitation,” said Debbie Amini, Director of Professional Development at AOTA. “Our goal is to provide the best education to assist our members with their ongoing professional development. Lighthouse Guild exceeds our expectations as a partner toward this goal.”