The College of Optometrists is calling for the establishment of a dedicated dementia eye care pathway, following the findings of a two-year research project.
Researchers on the Prevalence of Visual Impairment in Dementia (PrOVIDe) study have recommended that at the point a person is diagnosed with dementia, a range of measures should automatically be triggered. As proposed, the Dementia Eye Care Pathway would ensure that people were guided to the appropriate treatment at the appropriate time.
Researchers believe that the measures triggered by the pathway should include: the provision of timely, written information on eye examinations and general ophthalmic services (GOS) sight tests for people with dementia and their carers; financial assistance to ensure that missing or broken spectacles can be replaced; and consideration of early intervention for cataract surgery.
The study was funded by the National Institute for Health Research and led by the College of Optometrists, with the support of the Alzheimer’s Society, the Thomas Pocklington Trust, University College London, Newcastle University, City University London and the University of Birmingham.
Director of research at the College and lead investigator on the PrOVIDe study, Michael Bowen (pictured), said: “We know that the majority of optometric patients are mature adults, and we also know that we have an ageing population. The growth of the older population will inevitably mean that optometrists will encounter increasing numbers of people with dementia, and we need to make sure the profession can meet the needs of these people.”
Mr Bowen “Dementia should never be a barrier to a sight test. Through this study, we know there are a range of strategies that optometrists can use to improve the eye examination for people with dementia, such as scheduling longer than usual appointments or, spreading the exam across two appointments to reduce stress on the individual. A more flexible approach to the GOS contract arrangements would help with this.”
The recommendations were published in the College’s Optometry in Practice journal, last month. The College confirmed that more findings from the PrOVIDe study will be released at conferences in due course, while its final report is currently under review by the funders.