As featured in The Elder Law Gazette, published by Vouga Elder, February 2012 Issue

Cooperative Home Care is proud and excited to offer Low Vision Therapy in St. Louis, Missouri and surrounding counties.  Low vision is a topic that may be unfamiliar to someone who doesn’t work in home health care, but it affects 25% of all people over 75 years old.  So it’s likely that someone you know, or their aging parent, is suffering from low vision.  It can be a devastating diagnosis that affects an individual’s daily independence as well as their recovery from a new injury or illness.   

There are two very important things to remember about Low Vision Therapy.  The first is that Low Vision Therapy through home health care is 100% funded by Medicare for those who qualify.  Like all Medicare home health care solutions, it is conveniently provided within each client’s home.  The second point is that Low Vision Therapy by Cooperative Home Care is very unique.  If you are familiar with low vision then you may know there are traditional programs that offer home and environmental modifications.  Low Vision Therapy by Cooperative Home Care builds on this basic approach by adding vision retraining, in which clients learn how to use their remaining vision more effectively.        

So, what is low vision?  Low vision refers to vision problems that cannot be corrected with regular glasses, contact lenses, medicine or surgery.  People with low vision find everyday tasks difficult to do.  Reading, writing, cooking, watching television, working on the computer and taking the right medications are examples of household activities that may be affected.  Getting around in the community is also going to be more difficult, or impossible, without help.  It’s easy to understand how an otherwise healthy and independent person can experience a decrease in their quality of life from low vision.  In addition to a loss of independence, vision impairment is linked to hip fractures among older adults and people with low vision are more likely to sustain injuries from falls, burns, etc., without the assistance of low vision rehabilitation.  This is an example of how Medicare can be a way to maintain or improve one’s health: by participating in low vision therapy which is 100% funded by Medicare for those who qualify, one can become safer and more independent. 

Most low vision is caused by the following diseases: macular degeneration, glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy, stroke, or brain injury.  The top two causes of low vision are macular degeneration and glaucoma.

Macular degeneration is the leading cause of low vision.  Approximately four million Americans suffer from one type of macular degeneration which is called age-related macular degeneration.  People with macular degeneration primarily lose their fine or central vision (picture a giant black dot in the middle of your line of vision), while their peripheral vision is not affected.

It is anticipated that blindness and visual impairment will exceed 6.3 million Americans who have macular degeneration.  Note that that macular degeneration alone will not result in total blindness.  It only affects the macular area of the retina.  There is currently no treatment which has proven to be effective in eliminating the effects of macular degeneration.

Glaucoma is the second leading cause of low vision.  Although there are different types, it normally has to do with inner ocular pressure within the eye.  Opposite of age related macular degeneration, people with glaucoma experience vision loss that begins in the peripheral visual fields.  Their central vision remains, which is also called tunnel vision (this time, envision that you can only see a small circle in the center of your line of vision, while everything else is black).

The tragedy of glaucoma is that routine eye examinations will detect abnormal inner ocular tensions or the early changes in the optic disc.  With early detection, the eye condition can normally be treated by medication which can eliminate or reduce chances of vision loss.  If untreated, it is a progressive, degenerative disease which can result in total blindness.

How does Low Vision Therapy by Cooperative Home Care work?  This is a distinctive program that is not available through every Medicare home health care company.  Low Vision Therapy works in two ways: through vision retraining and rehabilitation.  It is delivered in each client’s home by a licensed and specially trained occupational therapist.  The therapists work with clients to use their remaining vision more effectively, to function more safely and independently, and to use appropriate assistive devices more efficiently.  Low Vision Therapy can be life changing for our clients, and is paid 100% by Medicare for those who qualify.  Cooperative Home Care works with each client’s current doctor to ensure the best possible care throughout the treatment process.

Low Vision Therapy by Cooperative Home Care is accepting referrals now.  Here’s how to get started: call 1-800-HOMECARE (in MO) and our Intake Nurse will answer all of your preliminary questions, ensure you are Medicare eligible, and help get your doctor’s order to start your services.

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