Overlooked eye services lead to more health problems, researchers say

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A lack of basic vision services for nursing home residents often leads to a decline in other health areas, including depression, new study results indicate.

"This study implies that there are significant, short-term quality-of-life and psychological benefits to providing the most basic of eye care services -- namely, spectacle correction -- to older adults residing in nursing homes," concludes study authors writing in the Archives of Ophthalmology.

One major impediment is that many caregivers and family members often believe that new or improved eyeglasses won't make a difference for individuals who are physically or mentally impaired, said University of Alabama-Birmingham researchers led by Cynthia Owsley.

They studied residents at 17 nursing homes in the Birmingham area and learned that seniors given glasses a week after a check-up were much more likely to achieve higher scores on vision, cognitive and social testing than a group that received glasses two months after their exams.

Nursing residents are 15 times more likely to have vision problems than their counterparts who live independently, researchers said. Only 12% of U.S. nursing homes offer optometric services at their facility, they added.