Exploring the experiences of Australian optometrists providing eyecare for people living with dementia: A qualitative phenomenological study

Dr Marianne Coleman1,2, Dr Bao Ngyuen1, Prof Lynette Joubert3, Prof Allison McKendrick1

1Department of Optometry and Vision Sciences, University Of Melbourne, Melbourne, Australia, 2National Vision Research Institute, Australian College of Optometry, Melbourne, Australia, 3Department of Social Work, University Of Melbourne, Melbourne, Australia

People living with dementia can experience unique difficulties coping with poor vision. Sight loss is more common amongst people with dementia; two thirds of the causes of sight loss could be treated to improve eyesight. Many causes of sight loss are detected during a routine eye test, and earlier detection increases chances of preserving sight.

Medicare-funded eye tests are performed by a registered eyecare professional (optometrist), but recent research suggests people with dementia experience barriers to accessing routine eye care. To break down such barriers, research is needed to identify ways the experience of having an eye test and receiving eyecare advice may be improved, for Australians living with dementia and caregivers.  It is also important to identify how Australian optometrists may change their testing approach, and the way they give eyecare advice, to accommodate different levels of dementia.

This phenomenological interview-based study aims to:

  • Explore the views and experiences of optometrists regarding delivery of routine eye tests and eyecare advice for people living with dementia.
  • Identify feasible adaptations optometrists can make to the routine eye test and eyecare advice given, to create a positive experience for people with dementia when attending for a test with or without a caregiver.

Experiences will be explored through semi-structured telephone interviews with 20 optometrists at differing career stages and urban/rural locations. Interviews will be transcribed and thematic analysis performed, with themes set within a framework derived from the interview topic guide. Key themes and recommendations for practice will be presented.


Biography:

Marianne qualified as an orthoptist in 2008 (University of Liverpool, UK). After working in clinical practice, diagnosing/managing binocular vision and eye movement disorders in children and adults, she completed a Masters in Research and studied visual distortions in amblyopia at Glasgow Caledonian University for her PhD. She moved to the University of Surrey in June 2016 to train in interdisciplinary health services research, working with nurses, midwives, paramedics and other AHPs. Marianne is now a Clinical Vision Research Fellow, at the University of Melbourne’s Department of Optometry and Vision Sciences and the Australian College of Optometry’s National Vision Research Institute.

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