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Empathy and eyecare: Do they fit together?
Helping to understand eye health...

Each and every day we take a great deal of pride in helping those most in need of care improve their vision and maintain good eye health.

This is thanks to having a team who are experts in eyecare, but who also possess a quality they share with those working in care – empathy.

In its simplest form, empathy is having awareness of the feelings and emotions of other people.

Going beyond sympathy, which some would consider as ‘feeling for’ someone, empathy allows a person to ‘feel with’ a person and imaginatively experiencing what they are.

This is essential to be able to properly assist someone who has an eye condition, but also for a person living with dementia.

For ourselves and for those in charge of caring for a person, it is vital to understand just what life is like for someone who has both dementia and an eye condition.

After all, just because someone has dementia doesn’t mean we should not consider any other health conditions which affect them every day.

We help our partners to build empathy for people who live this reality with our ‘visual impairment experience’.

This experience is a key part of our free staff training session and gives participants the chance to look at the world through the eyes of someone who has an eye condition such as glaucoma.

We can achieve this thanks to specialist simulation glasses, and after someone puts a pair of them on they instantly have a lasting impression of what life is like for their residents.

Ultimately this experience truly builds new empathy for participants and helps us think about what can we be doing to better assist each person?

There is no solution for all, but the best solution for everyone is to alter and adapt the communicative approach for each and every person we see.

Impaired vision and dementia can leave a person feeling isolated and very open to being startled if someone approaches them too quickly or fails to properly identify themselves.

Vision is a major part of this, and in understanding what life is like through their eyes only can we truly empathise in what life is like every day for the person.

How we see and perceive the world relies on communication between what your eyes see and how the brain is able to process this, dementia is a progressive condition which severely affects the brain and its ability to think, remember and reason.

This means that a person with dementia will have greater difficulty in being able to quickly perceive who or what is in front of them at any given time, and vision problems only compound this.

Every step of the way our focus is solely on the person, and by offering ways to help our partners better understand just how visual impairments can effect a person’s day-to-day life we can truly offer person-centred care together.

It also gives us an opportunity to find the best means of engaging with each person we assist.

For our team it can be as simple as making sure to clearly tell each person who we are and more importantly why we are there.

We must appreciate how we are communicating with every person, as such we often give a ‘running commentary’ of what we are doing throughout the sight test.

This step by step method is what we employ to ensure each resident remains comfortable and in control of each situation, which is essential in building trust with someone.

It can also be how we deliver our recommendations at the end of the sight test, either with care provider or that person’s next of kin to make sure we provide a detailed breakdown of their prescription and how the person will benefit from this.

Whatever the outcome having real empathy for someone living with an eye condition and/or dementia is essential for ourselves and our care partners in being able to offer the best level of care at all times for residents.

If you would like to arrange a free staff training session for your care residence staff, please call 0800 035 6316 or click here.