Helping Your Parent Make the Most of an Eye Appointment

Visits to the eye doctor can be stressful, but for an elderly parent they can be especially daunting – all the more so if the doctor is pressed for time or if your parent is nervous or not feeling well. Here are a few suggestions to help you and your parent prepare for eye tests and appointments and make better use of your time with the doctor.

Perhaps you’ve already been with your parent to see an eye doctor – or maybe you are considering it. In fact, some seniors find they fare better with the help of a family member-advocate who accompanies them to an appointment or helps them to prepare for one. Cognitive or hearing loss can make it difficult to understand what doctors, nurses and technicians are saying, and keeping track of detailed medical information can be a challenge for anyone. Then there are the follow-up questions people need to ask to make better decisions for their vision health.

Not only is it reassuring to have some company during the process, but also having a family member on hand to interpret and assist can make it a much less anxious experience for all. If your parent is looking for assistance, there are ways you can help at every step of the process, from booking the appointment to follow-up tests and treatments if it turns out your parent is diagnosed with an eye condition.

When you or your parent are booking the appointment:

  • Ask the receptionist whether your parent’s vision will be temporarily affected by any tests they will be having (such as pupil dilation), and whether they will be able to drive home.
  • Ask if there will be costs involved, and if your province’s health plan or your parent’s private insurance plan will cover part or all of this cost. Ask how payment will be handled – some offices will not accept certain credit cards, for example.

Before the appointment, spend a few minutes with your parent making notes about:

  • Any problems they’ve noticed with their vision, such as floaters, dark spots or difficulty seeing at night.
  • Any changes your parent has recently noticed in their vision.
  • Any recent eye injuries or eye surgeries. Make note of the dates, the doctors’ names and the hospitals or clinics where they were treated.
  • All current and previous medical conditions or operations your parent has had, whether eye-related or not. This includes diabetes, allergies, high blood pressure and any chronic health problem. And don’t forget any diagnosed eye conditions such as macular degeneration, cataracts or glaucoma!
  • Family history of significant medical conditions (see above).
  • Any over-the-counter or prescription drugs, vitamins, herbal medicines or supplements your parent is taking. Make note of the dose and frequency.
  • Any eye drops your parent uses, prescription or over-the-counter, and dosage and frequency.
  • Any questions you or your parent is hoping to have answered.

Have your parent bring along:

  • Your notes from above and a pen and paper so that one of you can write down the doctor’s answers. It might be helpful to keep all of your notes in one notebook covering your parent’s vision health.
  • Their glasses or contact lenses and key low vision aids or devices they use (such as magnifiers).
  • Their health insurance card and any private insurance card they may have.
  • Bottles for all eye drops your parent is currently using.

If the doctor recommends further tests, help your parent to ask:

  • What kind of tests are they? How do they work?
  • What are you looking for?
  • Are there any side effects or risks?
  • Can I drive home afterward, or do I need to arrange a ride?
  • Do these tests cost me anything?

If your parent is diagnosed with an eye condition, help your parent to ask:

  • What is the name of the diagnosis? Can you describe this condition and provide more information?
  • How will my vision be affected now and in future? Will it get worse?
  • What symptoms should I watch for and notify you about?
  • Can I make any lifestyle changes to try and prevent further vision loss?

CNIB has recently published a comprehensive new guide called “You and Your Vision Health: Yes! Something More Can Be Done!” which expands on these questions and other vision health topics for Canadians age 50 and over and their family members. To obtain a print or audio copy of the guide, call CNIB toll-free at 1-800-563-2642. You can also view and download it online.

You might also be interested in a series of seminars based on the guide, which are being held across Canada in the coming year. Learn more about the four most common causes of age-related vision loss, prevention strategies to maintain vision health and better ways for living with vision loss if you already have it. Participants will have an opportunity to ask questions and will receive a free copy of the vision health guide.