Older adults with vision loss from cataracts, age-related macular degeneration (AMD), or glaucoma are more likely to experience falls or fractures compared with individuals without these eye diseases. A “population-based cohort study suggested” this finding, according to a report by Jung Yin Tsang, MRes of the University of Manchester and colleagues, published recently in JAMA Ophthalmology. While this does not “definitively prove” that vision difficulties cause such accidents, an analysis of health records in England showed a higher risk of falls among people with these three conditions. The study’s results recognize that people with one or more of these eye diseases “are at increased risk of both falls and fractures.” Findings also differentiated results by specific eye disease(s). For example, the risk of falls, or hazard ratio (HR), was greater for those with cataract and glaucoma. The risk of fractures was higher for individuals with cataract, for AMD, and for glaucoma. As evidenced in the study, HRs “were slightly higher for glaucoma and cataract compared with AMD for both falls and fractures.” The findings suggest “a need to assess the medical and rehabilitation needs of at-risk individuals in future research.” For people with cataract, AMD, or glaucoma, the report concludes that they “would likely benefit from improved advice, access, and referrals to falls prevention services and targeted interventions to prevent related adverse outcomes.” To find out more about the study, read the MedPage Today article about the Trio of Eye Diseases Linked to Falls, Fractures in Older Adults. The complete report on the research findings is featured in the JAMA Ophthalmology article discussing the Risk of Falls and Fractures in Individuals With Cataract, Age-Related Macular Degeneration, or Glaucoma.
Prevention of Injuries in Those with Vision Loss: The Role of Vision Rehabilitation
For people with vision loss, vision rehabilitation “can provide life-changing benefits,” including the introduction of techniques that can reduce the risk of accidents. Referral to vision rehabilitation services provides access to a set of interventions that make it possible for individuals with vision loss to “achieve maximum levels of safety, independence, function, and quality of life.” This is particularly relevant with the growing number of older adults experiencing eye conditions. Vision rehabilitation provides specialized training that helps those with vision loss to perform activities of daily living with confidence and gain, regain, or retain their independence. Services provided vary by the type of eye condition, the extent of vision loss, and the individual’s functional needs. A critical component of the process, Orientation and mobility training, specifically addresses acquiring the skills to navigate safely at home and elsewhere, skills that can lower the risk of falls, accidents, and injuries. Vision rehabilitation services are provided by organizations located across the nation, often supported by a state agency or local nonprofit vision rehabilitation agency. To learn more about services, visit the APH (American Printing House for the Blind) Connect VisionAware webpage. For additional details about vision loss and aging and how to access services, read the article featured on the NCOA (National Council on Aging) website covering What are Vision Rehabilitation Services and How Can They Help Older Adults?, written by Libby Murphy, VisionServe Alliance Director of Program Development.