Sometimes a new prescription isn’t going to help a patient see better, and surgery isn’t the answer, either. Dr. Bowman’s specialty is Low Vision Care, and she explains how to help a family member who may benefit from her knowledge and experience with low vision tools.
As they get older, our loved ones are often embarrassed to admit that they need help. What’s your advice on how we can talk to them about their need for low vision care?
I feel like too often people try to put up with their poor eyesight, and there’s really no reason to do that. Until you know what’s available, you don’t realize how much harder you’re making it on yourself. These simple fixes (low vision aides) can be life-changing for a lot of people. People can live their lives the way they want and enjoy an improved quality of life, feeling less of a burden on their loved ones.
I think that once they make it over that hesitation of admitting, “Yeah, I have an issue, I need to get it checked out,” that they’re happier.
There’s nothing to be hesitant about; it’s not going to hurt anything just to see what’s available. You don’t really know what you’re missing out on if you don’t at least have an exam and try out the devices.
Are there signs we can look for to identify when our loved ones might benefit from low vision care and tools?
Signs to look for might be if they keep asking you to do simple tasks, or for you to read something to them on the menu, if they won’t wear their glasses because they don’t think that they help. That’s when we can start looking at other tools besides the glasses to help them. Most people come in and they just want us to give them new glasses. But it’s not really a glasses issue at that point, it’s more of an issue that can only be helped with magnification.
What are some of the concerns that might keep patients from making an appointment with a low vision specialist? How do you alleviate those concerns?
Besides the stigma that comes with having low vision and not wanting to admit it, a lot of people are afraid of losing their driver’s license. There are restricted licenses that patients can get if they qualify.
Another big thing is usually the cost. However, a lot of the devices often aren’t more expensive than a pair of glasses. We also offer Care Credit, a form of financing which gives people 6 months to pay off the devices. The devices usually last longer than a pair of glasses.
What are some of the typical questions that your patients ask?
“How much does this cost?” is the number one. The cost is usually comparable to a pair of glasses; some are more, some are less.
“Does Medicare help cover the cost of any of the devices?” is the other big one, and it does not. Although Medicare does cover the price of the exam.
Do patients usually need to buy a few devices, or could they just get one?
It depends. If patients get a smaller magnifier, sometimes they want one for reading and then one to take to the grocery store or to a restaurant. We do have one device that is usually everyone’s favorite. We keep it in stock just because it is so popular. It does everything that they could need. It’s called the Smartlux Digital. It’s more of a top-of-the-line option that is simple to use because it only has three buttons. It has a little kickstand feature that allows you to do things like signing your name or do crossword puzzles underneath it. The battery lasts for a couple of hours and it comes in lots of varieties of magnification and different contrast options.
When I trained at the VA in Lexington, KY, they contracted with Eschenleach for low vision devices because their optics are the best. That’s what I wanted here, too.
Would you like patients to bring “show and tell” items when they come to appointments, such as a magazine that they are having trouble with?
Yes! If you have any magnifiers at home, please bring them to your appointment so we can determine why they’re not working for you. Also, please bring any reading material that you would like to be able to read, or read more easily.
I have samples of magazines and newspapers here to show what it would be like, but it’s always better to bring in the example of what you typically like to read or want to be able to see.
How long does a typical low vision appointment take?
It depends on the patient; usually around 45 minutes to an hour. I’d say a majority of the patients that I see have mild to moderate vision loss. There are a lot of devices that I can show them, so that does make a longer appointment.
Some patients are quicker at around 30 minutes, especially if they have severely-reduced vision. When there’s not a ton that we can do, we can refer these patients to the Department of Education Vision Outreach Services.
You’ve been in Cheyenne for a while now! What have you discovered about the town or the community that you didn’t know before?
I didn’t know how much there was to do downtown. I’ve enjoyed Fridays in the Asher in the winter, and then the Plaza when it’s nicer weather out. I went to Edge Fest last year and will hopefully go again. They do have a lot more town activities than I was expecting. I like the environment, being around the crowds and people-watching a little bit.
Before I got here, I also didn’t know that there was a cycling team, that’s probably one of my favorite parts of living here. Cheyenne Eye Clinic is one of the sponsors of the team so our name is on the jerseys.
I got a time-trial bike so that I could do races. I’m going to get a cyclocross bike so I can start that once road cycling is over.
Have you found any cycling routes that are your favorites?
There’s a place out on Horse Creek with some hills and they’re just fun rollers to do. We have found some rides in Fort Collins that are really pretty too. It’s nice to have something like that close by. It’s such a difference in the terrain and it’s not that far to get to, so it’s nice to mix it up and go down there.
Do you think you or someone you’re close to would benefit from a low vision appointment with Dr. Bowman?
Here are the questions she’s most frequently asked that you might be wondering about, too.
Can I just get new glasses?
As your current eye care provider has probably told you, there isn’t a way to fully fix your ocular condition, which has caused vision loss. Glasses may no longer be your best option for correcting your vision, but will be evaluated as part of your examination.
However, with magnification from various devices, we can often help you function much better even with your vision problems.
I already have a magnifier, will the devices I am shown be any different?
Low Vision Care should not be confused with over-the-counter magnifiers. Prescription magnifier lenses are made with the same precision and care and exacting standards that are used in fabricating the finest prescription eyeglasses. Like prescription glasses, most have scratch-resistant coatings to prolong the useful life of lenses. Years of research and development go into the design and manufacture of even the simple prescription low vision aid. Most importantly, prescription low vision aids are designed specifically for low vision problems and come in powers necessary to help those who have experienced vision loss.
Will Medicare help pay for the devices?
As you know, Medicare doesn’t pay for new glasses. Similarly, Medicare will not help cover the cost of low vision aids. Unfortunately, very few insurance companies currently pay for the low vision aids that we need to help you with your problem.
However, Medicare will pay for all of the office visits needed for us to help you!
How much will a low vision device cost?
Typically, the cost of low vision aids will be about the same as the cost of a new pair of glasses.