• What kinds of eye exams exist for patients with dementia and aphasia?


    Question:

    My mom has moderate dementia and has aphasia (a language disorder that makes it hard to communicate). She needs her visual acuity test done again but she cannot speak well. Are there ophthalmologists that specialize in doing evaluations for folks with this kind of disability?


    Answer:

    I am not aware of any ophthalmologists that specialize in this condition. Most ophthalmologists have encountered this condition from time to time. I have faced this problem many times in my career. The effects of aphasia can vary from patient to patient. Some aphasic patients can communicate slowly, or by finger movement, head shaking, or other methods. Others are unable to communicate at all. An ophthalmologist can determine the approximate eye glass needs of his/her patient without verbal feedback. Obviously, reading the chart back to the doctor improves the accuracy of the test, but it is not required for approximate evaluation. The balance of the eye examination can usually be performed without patients providing verbal information. I am confident that your ophthalmologist can accommodate the needs of your mother and provide a quality comprehensive eye examination regardless of the degree of her aphasia. Dementia (a brain disorder affecting memory and thinking), however, can affect the degree of cooperation the ophthalmologist can receive from your mom and this can impact the completeness of the eye examination.


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