Project studies affordable access to geriatric eye care|By SUE DAUGHERTY, Executive director, Serving Our Seniors

Vision is key to remain independent in later life. If money is tight, I suspect seniors are prone to respond to vision loss as a nui
Sandusky Register Staff
May 24, 2010

Vision is key to remain independent in later life. If money is tight, I suspect seniors are prone to respond to vision loss as a nuisance, not a health problem -- unless the vision loss is sudden and/or severe.

I also suspect that affordability for those age 60-64 is why this age group doesn't actively seek regular eye care; and the inability to afford the deductibles, co-payments, and eye glasses is why those age 65+ don't seek regular eye care even though they have Medicare insurance.

Vision begins to change at middle age. As we age, it is common for farsightedness (presbyopia), cataracts, macular degeneration, glaucoma and retinopathy to develop. For someone to lose their vision in later life also is a formula for losing their independent lifestyle.

For these reasons it is important for the older population to have their eyes examined regularly. Good advice, but not very helpful when all you have is Medicare or no insurance coverage.

This month, Serving Our Seniors is initiating a study called the Geriatric Eye Care Project. We are seeking 40-50 Erie County residents age 60-older who have not had any eye care in the last three years because they can't afford it.

To lower the cost of this study, SOS will leverage an existing service program called the National Eye Care Project (NECP) which exists to help Medicare eligible older adults, who can't afford it, to be examined by an ophthalmologist.

This is how NECP works: Ophthalmologists volunteer to be part of NECP. An NECP physician may bill Medicare if Medicare covers his services for examining and treating the eye condition. The deductible and co-payment are waived. If the eye exam and diagnosed condition are not covered by Medicare, there is no out-of-pocket expense to the patient. The ophthalmologist's voluntary services do not include hospital charges, eyeglasses or prescription drugs.

Serving Our Seniors will pay for Erie County residents age 60-64 who can't afford to see an ophthalmologis. Thanks to the generosity of the area Lion's Clubs and Serving Our Seniors, we will see that all older adults in the study who are prescribed eyeglasses and can't afford them, will receive eyeglasses, too.

We invite you to call our office if you think you meet all of the eligibility criteria described above and are willing to sign a statement allowing Serving Our Seniors to have access to the eye care medical records after your examination and your related treatment.

This information will be used to study the affordability and access to geriatric eye care as it relates to older adults living in Erie County.

For information or to be placed on the list to enroll, call Serving Our Seniors at 419-624-1856 or 800-564-1856 and ask for Suzanne Lewis, coordinator of the Geriatric Eye Care Project.

ASK SUE

Q: Taking my grandmother out of her home is difficult due to her severe mobility problems. Will any place come to the home and render eye exams?

A: There may be others, but I am only aware of Dr. Eric Martin. He informed me that he has been examining patients in their homes for more than eight years.

He uses hand-held instruments and portable equipment to conduct a comprehensive eye examination.

For information about this service being covered by Medicare or Medicaid, call his office at 419-433-3937.

Q: What do you know about reverse mortgages? Are they a rip off or is it something that is good for older people like me? I'm 77 years old.

A: Serving Our Seniors is sponsoring a public forum called "Understanding Reverse Mortgages" at 2 p.m. May 31 at the Erie County office building (3rd Floor Chambers), 247 Columbus Ave., Sandusky. An RSVP is appreciated so I can plan for seating. Call us at 419-624-1856 or 800-564-1856.

Q: Is it too late to apply for the One Day Trip Scholarships?

A: Some of the trips are already full -- The Lion King and Westside Story. Others are Toledo Mud Hens on May 2; Champions on Ice, May 5; Greenfield Village, July 18; White Christmas at Carousel Dinner Theater, Nov. 2. These are performances that will cost pennies for the dollar for those who qualify. Call our office and ask for a One Day Trip Scholarship application.

Q: I'm 69, use a wheelchair and I own my own home in the City of Sandusky. Can I get a ramp from Serving Our Seniors?

A: Yes. But, first we will see if you are eligible to get a ramp through the City of Sandusky. They, too, have a ramp program regardless of age. You may qualify for a ramp through the City's Emergency Home Repair Program. The type of ramp the City will install is determined after the city's rehab specialist inspects the property and determines what type of accommodations will be needed. Factors used to determine the type of ramp will include the type of entrance and lot size. Call us at 419-624-1856

Q: I have a problem that I need to run by an attorney, but I can't afford it. Do you have any suggestions?

A: The Erie County Bar Association is offering a free legal hotline from 4-8 p.m. May 2-3. For information, call 419-627-7697, 419-627-7687 or 419-627-6919.