Though visual impairments are a handicap, you can still effectively communicate with those who have impaired vision. As an optometrist, it’s imperative that you uphold patience and understanding while treating these patients. While speaking to or assisting a patient with vision problems, here are some savvy strategies you can implement to ensure that the dialogue isn’t compromised.
Identify Yourself and Others
Even if you have a distinct voice, it’s polite to introduce yourself when entering a room. This will clear up any potential confusion and make the patient feel comfortable in their surroundings. If an assistant walks in halfway through, identify who they are as well. When your patient is aware of who’s in the room, it puts them at ease. Unfamiliar voices may cause distress, so a formal introduction is warranted. This will only take a moment and will help every patient, so there’s no reason not to get in the habit.
Those with vision problems often rely on their other senses to navigate life. Sound is their go-to. While talking with your patient, enunciate each word. Simplify what you’re saying and make sure it’s direct. Unfortunately, some maintain that loudness equates to clarity. Unless they’ve stated that they’re hard of hearing as well, there’s no reason to raise your voice. Just make sure to enunciate and make space for your patient to ask questions and request clarification.
Vision problems don’t make individuals helpless. They can still care for themselves and often go the extra mile to maintain an iota of independence. It’s your duty to accommodate this need. If they’ve chosen to leave the room by themselves, allow them to. Unless your assistance has been requested, don’t offer it. While this may seem uncouth, it’s the most courteous course of action. If they’re unfamiliar with the layout, consider providing detailed directions. Discuss their needs with the patients’ eye doctors. Unless you have good reason to doubt them, believe your patients when say what they need and allow them space and independence as possible.
Be Mindful of Comfortability Levels
Some are more eager than others to divulge their vision impairments. One individual may feel empowered by this shortcoming while another may feel debilitated by it. Never pressure a patient to discuss their problems any more than they have to. In the same breath, you don’t need to be overly sensitive. Don’t refrain from using words like “see” or “look” for fear of offending a patient. These are common words that should be incorporated into the conversation. Most importantly, it’s essential that you treat your visually impaired patients with as much respect as you do your sighted ones. Many of the systems we live in ignore people with vision impairments, and it is important to advocate for those people by respecting their needs and wishes. You may only be one medical professional, but you can make a difference. As an attempt