Living with dementia can affect all aspects of a person’s life, as well as those who care for them. Everyday activities that used to be easy, like routine check-ups, can suddenly become very difficult and confusing, which can sometimes mean that these situations are avoided  — but this can have serious consequences for your eye health.
Luckily, our Specsavers optometrists can perform various eye tests at home for anyone who cannot travel to a store unaccompanied, such as those living with dementia. We have partnered with Dementia Friends to make sure all of our visiting opticians undergo specialist training to support the needs of people with dementia, and deliver the same level of care that you are used to in-store.

Why might people living with dementia need a specialist eye test?

Eye tests can often be demanding for those with dementia as identifying letters on the chart, understanding instructions or communicating with an optometrist can all take more concentration and energy. This means that they can take a little more time than the average eye test and can become stressful experiences for some patients.

However, this does not mean that people with dementia shouldn’t have their eyes tested regularly. In fact, a lack of clear vision can lead to increased feelings of confusion and isolation, so it’s incredibly important to have an up-to-date prescription to ensure they’re wearing the correct glasses

How can a home eye exam help people living with dementia?

Home eye tests are essential for people with dementia if they are unable to visit their local optician unaccompanied. For those who are bed-bound or have mobility issues, the examination can be done wherever they are most comfortable by making a few tweaks to the home, such as moving a piece of furniture or closing the curtains. 

Leaving the house to visit a new environment (such as an optician’s store) can be stressful and confusing for some people with dementia — especially for one-off trips where they’ll be meeting new people and being asked a number of questions. 

Having a test at home means that they’ll naturally feel more comfortable, which can help the test to run smoothly and create a more pleasant experience. We’ll always encourage loved ones to be present during a home visit, as this can help to create a safe and stress-free environment. For some people, it might even be necessary to take a short break during the test, which is more easily done at home.

If your loved one lives in a care home, we’ll speak to the care home manager or senior nursing staff before we arrive to make sure we have all the right information on any medication they are taking, as well as their hobbies. Not only can this give our optometrist a good idea of their medical history, but it also helps to make people with dementia feel more comfortable.

Home visits for people living with dementia explained

We make a few alterations to our typical home eye test procedure to ensure that people with dementia feel safe and comfortable while we perform a thorough examination. Throughout the test, our optometrist will clearly explain each process to make sure your loved one understands what is happening.

Eye exams for dementia patients can be tailored based on their individual needs. For instance, some people living with dementia can find it particularly difficult to explain or articulate any vision loss or symptoms they are experiencing. To simplify this, our optometrists will only ever ask questions that have a yes or no answer or don’t require a subjective response. 

An ophthalmoscope will be used by an optometrist to check the health of the eyes and a retinoscope to obtain a prescription simply from the way light is reflected in the retina. These are simple tests done with a small, non-invasive handheld device, and only take a few minutes to complete.

Our optometrists will also use Kay picture cards or single letter charts to check the patient’s vision, which avoids any confusion stemming from reading a whole page of words or long lines of letters. We’ll also conduct tests for specific conditions such as glaucoma, and can refer the patient onto a GP or specialist for treatment if necessary.

In some cases, an incorrect glasses prescription can be the cause of visual impairment, so our optometrist will always check the patient’s current glasses to see if they are still suitable. If a new pair is needed, our optometrist can take you through the frame and lens options and arrange to have the new pair delivered to your home.

Arranging a home visit

Many people living with dementia could benefit from a free NHS-funded home eye test. To find out whether you or someone you care for qualifies, simply visit our eligibility page. You can discover more information about our home care (domiciliary) services on our home visits page.