Atlanta—Caring for a patient who is severely mentally or physically disabled presents a unique set of challenges, says Vicky Vandervort, OD, FAAO, FCOVD, and Robert Vandervort, OD, FAAO, ABO.
Drs. Vandervort understand these challenges as well as anyone because their son is severely disabled, and they shared some advice during a session at SECO. Patients who have disabilities already struggle with so much, they say, and the opportunity to address just one problem—whether it be correcting a refraction error or easing eye pain—means the world for these patients and their caregivers.
“If it were your son or daughter in the chair, what would you want done?” says Dr. Robert Vandervort. “Once they walk out of your office, there aren’t many people who will advocate for them.”
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Before the exam
The first step to caring for a patient who is severely disabled? Leave your ego at the door, says Dr. Robert Vandervort. It doesn’t matter if this is your first time or your hundredth time working with a disabled patient—don’t assume you know it all.
When you ask questions and really listen to the answers, it will put the patient’s parents or caregivers at ease. Ask the parent to tell you about her child. How well does the parent think the patient sees—and why does she think that? Will the patient be able to follow simple commands? Does the patient notice people or things in the room? Does he watch TV? Don’t forget to ask how the patient spends his day so that you can better understand his visual demands.
The parents of a severely disabled child or adult have spent years advocating for their son or daughter, and they are looking for a healthcare provider who is willing to work as a team.