There is no doubt 2020/21 were unusual years. We have come to realise that Covid-19 will be part of our landscape for the foreseeable future. This provides challenges for both glaucoma patients as well as for eyecare providers. For patients with glaucoma the challenges are three-fold.
First, it may be difficult to continue with regular appointment times and glaucoma checks. Some patients will feel apprehensive about going to see their optometrist and ophthalmologist because of the levels of Covid-19 in the community. They may delay or miss an appointment. While this may be acceptable for many patients, for some patients with advanced glaucoma, this can be a significant risk. In particular, because glaucoma progression is usually silent- even in advanced cases. Therefore, it is important that the decision to delay an appointment is made after consultation with the eye care provider.
Second, another challenge facing us all is learning to communicate meaningfully wearing masks. Many of our patients have hearing impairment and therefore, eyecare providers need to remember to speak clearly and loudly and even check if they can be heard. Patients may feel awkward about expressing that they are struggling to hear. In addition, in glaucoma care, patient-eyecare provider communication is critical. It is important to say verbally what we used to say with a smile which is more difficult to see wearing masks. We need to all take an extra moment so we can make sure we are connecting with each other.
Finally, the Covid-19 pandemic has increased isolation for all of us- and this has impacted on our elderly patients. Patients may have questions and concerns that they have less opportunity to clarify. One avenue that may assist in addressing this is to refer our patients to organisations such as Glaucoma Australia and Glaucoma NZ. Both organisations are aware that their websites are being visited more often and both organisations are constantly providing up-to-date information so that patients can stay connected with glaucoma developments and support.
Professor Helen Danesh-Meyer, MBChB, MD, PhD, FRANZCO
Chair, Glaucoma NZ