Your Healthy Community: Seeing is believing
I recently completed a graduate degree. It was a challenging program. It was rough on the schedule with the family needs and job, and there were days when I wasn't sure how I would fit it all in.
And there would be one more paper to write and one more patient to see.
But for some reason, when I get inside a patient's home for a visit, I am almost always able to be fully present. This is important as a social worker because you need to see everything: environment, physical conditions and nonverbal communication.
One afternoon a few weeks ago, I was very tired and ready to be done with my schooling. I was feeling the pressure, but I had one last home health visit to make for the day. When I pulled up to her home, I smiled because this little lady is a breath of fresh air.
Her son opened the door and let me in. There she was sunk back cozy in her chair doing her word search. She's a little scrap of a thing, but she's got one of the things I love - gumption.
"Hi, honey. How are you? You look like summer," she said. I knew it was an OK day for her because she had her jeans on. I commented on her jeans and she smiled.
We talked about her pain, her chemotherapy, and how her loving family supports her.
In my visits with her, I discovered that one of her very favorite things is reading. And yet, her eyes have developed cataracts to the point of her not being able to read.
Cataracts are a natural part of aging, and by age 80, more than half of all Americans either have a cataract or have had cataract surgery.
A cataract is clouding of the lens in the eye, and it happens gradually over time. Normally, light passes through the lens to the retina. If the lens is cloudy, the image interpreted by the brain will be sent back blurred.
Certain diseases, smoking and alcohol use, and a lot of exposure to sunlight increase risk for cataracts. We can protect our eyes with sunglasses and wearing hats in the sun. Eating nutritious foods can help eye health.
I discussed cataract surgery with my patient, and a little light shown on her face. "I would love so much to see," she said.
It is very difficult to cope with ongoing pain, cancer and treatments. Finding coping mechanisms that work for you individually is key in managing the stress of illness.
For this sweet lady, having cataract surgery is going to help her enjoy one of her life pleasures, and this will help her in coping and managing her pain and illness.
Last time I was there, she stuck her chin out and said, "I'm gonna make it, you know."
I believed her.
When cataracts interfere with daily living, surgery is needed. Cataract surgery removes the cloudy lens and replaces it. Medicare helps cover the cost of cataract surgery.
If you think you might have cataracts, discuss this with your physician. If you are older than 60, the National Eye Institute recommends a comprehensive eye exam every two years.
Don't Lose Sight of Cataract (NIH Publication No. 94-3463) and Cataract: What You Should Know (NIH Publication No. 03-201).
Katie Sciba is a writer, a licensed social worker, a pastor's wife and a mother from Victoria. She works for AARN Health Services and blogs online at Always Simply Begin.