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Vision Rehabilitation Services for Low Vision Patients

Salus University’s Department of Blindness and Low Vision Studies (BLVS), offers orientation and mobility and low vision services through the William Feinbloom Low Vision Rehabilitation Center housed at The Eye Institute. One of the dreams of the BLVS department for several years was that they would have fully integrated rehab through the Feinbloom Center which would include Low Vision, Orientation and Mobility (O&M) and Vision Rehabilitation Therapy (VRT).

Patients at Vision Rehab TherapyAbout a year ago when O&M approached Feinbloom and started doing dedicated orientation and mobility, Lachelle Smith, MS, CVRT, started thinking about how VRT could be included. “We know that when the patients come in for low vision exams, a lot of the skills they mentioned they need help with are independent living skills,” said Smith. “We teach adaptive cooking, we teach adaptive cleaning, home care, and medication management. Anything that you and I do to live independently is what a vision rehabilitation therapist teaches - adaptive skills, non-visual skills, and then the low vision skills.”

Erin Kenny, OD, FAAO, chief of the Feinbloom Center, was approached to see if there was a way to integrate VRT into the clinical care provided. As space is limited at the at the Oak Lane location, Dr. Kenny suggested using the Activities of Daily Living Lab at the Elkins Park, Pennsylvania campus for a pilot run.

“We've been piloting this program this semester and will continue next semester as well,” said Smith. The patients are referred to the VRT Clinic at Elkins Park by way of the Feinbloom Center. 

“They have to identify that they need a skill or training in the independent living skills area during their initial exam. And, then we reach out and start seeing them through a grant. It's actually a grant that helps to support these services,” she said.

For the first semester they are seeing about two clients one day a week with a waiting list of about 20 patients. 

Lachelle Smith working with a patient at Vision Rehab TherapyKarin Kull was one of the first patients to utilize the service. “My orientation and mobility therapist, Jamie Maffit, MS, COMS, CLVT, recommended the service for me. She had been working with me for orientation and mobility through The Eye Institute. But I'm at the point now where I need help to learn more ways to be independent. So that's how I found out about this service,” Kull said.

It’s Kull’s fourth time utilizing the Elkins Park clinical services and she said she has learned a lot and is looking forward to next semester. “I need to feel more positive about what I can do by myself because I used to be a really independent person. I started two schools on founding teams on charter schools, I was a curriculum director, I taught English to Speakers of Other Languages and I'm a reading specialist. I'm coming here to find more purpose in my life. My thing is bloom where you're planted, and I'm trying to do that now,” said Kull.

Delores Moore’s daughter Ebony is also benefiting from the program.

“Because I'm getting older, and I'm pretty much basically her caretaker, I’m trying to get her to be more independent and be able to get around without me doing everything for her,” said Moore. Delores said she’s seen Ebony using the skills to be more independent such as taking the initiative to dress herself. Another improvement is with her medications which, through the training, she is now able to place in the pill boxes and take herself instead of Delores administering. 

Lachelle Smith working with a patient at vision rehab therapy“Another real great thing was her toothbrush. They had told me about the pills that you could take, a little capsule. You put the pill in your mouth with a little bit of water and it foams up like toothpaste. So that's great instead of just putting her toothpaste on it and leaving it out for her because somebody might come in the bathroom, wash their hands – it’s unsanitary. Now she can just go in there, get her pill, put it in her mouth and brush her own teeth,” said Moore. Delores said she would love to continue next semester as Ebony is learning a lot.

Smith said another important piece about this clinic is that it now provides a placement site, an internship site, for students in the VRT program as there is a limited number of placements in the Philadelphia area. “We're so, so excited, and it's really making a difference,” said Smith. “This is just an awesome resource in the community that Salus is providing.”