Article Date: 3/1/2010

Removing the Worry from Cataract Surgery
Patient's Perspective

Removing the Worry from Cataract Surgery

A family caregiver appreciates that her mother-in-law's optometrist co-manages cataract surgery.

By Claire Slater, as told to Erin Murphy, Associate Editor

Between my 83-year-old mom and my 89-year-old mother-in-law, I do a lot managing. I manage their homes and bills, and their trips to relatives' houses, the supermarket, the pharmacy and all kinds of doctors. It helps them stay independent—and keeps me very busy.

Our optometrist helps keep all of us happy. His practice has evening hours, so I can schedule visits after work. He and his staff keep me informed about exams, so I know what's going on (and can remind the ladies when they forget). I'm most grateful that when it came time for my mother-in-law, Joan, to have cataract surgery, our optometrist kept her informed and calm throughout the process.

As Joan's prescription changed over the years, her doctor told her she was developing cataracts. Naturally, she was worried, but he said they would address it together to ensure she'd be able to see clearly for many years.

Eventually, as predicted, Joan developed night-vision issues. She hadn't driven in years, but the problem became apparent when she began asking to sit in the back seat at night because she didn't like the headlights. It also became more difficult for her to watch her "stories" on TV. She complained they looked blurry, and I imagine Susan Lucci had to slap people pretty loudly for her to follow the action. Joan also needed a bright light to see her crossword puzzles, but it bothered her to look at the light itself.

Still, when the doctor told Joan it was time to think about surgery, the news upset her. She likes her routine, so the thought of meeting a new doctor, undergoing eye surgery and dealing with recovery was scary.

Joan's optometrist assured her they'd be in it together; he'd be handling all of her tests in his office and doing all of the follow-up after surgery. Aside from two visits to the surgery center—the day of surgery and the day after — she would see her own doctor. He gave her a largeprint pamphlet that explained every step, so when she became nervous, she could re-read the pamphlet to calm her fears.

The day of surgery was a little nerve-wracking for Joan, and the smoke-free environment added to her discontent, but everything went smoothly. She liked her surgeon and the "girls" in the surgery center. The follow-up visit the next day was fast and painless.

What's more, Joan couldn't believe the difference in her vision. She experienced halos and glare at night in the beginning, but our optometrist talked her through the problems, which eventually went away. We visited his office several times over the next month, and Joan ordered new eyeglasses. Now she's the loudest proponent of cataract surgery, routinely telling people it's "a piece of cake." Crosswords are much easier for her, and instead of waiting for Susan Lucci to slap someone, she examines the actress's facial expressions and declares, "I think she's up to something!"

Our optometrist says my mother may need cataract surgery in the next year or so. Fortunately, Joan's experience has helped my Mom feel comfortable about the process. She knows we'll all be going through it together—the moms, our optometrist and me! nOD

Editor's note: Periodically, new OD will explore eye care from the patient's perspective. Whether you have a special interest in contact lenses, low vision or pediatric care, you'll find out from real patients what attracts them to a practice and keeps them coming back.

Optometric Management, Issue: March 2010