“Having regular eye care can make a huge difference in your physical health, mental health, and overall quality of life, says Dr. Steven Mack, medical director at InnovAge’s PACE center in Newport News, Virginia.
“Two of the most devastating things that can happen to an older person is a fall with a fracture or worsening brain function. Simply getting your eyes checked or wearing appropriate eye care can help prevent things like cognitive decline or a dangerous fall,” says Mack.
Despite his administrative duties as the center’s medical director, Mack still sees patients as often as he can. He says his passion for caring for others started early in life. “My grandfather had Parkinson’s Disease and I watched his movement and decline through several nursing homes and facilities. That really had an impact on me,” he says.
Dr. Mack at InnovAge's Peninsula center in Virginia.
Mack says he was drawn to working with older adults because of its complexities and its rewards. “Geriatrics is not just cookie-cutter medicine. There are so many other things at play,” he explains. “Being part of PACE requires a lot of teamwork and I like being part of that team. We can build a better connection with participants and create more seamless care.”
He says people often overlook or ignore taking care of their vision. “It isn’t always seen as a priority, especially when people have multiple health conditions, but it can affect so many aspects of their lives.”
The CDC reports
chronic health conditions like diabetes
, heart disease, and arthritis can lead to impaired vision. Older adults with impaired vision are also more at risk for:
- Falls and injuries
- Social isolation
- Reduced quality of life and daily functioning
- Trouble following instructions related to health and medicines
Besides chronic conditions, a number of age-related eye diseases can bring on vision impairment and blindness. They include cataracts, glaucoma, and macular degeneration. “Many of these things are easily treatable or should be monitored to avoid permanent vision loss,” adds Mack.
Adults enrolled in InnovAge’s Program of All-inclusive Care for the Elderly (PACE)
have access to all medically necessary care related to vision and eye services. These may include medications, eye drops, eyeglasses, and surgery.
Mack says working in a PACE center “just clicked” for him, because he enjoys being part of a coordinated care team
and having the time to get to know his patients on a more personal level. “A mentor back in medical school once said to me, ‘People don’t care what you know, unless they know that you care.’ That’s always resonated with me.”