Blue Review
A newsletter for contracting institutional and professional providers

May 2021

Help Visually Impaired Patients Who May Have Depression

In our annual Blue Review readership survey, some readers asked for more articles on specialty areas. In response, we’ve created a series of articles on vision impairment. Do you have suggestions for other topics? Email us!

Individuals with low vision or blindness may rely on their personal networks of family members, friends and others to navigate daily life. However, many have lost some of their support system due to quarantining, social distancing and in-person help being suspended due to COVID-19, leaving them alone to try and keep informed and stay in touch with others, which may lead to isolation and depression.

Even without a pandemic, the complete loss or the deterioration of eyesight can feel frightening and overwhelming. Individuals may wonder about their ability to maintain their independence, pay for needed medical care, retain employment, and provide for themselves and their families. Vision loss can affect one's quality of life, independence and mobility, and it’s been linked to falls, injury and depression.1

Patients with visual impairment often say there are three things they need: practical help, connection to experts and social interaction. Knowing what resources are available and getting help may lessen anxiety, stress and frustration.

Have you heard about Hadley?
Hadley, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization – and the nation’s largest provider of free distance and online learning for adults with vision loss – has seen an increase in demand in enrollment for workshops, podcasts and discussion groups. These educational resources are designed to help keep the visually impaired connected to expert help and to one another, especially during the pandemic. There are new learning modules for those with vision loss, like how to use Zoom and access special low vision features on their cell phones, smart devices and computers.

Following months of development, guided directly by input from individuals with low vision, blindness and other vision impairments, Hadley has overhauled its online educational interface. Personalized settings, including a wide selection of how-to video and audio workshops, live support from experts and timely discussion groups on a variety of everyday topics are just a few of the components that make Hadley a useful tool for visually impaired adults.

How You Can Help

  • If you’re a primary care physician (PCP), use the Depression Screening checklist especially with your visually impaired patients to help identify depression and help find resources.
  • If you’re a behavioral health specialist, share results with your patient’s PCP to help coordinate care.
  • Make sure Hadley is on your patient’s resource list.

What We’re Doing
Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois (BCBSIL) also supports our members with ways to connect and take charge of their physical and mental health and wellness. Especially for vision impaired members who may have become isolated during the pandemic, it’s important they know that help is just a phone call away. Many members can reach out to a health care advocate that can connect them to available in-person or telehealth resources for their specific needs and help them find ways to access programs to stay active. See the Behavioral Health Program page on our website for more information.