New Approach to Low Vision Rehab Cuts Risk of Depression in Half

Depression is a common risk for people who have lost their vision, but a new study shows that a new approach called “behavior activation” can cut the risk in half.
Researchers from Wilmer Eye Institute, Sidney Kimmel Medical College, and Wills Eye Hospital have announced results from their Low Vision Depression Prevention Trial (VITAL), designed to test an approach to reducing disability through rehabilitation. Behavior activation is a multi-disciplinary treatment that bridges primary eye care, psychiatry, psychology, and rehabilitation.
The trial collected data from 169 senior men and women who were determined to be at risk for developing clinical depression. The participants had been randomly split into two groups.
One group received behavior activation from an occupational therapist specially trained in the approach. The occupational therapist worked with participants to guide them on using the low-vision devices, to make changes around the home, to increase their social activities, and to help them set personal goals and break these down into manageable steps.
The second group of participants served as a control group. They talked about their difficulties to a therapist, but did not receive behavior activation or low-vision occupational therapy.
18 (23.4%) in the control group and 11 (12.6%) in the behavior activation group developed clinical depression, with the most benefit to people with the worst vision. Behavior activation reduced the risk of depression by 50 percent compared to the control treatment.
The researchers hope that the study will serve as a model for similar approaches to preventing and treating depression in AMD. When approved by a physician, occupational therapy is reimbursable through Medicare.
More information about VITAL
Read the original NIH press release
Reference: Low Vision Depression Prevention Trial in Age-Related Macular Degeneration. Rovner BW, et al. (Ophthalmology, July 2014.)

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