Hispanic People with Wet AMD: How to Advocate for Your Care
Racial disparities in healthcare can create obstacles for Hispanic people navigating life with wet AMD, but they can access resources to preserve their visit and improve their quality of life. Hispanic people living with wet AMD can learn to advocate for themselves by finding a culturally competent doctor, learning more about risk and treatment options, and understanding their insurance coverage.
Wet age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is a leading cause of vision loss for all older adults, and it can be especially damaging to the Hispanic community. Wet AMD in Hispanic people may be less common than in white people or Asian Americans, but it is still a significant hindrance to quality of life and independence later in life. Learning to advocate for yourself can help minimize the effects of wet AMD on your vision and quality of life. Racial disparities in healthcare are real and represent an obstacle for People of Color seeking medical care. If you are experiencing difficulty accessing healthcare, remember your voice matters and there are resources available to ensure you receive quality wet AMD treatment.
The more you know about wet AMD risk, prevention, and treatment, the better prepared you’ll be to identify symptoms and seek medical care. Signs of wet AMD include blurry or distorted vision, the need for brighter light to see well, reduced central vision, and more. The American Academy of Ophthalmology has great online resources to learn more about wet AMD. You can also ask your doctor for information in your preferred language.
Hispanic/Latino people who have positive interactions with their doctors and other healthcare professionals tend to have better health outcomes. However, in a 2018 study of nearly 200 Hispanic adults, it was not uncommon for patients to experience perceived discrimination and to be left wanting more attentive and respectful encounters with their doctors. Study participants also shared that they would have liked to receive more information about their health during their appointments.
To ensure you receive the care you need, find a culturally competent ophthalmologist who can examine and treat your eyes. A culturally competent doctor is a medical professional who has received training in the nuances of how one’s racial and cultural background impacts their health and their experience in the healthcare system. As a Hispanic person, finding a culturally competent doctor will help you feel confident about asking questions, making decisions about your health, and considering treatment options that fit your lifestyle. Remember, you can always request a translator for medical appointments and contact the doctor’s office to ask about language resources available. You can also bring a friend or family member to your appointment if this makes you feel at ease.
You can search online for an ophthalmologist or optometrist who speaks Spanish. Try using the language filtering feature on Healthgrades.com, which can be found on the search results page within “All Filters.”
Wet AMD is usually treated with anti-VEGF medications, which help reduce the number of abnormal blood vessels in your retina — the hallmark of wet AMD. Laser surgery may be appropriate in some cases, as it can also reduce the number of blood vessels in the retina and slow the leaking from those blood vessels. Be sure to learn all you can about the risks and benefits of treatment and then make an informed decision with your doctor and with your family.
Making a decision about treatment includes considering financial elements. Research suggests healthcare disparities can create financial obstacles for Hispanic/Latino people trying to get treatment. Your health is important and you have the right to receive quality care that improves your well-being. Contact the Office of Minority Health to find the latest healthcare resources for the Hispanic community. Your doctor can also refer you to local healthcare programs that provide assistance.
Between eye doctor appointments, it’s important to note any changes in vision or other symptoms. You should also pay attention to any side effects that may occur from the medications you take or following laser surgery or other procedures.
Bring this information to every appointment as it will help your doctor better understand how your wet AMD is progressing and how well treatment may be working.
Hospitals and medical practices can do an impressive job at maintaining your medical files and even sharing information with other healthcare professionals as needed. You can also keep copies of your personal records for reference. However, for peace of mind, and to ensure nothing slips through the cracks, keep your records well organized.
Be sure to ask for copies of your test results and notes from each appointment. Do the same with all insurance records you have.
Certain medical procedures, prescriptions, and medical devices require preauthorization before your insurance will cover all or a portion of the costs. This means your health insurance must deem the treatments medically necessary.
Your doctor may notify your insurer and there won’t be any problem. However, to avoid any costly surprises, you can always check with your insurance company before you receive any treatment to confirm coverage. If you need help finding quality health insurance and healthcare, check out the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services’ Latino/Hispanic Partners program, which has information and resources available in multiple languages.
Many communities have support groups for visually impaired individuals and their families or caregivers. You may learn about helpful devices or other strategies to help you preserve independence and daily functioning. Tools like magnifying glasses, book lights, large-print books, and other devices with large letters and numbers can make a difference in your day-to-day routine. Also, connecting with other people living the same experiences can be beneficial.Visit the American Macular Degeneration Foundation (AMDF) to read encouraging stories and learn more about the latest in treatment and research so you can feel informed and empowered to manage your wet AMD.