The Observatory

More than preserving sight

Optometrist Susan Kalff understands the value of sight more than most of us.After a lifetime of looking after people’s eyesight, she knows that it’s something none of us should take for granted.

Eye Health Hero Susan Kalff

“If people can see, they can still engage with the world, and that’s the difference my work makes,” she says. “If I can help keep the sight of a 90 year old, and that person can still be doing things like writing or doing beautiful design work, then it’s not just about preserving their vision; it’s about preserving their very being.”

For the last 20 years, Susan has specialised in working with the elderly and patients with a disability.

“I’ve always been interested in working with the elderly and the vulnerable, and looking after them. Often, my patients are socially isolated and can’t always get to specialists or eye care services.

“By coming to them, I provide a link in their care, so that they don’t feel lost and forgotten. It’s a holistic approach to care that requires a collaborative effort between myself, their GP and other health care professionals to give them the best treatment.”

Susan says that an important part of her work is having empathy with her patients.

“I’m not just looking at a pair of eyes when I go to see people—it’s about the person as a whole. They might be having a bad day or a good day. They might have dementia. Or their eye condition may be linked to other health problems, such as diabetes. So it’s about understanding who they are and what they need, and sometimes also working with their families to provide the best care possible.”

Susan says that despite technological advances in recent years, the ageing process itself is a challenge with eye care, and she works hard to keep up to date with the latest developments in eye health.

“I have to stretch myself to make older eyes work, but it is a pleasure to see my patients reap the benefits of my care,” she says.

“Conditions such as cataracts are now treatable. And there’s a lot of work being done in the area of macular degeneration, which is an eye condition brought on by ageing.

“But the most important thing of course is prevention. Not smoking, a healthy diet, and keeping out of the sun are imperative for good eye health.

“Once we all get this right, my older patients might not need to see me as much in future.”

  • Download Susan's story in PDF here
  • Photo credit: Les O’Rourke
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