Sigrid Mueller-Schotte (1968) has been involved in optometry and optics since 1988. In 2018 she she defended her PhD-thesis on preservation of functioning in older adults with special focus of the role of visual functioning on daily life activities at older age (PROFIEL/VF-PROFIEL).
Her passion for older adults started at a very early age when she accompanied her father to nursing homes where he performed eye and ear exams and dispensed glasses and hearing aids. After having obtained diplomas as an optician and hearing-aid specialist in Germany and a residency-trained Doctor of Optometry degree and in the United States, she again got involved in the care for older persons. She realized the extent and impact poor vision has on daily life; especially as it seemingly played an important role in the loss of independency: moving from one’s own house to a nursing home or assisted living facility.
With her background in several areas of health care and focus on eye care she was ideally suited to lecture at the Faculty of Health at the bachelor program of Optometry starting in 2001. The combination of education and patient care in the outpatient (educational) clinic is according to her an ideal learning situation for students; but also a place to conduct applied research in areas important to health care and society.
Changes in health care and the focus of evidence-based practice in optometric practice and education motivated her to complete a Master of Science in Epidemiology in 2010; especially as she considers interdisciplinary collaboration of healthcare professional and learning each other language extremely important.
Her interest in older adults was and still is a great motivator for her. Decline in visual function and eye diseases can severely impact and disturb the balance of daily life: depression, risk of falling, dependency on others and possibly relocation to a nursing home or assisted living facility. Moreover, decline in mobility, for example, is noticed very easily, whereas changes in visual function predominately occur slowly over time and remain undetected.
Furthermore, changes in society and health policy towards more independence and self-efficacy are of serious consequences for older adults. In addition, today’s older persons prefer a more active lifestyle than older individuals in similar situations 20 or 30 years ago. These developments are of great impact for the individual but also the way healthcare (and the education of healthcare professionals) is provided. Optometrist together with other healthcare professionals such as nurses, physiotherpists and primary care physicians have a decisive role in this. With her passion for optometry combined with her interest in older persons and her research in mind she hopes to be able to contribute to an integrated healthcare model for older person (not exclusively) .
Earlier, she conducted research as part of the Research Group Chronic Diseases. Her research (PROFIEL/VF-PROFIEL) focused on the detection of factors that influence daily life activities of older persons; based on her background as an optometrist with a holistic approach:
- What is the influence of suboptimal vision and aging on active participation in society?
- What is the effect of diminished vision on the ability to live independently in the community, especially in times that self-management and self-efficacy are propagated?
- What are other influential factors?
- What is the effect of (visual) factors on the course of decline in the functioning of individual activities with increasing age?
Starting May 2019, Sigrid Mueller-Schotte will conduct research as part of the Research Group Technology of Healthcare Innovations on the vision and the optimization of lighting environments for older persons in regard to their visual functioning and the prevention of falls.
Together with the other members of the Research Group Technology of Healthcare Innovations, Sigrid endeavors to build a bridge between eye care and other (para)medical professions such as nursing care, physiotherapy and primary care physicians: targeted at (but not limited to) older persons and those with chronic conditions. Societal and demographic developments call for interdisciplinary – or better multidisciplinary – collaboration in science as well as in the care for patients: doing research is teamwork, just like caring for older persons.