Is your senior loved one pulling away from tasks and events because of loss of vision?
Are they telling you that their eyesight has become so impaired that they are finding things that used to come easily almost impossible now?
Are you becoming worried that they won’t be able to remain living independently?
What was once an activity that passed the time, brought enjoyment or achieved a specific purpose, is now a frustration due to vision loss.
Vision loss can take a variety of forms for adults as they age. It is important to see a doctor for diagnosis and treatment.
Causes of Low Vision in Aging Adults
Most seniors can suffer from some type of vision problem as a natural part of aging.
Cataracts are a clouding of the lens of the eyes and are quite common. By the time people are 80, half have either had cataract surgery or have cataracts. Not being able to see well at night, blurry vision, double vision, faded colors, and glare are symptoms of cataracts.
Cataracts are easily treated with surgery to replace the lenses but there are other interventions that can help before surgery, such as anti-glare sunglasses, bright lights, and new eyeglasses.
Glaucoma is another eye disease often experienced by older adults. It is characterized by optic nerve damage from increased pressure in the eyes. Many seniors do not realize they have glaucoma. While there is no cure for glaucoma, there is treatment with eye drops and surgery, if needed.
Macular degeneration is the leading cause of blindness in older adults and affects as many as 15 million Americans. It is a progressive disease therefore worsens over time. Vision in the center of your eye is impacted which can make tasks like driving, self-care or reading very difficult. There is usually no pain associated with the disease. If caught early through regular eye exams, treatment can begin. Some research indicates vitamins and minerals can help slow the progression.
Vision Rehabilitation Clinics
In addition to medical treatment, there are many clinics that specialize in maximizing existing vision and teaching coping skills in people who have lost vision. They can’t give back vision that is lost especially with macular degeneration, but they can help. If you have a clinic such as this in your location, it would be worthwhile to see if they can help your senior loved one make sense of their world, so they can hold on to their independence as long as possible.
Agencies can also make a home visit and help determine what changes could improve accomplishing daily tasks.
These clinics can be operated by private eye centers or state or non-profit agencies. Some accept Medicare. VisionAware.org can help locate one near you. This is a website created by the American Foundation for the Blind and contains information helpful to those with vision loss.
There are also low vision support groups with which the clinics can connect your senior loved one. Learning from the experience of others and knowing that you are not alone in this can be helpful for both caregivers and seniors.
Family caregivers can help facilitate getting the proper diagnosis, treatment, and accommodations so that senior loved ones can cope with their low vision to the best of their ability.
Home Accommodations for Low Vision
Family caregivers can also help their senior loved ones make changes or adaptations to their home, purchase products, and link seniors to technology that can help them manage more easily and safely so that they can remain independent.
These days it is so much more than large print books and magnifying glasses (thank goodness)!
- Color contrast on the floor in the bathroom to help know where surface begins and ends, such as shower and threshold
- Contrasting bath mats and even towels so that they can be seen on the floor
- Install grab bars for safety
- Contrasting toilet seat and cover
- Install temperature regulator or alerts to prevent scalding
- Colored equipment that contrasts, such as cutting boards, plates, and shelf liners
- Put raised dots on appliance controls, especially microwave numbers, to distinguish controls
- Use alerts on ovens, cook tops, and pots to prevent boil overs or inadvertently leaving the heat on
- Keep everything in its place with a place for everything so that things are easy to find when needed
- Black switch plate to distinguish light switch from wall
- Door frames and knobs in contrasting colors
- Put contrast in color and texture at stairs and thresholds
- Adequate lighting without glare
- Install lighting that falls on, rather than away from, object in all closets and tight spaces
- Window blinds or curtains that control light levels and glare
- Clutter free walkways and reduced clutter in general
- Trip resistant floors and rugs, remove throw rugs
- Extend handrails beyond top and bottom of stairs
- Use non-glare polish and cleaners on floors
- Keep belongings organized and easy to locate
- Voice activated technology such as Alexa, Echo Dot, Google Home and others to give verbal commands
- Use assistive settings on computers and tablets to allow for larger print and some voice control
- Audio books
- Money identifiers to differentiate bills
- Programmable thermostat, especially one that can be set with a smartphone or table
- Pill reminders
- Screen readers and document scanners
You can find several handy products for your senior to help them adapt to vision loss in The Shop at Senior Care Corner.
Identify and Overcome Vision Issues
Family caregivers can make a big difference in the life of senior loved ones by identifying the problem and helping them to overcome it as much as possible.
Small changes can give older adults more confidence and keep them safer when aging in place with vision impairments.
Improvement in their quality of life is worth the effort!