Vision Loss Care: How do I Care for a Loved One with Vision Loss?
Everyone’s eyesight changes as they age and few of us will escape wearing glasses or contact lenses over the age of 65. However, your loved one may be finding it hard to adapt to these changes and require specific care for vision loss as they get older.
Home care for a loved one with vision loss can give them back their confidence and help them to lead an independent life. With proper eye health care and adaptive aids, your loved one can learn to adjust to the change.
Maintaining good eye health
Vision may change as we age, but a few simple steps can help your loved one maintain good eye health for clear eyesight.
Regular eye tests can pick up on the health of the eyes and spot problems such as cataracts and glaucoma. If your loved one is living with diabetes, they must have a yearly eye test with full pupil dilation to check for signs of diabetic retinopathy. If your loved one has mobility problems, you or their carer can arrange for an eye test at home if they receive private care.
Wearing the right glasses or contact lenses
An eye test will also pinpoint whether your loved one is wearing the correct glasses or lenses. Wearing the correct prescription lenses can reduce the risk of falls and improve the quality of life for your loved one, especially if they receive live-in care.
Improving your loved one’s general health may also benefit their vision. It may be necessary to make one or more of the following lifestyle changes:
- Eat a healthy balanced diet with plenty of fruit and vegetables. This may prevent eye conditions such as macular degeneration and cataracts
- Maintain a balanced weight
- Stop smoking
- Exercise regularly to ensure good circulation and plenty of oxygen reaching the eyes
- Sleep well
- Wear UV resistant sunglasses and a wide-brimmed hat in strong sunlight
- Use strong electrical lights and plenty of daylight to prevent accidents
Signs to look out for
Vision loss can be a very gradual process. Your loved one may not be aware as to how their sight has changed. Carers will need to look out for the following signs to make sure that any eye conditions are treated promptly to prevent permanent vision loss:
- An increase in trips and falls or uncertainty when walking
- Missing objects when reaching out for them
- Tilting the head or squinting when trying to focus on something
- Bumping into things
- Stopping everyday activities such as reading and writing
Dulcie is one of our longest serving customers. In this short video, she talks through the reasons behind her, and her family’s decision to choose full-time home care rather than the care home.
Tips for vision loss care
If your loved one receives home care, there are a range of adaptations that can be made to help them live independently.
The trick is to avoid having large areas unlit and providing appropriate lighting for different tasks. For example, under cabinet lighting is ideal for illuminating work surfaces in the kitchen, while clip-on lamps can give direct light for reading. Use specialised lighting to reduce glare and provide an even spread of illumination.
Being organised helps your loved one to find everyday objects quickly and easily. Keep frequently used items close at hand, and make sure they’re always returned to the same place. Visual systems using colour coding and tactile systems using rubber bands or raised dots to identify items will help your loved one to know where things are.
Magnification is an essential tool for low vision. Look for easy-to-use magnifying glasses or screens or use adaptive software and screen resolutions to increase the font size on e-readers, tablets and computers. Big button phones and mobiles and large button keyboards can make everyday tasks easier to cope with for those receiving elderly care in the home.
Clearing away clutter such as small tables, rugs and electrical wires can minimise the risk of tripping and falling. Clear wide walking paths around the house and work with your loved one on ways to navigate safely. Use nightlights and motion sensor lights to minimise accident risks at night. Vision loss care for individuals living with dementia
If your loved one needs dementia care, they may find it more challenging to cope with the loss of vision. People living with dementia may have altered auditory and depth perception. Some tips for making the home safer and more accessible may not work in these circumstances.
The following tips can help but may require trial and error:
- Keep furniture and familiar objects in their usual places
- Use contrasting colours such as a black plate with pale food or a different colour for the toilet door
- Always use people’s names and orient your loved one by describing who is with them and what’s happening
- If an object can’t be identified, calmly explain what it is and what it’s used for
- Reduce the use of busy patterns on floors and walls which can be disorienting and cause fear and anxiety
- Arrange regular eye care checks in the home so that disruption is kept to a minimum
Helping your loved one adapt to vision change
Vision loss can cause a loved one to experience a range of emotions, including loss, anger and depression. Your loved one may feel vulnerable and fear to lose their independence. Reassurance and practical resources can help.
Encourage your loved one to be honest and open about any negative feelings so they can begin to regain their confidence. Communicate clearly and openly and let your loved one know that you are there to listen and to provide support as they adapt to their change in vision.
Help your loved one to implement the tips above and use adaptive aids designed for low vision. It’s vital that your loved one feels supported as they adapt to life with vision loss and that you encourage their self-reliance. That way they’ll feel empowered to remain independent in their own home.
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