Vision Loss Care: Is There a Cure for Vision Loss in the Elderly?
Your loved one may develop signs of vision loss as they grow older. However, there are ways to treat vision loss and help promote long term eye health. Knowing the causes, symptoms and treatments will help you to support your loved one, especially if they’re receiving private care. It’s important to remember that it’s normal to experience some loss of vision as we age.
Common age-related eye problems
As we age, there is a range of common eye problems that can have an impact on vision, such as:
The loss of the ability to read small print or see objects close up, this condition commonly affects people over 40. This type of vision loss can be corrected with reading glasses.
The breakdown of the fluid behind the eye causes floaters. This is common for those in their late 50s and 60s. Floaters are experienced as a spot or speck in the field of vision and are generally not serious. An ophthalmologist should be consulted immediately if the floaters are accompanied by flashing light.
Dry eyes or tearing
Older people may experience either dry and itchy eyes or an excess of tears. The causes of dry eyes are commonly due to the tear glands producing too few tears while tearing can be a reaction to light or temperature changes. Wearing sunglasses or using a humidifier and eye drops generally solves the problem.
Causes of vision loss in older people
While vision can change as we age, several eye diseases can result in more permanent and severe loss of vision:
If the clear lens at the front of the eye becomes cloudy, your loved one may experience difficulty seeing objects or distinguishing colours. Cataract surgery replaces the cloudy lens with a clear artificial one, restoring normal sight if the eye is healthy.
This condition causes excess pressure on the optic nerve at the back of the eye. Heredity, age and diabetes are all risk factors for glaucoma. Eye drops can control early detected glaucoma. Laser treatment and surgery are other treatment options.
Age-related macular degeneration (AMD)
AMD occurs when there is damage to the centre of the retina and can cause blurriness or fogginess to central vision. AMD causes gradual sight loss which usually becomes apparent by the time a loved one is in their 70s. Special nutritional supplements, a healthy diet and laser surgery, can all be used to treat AMD.
Complications from poorly controlled diabetes can result in severe vision loss. Tiny blood vessels behind the eye can rupture, causing blurring and cloudiness of vision and blind spots. Injections and laser treatment can prevent blindness. If your loved one has diabetes, then they should have a yearly eye exam with pupil dilation.
If your loved one complains of a dark curtain covering their vision, they may have a detached retina. It is vital to have the retina reattached as soon as possible to prevent permanent vision loss.
Colin and Dulcie’s story
Dulcie is 102-years-old and lives with her son Colin, his wife Mary, and her Carer Sarah. She has dementia and has had full-time live-in care for over two years.
We talk to the family about the challenges of finding the right care solution for a fiercely independent woman - and how the positive benefits of live-in care with Sarah has transformed all of their lives.
Diagnosing vision loss
Vision loss usually happens slowly, over time. Your loved one may not even notice that their vision is deteriorating. If they receive live-in care, for example, it may be their carer who notices they do not see as well as they used to.
Arrange for a doctor’s appointment for your loved one if they display any symptoms or are no longer able to do their normal activities. A doctor will be able to recommend the right treatment and discuss options with your loved one, yourself and their carer if they’re receiving elderly care at home.
Preventing vision loss
There are steps your loved one can take to keep their vision healthy. A carer can manage the following steps if your loved one has a home care plan:
- Stop smoking as this is a risk factor in all eye diseases
- Eat eye-healthy foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids including fish, nuts and grains and leafy green vegetables
- Wear sunglasses that block UV rays and a wide-brimmed hat in direct sunlight
- Take steps to reduce high blood pressure, a risk factor for eye health issues
- Keep diabetes under control
- Maintain a healthy weight and take regular exercise
- Stay well hydrated by drinking plenty of water
Your loved one should have regular eye examinations. It may be possible to arrange an eye test at home if receiving dementia care and getting out and about is a problem. If your loved one is living with diabetes, ensure they have an eye exam with pupil dilation to track any issues.
Treating vision loss in the elderly
If vision loss has occurred, your loved one’s doctor will be able to suggest a vision loss care plan. They may prescribe new glasses or eyedrops, recommend diet changes or discuss treatment options, including laser eye surgery. If there are no suitable treatment options, your loved one may be referred to a specialist low vision clinic.
Low vision aids
Low vision aids can be beneficial for those experiencing vision loss. This may include ebooks or e-readers that allow the reader to adjust the font size, audiobooks and specially adapted lenses that are more powerful than regular spectacles.
There are many adaptations that you can make for loved ones who prefer to remain at home with the help of private home care. These include:
- Big button telephones and mobiles
- Big button computer keyboards
- Voice-activated home assistants
- Community alarm that can alert a carer if your loved one has an accident
- Brighter lighting using energy-efficient and effective LED bulbs or fluorescent tubes
Vision changes with age but the right care ensures that your loved one will continue to enjoy an active and independent lifestyle.
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