How to support your elder if they are losing their eyesight.
If 70 is the new 50, the new ‘middle age’, then 40 is certainly not old. But 40 is when changes in your eyesight begin to occur starting with not being able to focus on things that are up close. Most people find they need stronger prescription glasses through the years. But serious eye problems, like cataracts, glaucoma and macular degeneration, are more common after the age of 60.
Eyesight changes over time.
People over 40 are more likely to develop cataracts than other age groups. Your eye doctor will be able to detect if your eyes’ lenses are becoming more opaque. Surgery that replaces the cloudy lens with an artificial lens restores your vision.
People over 60 are six times more likely to develop glaucoma. Diabetics are at a higher risk for this type of sight loss due to the increased blood pressure in their eyes. There is no cure for glaucoma, but when detected early it can be treated and managed.
For people over 60, the leading cause of sight loss is macular degeneration. This is when the retina begins to deteriorate leading to vision loss. It cannot be cured, but there are some treatments that may delay its progression.
Four preventive measures
You can’t stop the aging process, but you can take measures to help keep your vision healthy at any age.
- To ensure vision problems are caught early and treatment is timely, a yearly visit to an eye doctor is key. This can be a difficult sell if your elder does not have insurance to cover an eye exam. However, catching a potential vision problem through early detection is more cost-effective in the long run.
- Wear sunglasses that protect your eyes from UV rays. Along with the damage UV rays do to your eyes, these rays may also contribute to macular degeneration.
- Smoking doubles the risk of developing macular degeneration.
- A healthy diet and exercise contribute to overall good health, including eye health, and keeps blood pressure normal and avoids diabetes.
Ways to support your elder with vision loss
Losing their eyesight is a frightening experience for your loved one. Tasks that were done with ease, like cooking, opening mail and paying bills, are now difficult if not impossible to accomplish. Once enjoyable social events can turn embarrassing when mishaps occur due to vision loss. Because it is difficult for family members to understand the magnitude of this sensory loss, your loved one can feel frustrated and isolated.
Being in the company of others who understand what they are going through is invaluable. This is where a Low Vision Support Group can be helpful. These gatherings of people with vision loss in common provide emotional support to one another and are a place to learn about resources and products that can help in daily living. The psychological benefits of this type of support group may be the biggest benefit of all. Meeting others who understand the daily frustrations and have similar experiences helps reduce isolation, can help with depression and increase the ability to live normal, productive lives.
Low vision support groups occur all across the country at senior centers and communities like Springpoint’s Monroe Village, whose support group is open to anyone in the community. To find a low vision support group, Eyes for Ears is one organization that lists support groups by state.
Assistive technology is a relatively new avenue to help someone with low vision regain a sense of independence. Smart TV’s, microwaves and plugs that can turn lights on and off, are just some of products that respond to voice commands making it easier for your loved one to use.
To keep a loved one safely independent at home may require the support of a home care agency. Springpoint at Home can provide a Certified Home Health Aide (CHHA) to help with Activities of Daily Living (ADL’s) and Instrumental Activities of Daily Living (IADL’s), like grocery shopping, cooking and light housekeeping, to ensure their home is kept free of clutter to prevent a fall.
Springpoint at Home Care Managers have access to adaptive solutions like talking and large print scales, thermometers, blood pressure monitors, and accessible blood glucose monitors. Adaptive technologies like these can make a huge difference in your loved one’s quality of life and in their ability to stay in their home. In addition, they will be on the lookout for early warning signs of eye health problems like loss of side vision, floaters and flashes while keeping an eye on high blood pressure and diabetes.
Talk to your elder about eye health and reach out to Springpoint at Home for help in keeping your loved one safely independent at home.
These resources will help you find additional help.
VisionAware has a list of state and local agencies focused on the vision impaired.
Ears for Eyes have free audio lessons on adaptive behaviors in the kitchen, eating out, doing laundry and personal grooming to name a few.