Senior Vision Problems
by Mahala Church
Aging brings changes in the way seniors see the world. Diminished vision health in seniors is a leading cause of changes in quality of life, depression, and home and road accidents. Regular vision tests are important to detect and treat the four major causes of senior vision problems. Changes in vision – pain, blurriness, or blind spots – are indications to seek medical care.
Cataracts found in roughly 50% of people the age of 70. Cataracts develop slowly and painlessly in the lens of the eyes. Symptoms are sensitivity to light and blurred vision. Nine out of ten patients regain 20/20 vision after surgery.
Glaucoma is an increase in the pressure in the eyes. It often starts with blurred vision and then a loss of peripheral vision. Elevated eye pressure destroys nerve cells needed to transmit light. Medications that lower eye pressure help to prevent additional damage.
Diabetic Retinopathy is a leading cause of blindness. Uncontrolled high blood glucose damages blood vessels in the retina. Diabetic Retinopathy is usually severe by the time symptoms occur, making regular vision checks very important for diabetics.
Macular Degeneration (AMD) is a major cause of senior vision problems. The two types – dry and wet, both affect the light-sensing macula in the retina. (Some cases are improved with laser eye surgery but it can recur).
- Dry AMD –common type: Drusen are yellow deposits in the macula. Vision is distorted as they multiply. Sometimes the macula atrophies leaving blind spots. With advanced AMD, central vision is lost.
- Wet AMD – more serious form (10% of all AMD): Abnormal blood vessels leak blood and fluid into the retina creating blind spots and making straight lines look wavy. Scars form and central vision is lost.
Risks of Living Alone
If you’re concerned that vision problems are creating an an unsafe situation, use the list below to help assess the situation. Eliminate items that were always that way, e.g. the house was always a mess; they’ve never paid their bills on time, only if you see no significant change.
__ Medications are refilled on time
__ Medication labels can be read
__ No problems with skipping or overtaking drugs
__ Goes to church, clubs, social events as usual
__ Shops outside the home without problems
__ Uses computer, telephones, etc. as usual
__ Outgoing per usual
__ Appetite is normal
__ Keeps appointments with doctors
__ Keeps appointments with hair dresser or barber
__ Canned food can be identified
__ Stove dials can be read
__ Kitchen is clean and orderly
__ Refrigerator has food
__ Reads road signs
__ Distinguishes light colors on streetlight
__ No traffic tickets
__ No wrecks
__ Reads newspapers, crosswords, magazines, books as usual
__ Watches television and the news
__ Wears clean clothes and shoes
__ Bathes regularly
__ Clothes and shoes match
__ Wears appropriate clothes for weather
__ House is neat and clean (trash out, bed made, bathrooms clean, dishes washed)
__ Balances bank statements
__ Writes checks properly
__ Pays bills
__ Distinguish between credit cards, driver’s license, library card
__ No increase in frequency of falls, injuries (bruises, cuts, sprains)
If you checked 15 or less items, consider alternatives for living alone. Call (866) 662-0435 to speak to your local Care Advisor to discuss alternative options and to find a senior living community that provides the level of care people with impaired vision need.
Mahala Church is an editor and writer with extensive experience in healthcare management and nursing. Specializing in oncology nursing, she is a strong patient advocate. Her writing couples her degrees in liberal arts and nursing with her experience in business and healthcare to foster support for patient and family education.