In the United States, it is estimated that 6.5 million people over the age of 55 experience significant vision impairment or a total loss of vision. This number is expected to more than double by 2030, with the last of the baby boomer generation reaching age 65.
Older adults are bombarded with health issues, some of which affect their eyesight. As individuals age, impaired vision can be caused by diseases like glaucoma, macular degeneration, cataracts and diabetic retinopathy.
Medical Causes of Vision Loss
Macular degeneration is the leading cause of blindness. Currently, macular degeneration affects over 10 million Americans, and experts say this number totals more than the combination of both cataracts and glaucoma. Deterioration of the retina, or central portion known as the macula, causes this incurable ailment. The macula controls our abilities to read, drive a car or recognize minute details.
Glaucoma is considered to be the second major cause of blindness. This disease accelerates once the optic nerve is damaged, leading to progressive and irreversible vision loss.
Cataracts, on the other hand, slowly progress as individuals age, causing dim or blurred vision, trouble seeing at night and sensitivity to light.
Lastly, diabetic retinopathy affects those with diabetes. Left untreated, this devastating disease damages blood vessels in the retina, causing blurry or dim vision and eventual blindness.
Older individuals affected with diminished eyesight can learn to live productive, independent lives. These new ways of living can be taught by rehabilitation teachers, therapists who specialize with the visually impaired, and mobility specialists. There are activities caregivers can do at home, too, to help ease the transition for those who are losing or have lost their eyesight.
Bright lights can benefit those with vision loss; however, the associated glare from the brightness can be bothersome. Careful preparation of lighting reduces the glare. When performing tasks, those with impaired vision will do best with concentrated lighting, such as those found in clip lamps. Lamps like these are ideally suited for reading or hobbies, such as playing cards. Lighting designed to be under the counter can help with kitchen tasks or other daily work. Specialized lamps that cater to those requiring high contrast, but low levels of glare, are available from certain eye care companies that produce lighting for the visually impaired.
Daytime, outdoor lighting can be a hurdle for those with vision loss. To help lessen the sharp contrasts between indoor and outdoor lighting sources, keep lights on during the day to equalize the brightness. Reduce the glare from reflective surfaces by covering them. Also, make sure the individual is not seated facing the windows, where glare from the bright outdoors can cause discomfort. White lighting is often advised to prevent confusing shadows within the home. When possible, purchase tinted glasses to help reduce visual strain.
Employ Low Vision Hacks
Caregivers can help a visually affected individual with daily tasks by devising recognizable tactics. Such common strategies include using rubber bands to identify certain household items. One rubber band can be placed on a juice bottle to distinguish it from a bottle of creamer, for instance. Or, a single rubber band can distinguish a pill bottle, while two rubber bands can help identify a different medication, perhaps one that requires two doses per day.
Experts also suggest using everyday materials, like felt, raised plastic stickers or sandpaper cutouts to help mark items. Frequently-used oven temperatures or thermostat temps can be identified by using the felt or raised plastic stickers to pinpoint precise settings.
If the affected individual has partial vision, large index cards may be used to identify clothing or other household items. Information should be written using large-pointed, black markers for best readability. Brightly colored stickers serve a useful purpose, as well. These bold colors can distinguish everyday items from one another, like cans in the pantry or the television remote.
Use Magnification Remedies
Several tools are available to magnify objects to assist individuals with low vision. Large-print books, clocks or playing cards, for instance, are available to continue daily activities as usual. Plus, pocket magnifiers aid in reading menu items at a restaurant, writing checkbooks at home or identifying the price on an item in the grocery store.
Arrange the Inside of the Home
Careful placement of items in a regular, specific area will greatly reduce frustration associated with vision loss. Keep most furniture, small appliances and other household goods in the same place. This strategy often helps those with low vision to move about freely using memory more often than vision. Individuals find security knowing that their coffee mug, utensils or dinner plates are on a special dish rack along the counter rather than scattered in the recesses of a kitchen cupboard where they are unlikely to find them right away. Pens and paper can be reached easily when they are positioned in one particular, identifiable spot. Keep important communication devices, like the phone, in one accessible place.
Offering in-home care to those afflicted with vision loss can be a rewarding experience, especially once the individuals learn to get back on their feet and resume normal, everyday activities with the same vigor they had prior to losing their eyesight. Independence strengthens one’s resolve. Helping those with vision loss to lead independent lives only returns their dignity, self-sufficiency and peace of mind.
Caregiving services are growing. Assisting Hands Home Care – Chicago is a reputable company that specializes in providing excellent quality in-home care to elderly clients, including helping those with vision loss to stabilize and continue to lead productive lives. Offering professional, compassionate care, services like these ease the burden of caring for a loved one alone. If you need help caring for someone you love or someone who has experienced vision loss, contact a specialized caregiving service that acknowledges your need and is experienced with providing the best in-home elder care.