I Can See Clearly Now

Alzheimer’s disease, like many forms of dementia, can be challenging and upsetting, at best.  Families, loved ones, and care partners may find themselves bearing the brunt of unwanted behaviors as a result.

Often, although we are not fond of the actions displayed, we may accept them as the way it is.  After all, this individual we are caring for has dementia.  What we might fail to see is, there is generally a trigger as to why the person is exhibiting the behaviors.  Their actions may be the only way they can communicate, especially in the absence of verbally formulating and articulating coherent thoughts and sentences.

Moreover, the aging eye can play tricks on us.  Someone with a form of dementia does not escape the routine aging process. With all that is medically going on, it is easy to lose sight that our loved one may need routine eye and hearing exams.  On top of the potential sight difficulties causing misinterpretations in someone’s environment, the individual may have a form of dementia such as Lewy body, whereby hallucinations are more prevalent.

It can be helpful to have an awareness that changes in eyesight may be accompanied by perception changes and challenges with orientation as well.  Distortion of reality can create many problems for the individual and everyone around.  Here are a few suggestions to keep in mind when sight may be compromised:

  • Use large print materials with an easy to read font
  • If reading or television watching is too challenging, provide audio books, read to them or listen to old time radio programs
  • Assure appropriate lighting is used
  • Provide for color contrast making it easier to distinguish items
  • Minimize busy patters, especially on flooring and walls
  • Be aware that mirrors can cause challenges, especially if the person no longer recognizes themselves
  • Glare and shadows caused by lighting can create challenges
  • Provide activities that rely more on other senses
  • Be aware that changes in the brain may cause the individual with dementia to misidentify objects and people. This can include distinguishing between a son, brother, or husband, for example
  • If going for an eye exam, make the optometrist aware that the person has dementia
  • If the individual wears eyeglasses, ensure they are clean and being utilized
  • Close any blinds or curtains in the evening

Many eye conditions can affect a person’s visual perception (also called visuoperception).  Such conditions include cataracts, macular degeneration, glaucoma, and retinal complication due to diabetes.  Medications, stroke and specific types of dementia may also create problems with vision.

Careful attention to eye care can help.  August is National Eye Exam Month.  A good time to be reminded to provide holistic care, including routine eye care.  It could be that the person is hallucinating; maybe it’s the progression of the disease; but perhaps, an eye exam will reveal a diagnosis that can be corrected.  That is certainly something worth LOOKING into.

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