How Vision Loss Affects Quality of Life & Functional Ability in Seniors
In this article, we discuss the four major types of eye-related disease, some of the available treatments for vision loss, and the impact of vision loss on senior adults.
Whether it happens so gradually that you’re barely aware of the changes or there’s a relatively drastic shift, as you get older your vision is almost guaranteed to get worse. One in three people over the age of 65 has some form of vision-reducing eye disease, and this loss of vision can have a major impact on quality of life and one’s ability to perform daily functions.
In this article we’re going to look at the four major types of eye-related disease and how these conditions can affect one’s life. We’ll also go over some of the available treatments for vision loss, and steps one can take as an individual or with the help of an Assisted Living Community to mitigate vision loss as best as possible.
What Are Some of the Most Common Eye Diseases in Seniors?
There are four major forms of eye-related disorders experienced by seniors. A common question is: “Are there any available treatments for senior vision loss?” Fortunately, there are many treatments for most types of eye disease. Let’s take a look at some of the most common types of disease and the treatments most commonly associated with each.
Chances are, you or someone you know has dealt with cataracts, which occur quite commonly. A cataract is a cloudy or opaque area on the lens in front of the eye, resulting in blurred vision, sensitivity to light and/or increased difficulty seeing at night. It’s almost as if something is in your eye, or more to the point, right in front of your eye, blocking a portion of your vision. If cataracts grow to the point where they significantly impact and obscure vision, they can be removed in relatively easy fashion via surgery. In fact, cataract surgery is one of the safest and most common operations performed in the United States and around the world.
Glaucoma occurs when fluid builds up in the front part of your eye. This buildup causes increased pressure, which can damage the optic nerve. This is something that must be taken very seriously and treated as quickly as possible, because Glaucoma can lead to permanent vision loss or even total blindness. If you start to experience sudden, sharp eye pain or visual disturbances such as seeing rainbow-colored rings or halos around lights, consult with your physician as soon as possible. Feelings of nausea can also be signs of a glaucoma attack.
Unfortunately, there are times when the symptoms are nearly non-existent, so it’s imperative to have regular exams to make sure your eyes are functioning properly. Glaucoma can be detected by an examination of the optic nerve and measuring eye pressure. Once detected, treatment can include prescription oral medications, eye drops, laser treatment or conventional surgery.
Spotty Vision Caused by Diabetes
The medical term for this is “Diabetic Retinopathy” i.e., an eye condition among people with diabetes that can affect blood vessels in the retina, leading to loss of vision or even blindness. This is a complication of Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes in which blood vessels leak fluid, thereby resulting in blurred vision, “floaters,” blind spots, and clouded vision. If you have diabetes, you should have a fully- dilated eye exam at least once a year. Consult with a medical professional immediately if you’re experiencing any of the above symptoms. Treatments include drug injections, and in more advanced cases, laser surgery.
This is a degenerative condition that affects the macula, aka the “central part of the retina,” and can result in distortion of vision or loss of central vision.
There are two types of age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD):
- Dry: About 80-90% of people who have Macular Degeneration have the “dry” kind. Parts of the macula dry slowly and become thinner. This is the least serious of the two types by far, but can still result in significant loss of vision.
- Wet: This type of AMD occurs when abnormal blood vessels grow in the back of the eye. Those vessels can break, resulting in the leaking of blood and fluid into the macula, causing rapid and severe damage to a patient’s vision.
Unfortunately, there is not yet a cure for the more advanced cases of macular degeneration, but patients can benefit from nutritional supplements, changes in diet, and medication injections such as anti-vascular endothelial growth factor medication.
Lifestyle Impact of Vision Loss on Seniors
Reduced vision can be difficult to address, not only physically, but also emotionally. Lifestyle impacts may include:
Quality of Life
- Losing the ability to clearly see things up close or far away.
- Difficulty in distinguishing certain colors.
- Reduced ability to perform everyday household tasks.
- No longer being able to drive at night, or drive altogether.
Mobility and Falls
- Reduced mobility and increased need for physical support and assistance.
- Increased risk of falls.
- Broken bones, sprains, and bruises from falls.
- Stress, anxiety, depression.
- Feelings of isolation and fear if seeing is becoming more difficult.
Vision Loss Amplifies the Effects of Other Conditions
- More difficulty managing other conditions, illnesses, and care plans for those issues.
- Difficulty making sure one is taking the right medication and the proper dose of medications.
Steps to Prevent and Manage Age-Related Vision Problems
There are a number of steps one can take to deal with age-related loss of vision, including:
- Yearly or bi-annual exams, preferably with an ophthalmologist.
- The use of devices including magnifying glasses, telescopic glasses, light-filtering lenses, audio books, printed and e-books with oversized print, large typefaces for computers and calculators, and electronic magnification systems.
- Increased lighting throughout the household, including nightlights in all bedrooms, hallways and bathrooms.
- Asking for help and support from friends and family members, or professional caregivers.
When it comes to financial support, there may be government assistance programs available with vision benefits, such as Medicaid. Learn more about how Medicaid works by viewing our numerous resources, including our article on “Medicaid Look-Back Rules.”
Find a Senior Care Community Near You
As vision decreases, it might become a major factor in deciding whether it’s time to consider moving to an Assisted Living Community. Many of these locations employ visual and tactile systems to help with everyday tasks, from large labels and colorful stickers, to placement of food on plates in a certain way, placing circles around doorknobs, painting doorframes in bright colors, and many other measures that make it easier to see, stay safe and be as independent as possible. And of course, the presence of trained staff can be an enormous help. Talk with Referah’s Family Connection Agents today to explore all of the available options for you or your loved one. With a little help, we can pair you with a senior living experience that enhances your life and provides necessary support, 24/7/365. Find a community, today!