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Keeping an Eye on Seniors and Their Visual Health

While Damey and I were driving to the post office the other day, I noticed a woman tapping a white cane walking alone on the sidewalk. She was simply going about her day, as we were, but she was faced with bigger challenges than we would encounter due to her visual impairment. We began discussing the plight of the sight-impaired, many of whom are seniors.

Do we take our vision and our visual health for granted? Do we recognize when our elders with vision impairment struggle with basic tasks we easily manage? It’s certainly worth keeping an eye on seniors and their visual health.

As we age, our senses weaken. Our senses of taste, smell, hearing, and vision naturally diminish. Seniors are forced to adapt to their new normal, and it’s not always an easy transition. Vision loss can be especially problematic because it can lead to misread prescription labels, falls, accidents, and injuries.

According to an article published by AgingCare, “Eye diseases like macular degeneration, cataracts, glaucoma and diabetic retinopathy can have a significant impact on a senior’s functional abilities and quality of life. For some, impaired vision may even result in depression, withdrawal and inactivity.”

The National Eye Institute reports that seniors represent the majority of Americans who are visually impaired, so it’s important we identify ways we can make life easier for the seniors we know who struggle with vision loss.

See a Professional

AgingCare says, “The American Academy of Ophthalmology recommends individuals age 65 and older get a dilated medical eye exam every year or two, or as recommended by their ophthalmologist. During a routine eye exam, the ophthalmologist will evaluate a patient’s eyesight and assess the overall health and function of both eyes. Screening for new or worsening eye conditions and maintaining a current prescription for eyeglasses and/or contacts are crucial for optimal visual function at any age.”

See the Tell-Tale Signs

There are signs of vision loss that you can see in your senior loved ones. Are they:

  • Squinting or tilting their head for better focus?
  • Bumping into things or knocking things over?
  • Reading and writing as usual?
  • Miscalculating the position of objects when reaching for them?
  • Falling or walking gingerly?
  • Driving hesitantly or having auto accidents?

If you notice any of these signs, it is crucial to have a conversation with your senior loved one and make an appointment with an optometrist or ophthalmologist for early detection of eye diseases before they cause permanent impairment.

See to Senior Safety and Independence

Once we know the level of visual impairment a senior loved one is dealing with, there are several tips to help modify their environment and behaviors that will help keep them safer and more independent.

  • Improve lighting and reduce glare. There are special light bulbs and lamps that improve the amount of contrast and reduce glare. Covering reflective surfaces, when possible, also helps.
  • Minimize fall risks. Install nightlights in the bedroom, bathroom, and hallways, and make sure cords, throw rugs and other tripping hazards are removed. Furniture may need rearranging to make their pathways clear.
  • Organize the house. Put items used regularly in a designated spot every time so your senior loved one knows where they are. If visual impairment is significant, tactile items like rubber bands, felt circles, or rubber dots can be used to differentiate items and areas.
  • Color contrasts make a difference. “The juxtaposition of light and dark colors can make daily activities much easier for a person who still has some remaining vision. Like colors can make it difficult for those with visual impairments to detect doorways, stairs and furniture and especially smaller objects that blend into their surroundings.”
  • Magnifiers are magnificent! There is no shame in using a magnifying device to make things appear larger. These can range from a small magnifying glass to something more technologically advanced. Also, look for everyday items like clocks, remote controls, and books, to name a few, that have larger buttons and print for better legibility.
  • Seek assistance from a low vision specialist. “Low vision specialists have the knowledge and experience to devise personalized solutions for a visually impaired individual's specific needs. Vision rehabilitation can help with mobility training as well as methods of organizing, marking and labeling household items. These specialists are also familiar with resources for obtaining low vision aids and can instruct their clients on how to use them properly. Many vision rehabilitation programs even offer mental health services to help participants cope with the anxiety or depression that often accompanies vision loss.”
  • Provide a support system. Everyone needs support and encouragement from time to time, and seniors with visual impairments are especially vulnerable. By helping them in the ways described above and providing them with resources that will make their life easier, they can remain independent for as long as possible.

If a compassionate Home Helpers® caregiver can provide in-home care and assistance for you or a visually-impaired senior you know, Damey and I are happy to schedule a FREE consultation at your convenience to assess specific needs and determine ways we can help in Making Life Easier™ for them. 330.892.9329

Home Helpers® Canton, OH, is Veteran-owned and operated. We are honored to have received the Home Care Pulse – Best of Home Care® Provider of Choice Award, the Shooting Star Award (2011), and multiple Platinum awards for the superior level of care we provide. We are Certified Senior Advisors and members of the Home Care Association of America, Alzheimer’s Association, and the International Franchise Association. In addition, we were ranked in the Top 500 Franchises by Entrepreneur Magazine in 2019.

Home Helpers® Canton proudly serves male and female seniors in Stark County, Portage County, and portions of Summit County including the communities of Akron, Alliance, Canton, East Sparta, Hartville, Jackson, Massillon, Navarre, North Canton, Randolph, and surrounding areas.