Caregivers quickly become accustomed to the frequency of health care appointments many of our charges need to keep. Most of these are regularly scheduled or follow-ups to previous appointments, but it’s easy for some other needs to be overlooked.
The end of summer and accompanying back-to-school rush often reminds families that it’s time to check up on the vision needs of students. And just as young people’s vision can change over a short period of time, so, too, can the eyesight of an older person.
It’s important that we include regular – at least annual – vision exams in our caring plans. Eye diseases that show very subtle or almost no symptoms in the beginning can quickly become serious obstacles to the independence and quality of life of someone you love. Senior citizens, in particular, should be screened for some specific conditions that affect them disproportionately.
Glaucoma This is usually a very gradual increase in pressure of the fluid in the eye. The screening test is relatively simple, involving a device that blows a puff of air into your eye to judge the pressure. Left untreated, however, it can result in the complete loss of sight in some cases. Luckily, there are treatments as noninvasive as eyedrops that can treat it.
Peripheral Vision Losing the ability to see things to the side of your central point of focus is something that can happen so slowly we hardly notice. The loss of this vision can have disastrous results for someone who wants to continue driving. Your eye doctor can judge how well the patient notices objects off to the side of the face and advise you of any potential issue or precaution you should take.
Macular Degeneration This disease causes loss of sight in the center of the field of vision. It is increasingly common as we age, but there are some treatments available that slow its progression if it is diagnosed early.
Cataracts This clouding of the eye lens is so common that one doctor told us that everybody eventually gets cataracts, it’s just a matter of when and how severely. Still, the loss of vision that it causes can be difficult to identify unless you consult a professional who also can advise you on treatment options.
Regular Medicare, unfortunately, doesn’t cover eye appointments—unless your loved one is considered high-risk or also lives with diabetes—but many supplemental plans do. Also, you might consider free screening, which many health care organizations offer at shopping malls and community events.
Old Eyes Do Not Have to Mean Losing Independence - Some seniors are tempted to consider impaired vision just a part of life. Regular vision exams can, however, improve their quality of life and extend their independence.