Vision loss is a part and parcel of aging and can be accentuated by disease. It can severely impact a senior's quality of life and increase falls and other risks. We share a few caregiving tips on how to care for seniors with poor vision.
Peripheral Vision loss is common among seniors. A National Coalition for Vision Health report from 2011 found that: “1 in 9 Canadians develop irreversible vision loss by age 65.”
Another report by the Canadian Association of Optometrists stated that: “5.7% of Canadians ages 45-85 have a visual acuity worse than 20/40.”
Vision care problems can be temporary or permanent and may occur due to aging or illness. They can have a significant impact on the quality of life for seniors.
Signs and causes of vision Loss
There are many signs of vision loss for seniors that families and caregivers should be on the lookout for. These can include, but are not limited to:
Difficulty in reading small print
Head tilting for focus
Bumping into things
Knocking objects over
Stopping vision-centric activities such as reading or writing
Missing items when reaching for them
Difficulty with seeing in dim lighting
Trouble moving around indoors or outdoors
Loss of the ability to tell the difference between dark colours such as dark blue and black
Vision loss can be sudden and the symptoms can get worse due to health issues such as:
A caregiver needs to understand the limitations faced by a vision-impaired senior before helping them. Understanding these limitations can help a caregiver make appropriate changes around the home and in the senior’s daily activities.
These changes can include:
1. Improving the lighting around the house
The caregiver can assess the lighting around the house to see if it’s too low for a vision-impaired senior to function properly.
For example, curtains can be opened to let more daylight in during the day. Brighter and better light bulbs can be used to improve lighting at night.
If the senior is sensitive to glare, specialized lamps and bulbs are available that can produce brighter light without glare.
Gooseneck lamps or clip-on lamps can be bought for activities and tasks that require direct lighting such as reading, playing games and doing crafts.
The kitchen needs to be well lit as it can contain many safety hazards which can lead to potentially risky incidents. Visibility in the kitchen can be improved by using multiple sources of lights such as countertop and under cabinet lights, in addition to ceiling lights, to improve visibility and reduce shadows.
2. Reduce fall hazards
Falls among seniors can lead to serious injuries and fractures. Sudden vision loss can increase fall risks. Caregivers must eliminate potential fall risks around the house.
The caregiver needs to make sure that rugs, cords or any other item that can cause trips are removed from the living spaces. The bedrooms, hallways and bathrooms need to have nightlights.
Furniture can be rearranged to give seniors more space to move about without bumping into objects and furniture.
Caregivers must consult families before making any major changes to the layout and fixtures around the home.
Seniors with poor vision rely on other senses and memory to get around. Canada Live in Caregiver should keep often used objects such as keys and remote controls at designated spots to make sure the seniors can easily reach for them.
Caregivers can attach different materials such as rubber bands, felt, raised plastic dots or sandpaper cutouts on items to mark them and allow seniors to differentiate between similar objects through touch. Caregivers can also use large labels, coloured stickers or tapes to mark different items.
4. Using contrasting colours
Similar colours make it hard for seniors to detect and differentiate between objects such as doorways, stairs, furniture and any small items. Painting or marking them with contrasting colours can make it easier for seniors to identify them. Door jambs can be painted with bright colours and bright tape can be stuck to stairs edges to make it easy for seniors to identify them.
Similarly, in washrooms, caregivers can place bright and contrasting coloured towels, washcloths and bath mats to make it easier for seniors to identify them.
5. Bigger is better
Many shops, online or offline, carry books, calendars, clocks, watches, playing cards etc. which have magnified text for people with impaired vision. In addition, magnifying glasses can be bought and provided to the seniors to aid them in daily tasks such as reading the fine print on food labels and medicine bottles.
Vision loss is a part and parcel of aging and can be accentuated by disease. It can severely impact a senior’s quality of life and increase falls and other risks. It is important that caregivers assess the condition and limitations of the visually impaired seniors under their care, and take appropriate steps to help seniors cope with their vision loss and mitigate the associated risks.