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Vision Loss May Limit Independence

Posted by Constance Schein, RN
on July 17, 2017
A senior with vision problems.

After the age of 40, many of us find we regularly need reading glasses.  Your eyes may be tired after a long day at the computer or you have difficulty reading a menu in a dimly lit restaurant.   But when is a vision problem more serious? And when does it cross the line to being a real health concern for your aging parent’s independence?

The National Eye Institute (NEI) confirms that as we age we are at a greater risk factor for developing age-related eye disease and conditions, including macular degeneration, glaucoma, cataract, diabetic eye disease, low vision, and dry eye. NEI recommends that anyone over the age of 50 should get a comprehensive dilated eye exam from an eye care professional to detect the early stages of eye disease, before senior vision loss occurs, and to continue to get regular eye exams as you age. Changes in eyesight are a normal part of the aging process. But for those with an eye condition or vision loss, it is can impact their quality of life.

The Impact of Vision Loss on Your Parent

Here are ways in which poor vision can impact the independence and safety of your mom or dad at home:

  • Poor vision can leave your parent unable to drive and they may feel isolated at home.
  • Poor vision may impair their ability to read the fine print on their medications which could lead to taking too little or too much medication or even a potential drug interaction.
  • They may not be able to watch television, read a book or participate in a hobby, leaving them feeling bored or depressed.
  • Senior vision loss may cause your mom to feel unsafe in her home–turning on and off appliances, seeing steps when walking, or they cannot read the clock to take their medication.
  • They may be unable to recognize a friendly face or a stranger at their door, leaving them vulnerable and anxious.
  • Simple tasks they have done all their life may become more difficult, such as counting change at the supermarket, writing a check to pay their bills, or dialing numbers on the telephone.
  • They may lose weight, skip meals, or make unhealthy food choices as cooking, shopping, and food prep becomes harder to handle.
  • Senior vision loss can also be an emotional impact on your mom or dad who may feel this is a sign of their age and frailty.

More Than Carrots

How can you help your parent with vision issues? According to the National Institute on Aging, there are seven helpful tips to keep your eyes healthy:

  • Protect your eyes from the sunlight with UV protective sunglasses and a wide brim hat to shade your eyes.
  • Don’t smoke
  • Eat a healthy diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables
  • Stay physically active and maintain a healthy weight
  • Control your blood pressure
  • If you have diabetes, manage your health
  • Prevent eye strain if you are working on a computer or singularly focused on something by looking away every 20 minutes and refocusing your gaze.

If your parent needs an eye doctor, you can start by asking for a referral from their primary care physician. You can also visit the National Eye Institute’s website to find resources and suggestions on eye care for your parent. Your mom or dad’s eye health can greatly impact their independence and quality of life, so make an appointment with their eye care professional today.

Profile image of Constance Schein, RN

Constance Schein, RN

Former Senior Vice President of Clinical and Health Services

Constance Schein is a registered nurse with more than 25 years of nursing experience in senior-focused healthcare organizations. She led Aegis Living’s major nursing and care initiatives and was responsible for managing and developing healthcare partnerships, technology, and wellness programs to improve resident care.

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