How Vision Loss Affects a Senior's Quality of Life

Senior Looking Out Window

“August is National Eye Exam Month and the perfect time for seniors to schedule a comprehensive vision examination,” says Stacey Houseknecht, NHA, CTRS, Administrator at Saunders House in Wynnewood, PA.

“The majority of older adults wear prescription glasses for proper vision. And an up-to-date prescription that meets their vision needs is an important way of keeping them safe and maintaining their enjoyment of life.

Vision care experts agree that older adults should be vigilant in maintaining their eye health in order to prevent serious vision problems that could affect their overall health, safety and quality of life. The American Academy of Ophthalmology recommends adults age 65 and older have a dilated vision exam every year or two, or as recommended by their ophthalmologist. They say this simple vision check can significantly lower the risk of serious eye disease.

 

Common Eye Diseases in Seniors

      According to the National Eye Institute (NAI), there are four major conditions that account for age-related eye diseases in seniors. They are:

  • Cataracts – Causes blurred or "filmy" vision
  • Glaucoma – Leads to peripheral vision loss
  • Diabetic retinopathy – Causes "spotty" vision
  • Macular degeneration – Leads to central vision loss and can cause blindness

A senior with severe vision loss may have any one or more of these conditions. The NAI says that age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is the number one cause of blindness among seniors.

 

The Lifestyle Impact of Vision Loss on Seniors

According to the American Optometric Association (AOA), vision changes occur as we get older, but these changes don't have to affect seniors’ lifestyles. By seeking professional care, seniors can help safeguard their vision as well as the lifestyle they enjoy.

Loss of vision can affect the quality of life for seniors in several ways. For example, vision loss can prevent simple pleasures such as reading a book, FaceTiming with grandchildren, watching TV and movies, or enjoying hobbies such as bird watching. Poor vision can also limit or eliminate seniors’ ability to drive, which often results in a sense of loss of freedom, independence and purpose. Further, seniors with impaired vision are at higher risk of dangerous medication errors, depression and serious falls and fractures. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than one out of four older Americans falls each year. And those with poor vision are more likely to fall, be hospitalized and require long-term care or nursing care.

 

Current Treatments for Senior Vision Loss

To prevent these effects on lifestyle, the AOA recommends that seniors experiencing any vision loss see a doctor immediately to determine its source.

They advise that many of the causes of severe vision loss in seniors are now treatable. Today, cataracts can often be eliminated with surgery, and surgical treatments and eye drops can now reduce the pressure in the eye caused by glaucoma. Also, there are new injectable drug therapies that have shown significant results in reversing the effects of macular degeneration.

In addition to surgery, there are various assistive devices available today that can support a meaningful quality of life for seniors with vision loss. Examples include:

  • Hand-held magnifiers and eye glass-mounted magnification readers
  • Audiobooks and other audio programs
  • Software programs that make computers easier to use for the visually impaired

In addition to these devices, the American Foundation for the Blind recommends that all seniors experiencing vision loss do the following:

  • Arrange furniture with clear pathways
  • Install task lights in cabinets and other dark areas
  • Only read or work in a well-lit room
  • Install grab bars in bathtubs and showers 
  • Be sure all outdoor pathways are well-lit at night
  • Keep lawns and gardens free from clutter

 

Stacey adds, “Today, loss of vision in seniors does not have to mean a loss in their quality of life. With regular eye examinations, the use of vision assistive devices and contemporary surgery techniques, there are many solutions available for seniors to maintain their vision as well as their quality of life. So, celebrate National Eye Exam Month with us by scheduling an eye exam today.” 

Saunders House has a long history of serving older adults with visual impairments.  Thanks to an arrangement and financial support from the Chapin Memorial Home for the Aged Blind, we are able to continue these services for many of our residents.  Services we provide to our blind and low vision population are based on the following principles:

 *         Staff members are trained to understand the special needs of vision impaired residents and communication strategies for interacting with them.  This encompasses all staff members, ranging from housekeepers to dietary workers to nursing assistants.

*         Many of the residents with visual impairments are often older than our overall resident population and have more complex medical conditions.  They sometimes have dementia, hearing loss and mobility limitations as well.  For those individuals, one-to-one visits are often the most effective way to serve them.   This may involve students, certified recreation staff members who are able to address and meet the needs of the resident, even pets interacting one-to-one with the residents, including our robotic cats and dogs.

*         Residents with some vision usually prefer to be included in general activities, where we have accommodated for their low vision. In this situation, it is important for all staff to be attuned to the needs and abilities of all residents – low vision residents in particular – to offer a positive experience.  Trivia games, intergenerational programs, music therapy, and Arts and Crafts, garden to dine, are examples of these beneficial activities.

*         Audio equipment, large print books, robotic cats and dogs, and other technology advances, including an IN2L system that is person centered technology and provides a wide variety of programming, are needed to serve the visually impaired population and funds provided by the Chapin Foundation help to support this. Entertainment and occasional trips are also beneficial.

 

 Saunders House is grateful to the Trustees of the Chapin Home for providing funds to support the much needed programs that benefit our blind and visually impaired residents. We are dedicated to providing ongoing educational and recreational programs designed to enrich the lives of the older adults with visual impairments. 

We encourage you to call us with any general questions you might have and to stay current on a variety of senior health and caregiver topics by viewing the latest articles on our website.

 

We’d Love to Hear Your Thoughts!

If you have comments or questions about our blog, “How Vision Loss Affects a Senior's Quality of Life,” we’d love to hear from you. We also encourage you to share any of your caregiving experiences with us in our comments section.

 

Discover Our Healthy Tradition of Care and Wellness

Located adjacent to Lankenau Medical Center, Saunders House – part of Main Line Senior Care Alliance – has a celebrated tradition of providing exceptional care and services to seniors and their families. It’s a tradition we’re proud to continue.

Today, Saunders House offers a range of services – including short-term rehabilitationtraditional nursing care, restorative carememory carerespite care and specialized care for individuals with visual impairments – all in a setting that is warm, welcoming and nurturing.

 

For more information on Saunders House please call us today at 610.658.5100 or contact us online.

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Disclaimer: The articles and tip sheets on this website are offered by Saunders House and Main Line Senior Care Alliance for general informational and educational purposes and do not constitute legal or medical advice. For legal or medical advice, please contact your attorney or physician.


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