Are you a care professional? Help is at hand when it comes to the visual safety of your patients

Research has shown that approximately one in five people aged over 75 has some degree of visual difficulty. Amongst those aged 90 and over, the figure rises considerably to one in two. This means that the majority of residents in care homes are likely to suffer from a vision problem.

Rather than dismissing declining vision as a natural and unavoidable side effect of ageing, it is important to be aware of measures that can be taken to improve individual situations.

There are several key difficulties affecting elderly individuals with reduced vision, as detailed below.

Increased likelihood of falling

It is estimated that one in three people over the age of 65 will fall at some stage. When you consider that these falls could cause a loss of confidence or independence at the very least, and injury or even death at worst, it’s easy to see why this should be taken seriously.

A direct correlation has been found between declining eyesight and the likelihood of falling. This might seem like an obvious link, but many people consider falls to be a normal result of ageing or just lack of balance in older people.

Regular eye examinations are crucial steps in making sure that any vision problems can be adjusted with the use of prescription eyewear. However, there are also several telltale signs to watch out for – simple changes of behaviour that can indicate visual problems in an individual which could make them more prone to falling.

Poor vision in dementia patients

Dementia and Alzheimer’s sufferers typically have communication difficulties, especially when their condition reaches the later stages. Poor sight can be particularly distressing for them, as in that situation their vision might be one of the only unaffected means of experiencing life.

An undiagnosed eye condition can even accelerate the symptoms of Alzheimer’s and dementia.

Typically, sufferers may be unaware of any problems with their vision. Even if they are, they might struggle to communicate their experiences; in this situation, even the slightest behavioural changes can be major indications of a problem.

Common eye conditions in the elderly

There are a variety of eye conditions that become increasingly common with age, some of which have more serious consequences for the individual than others.

Infections like bletharitis and conjunctivitis, as well as irritant conditions like dry eye, can normally be controlled using eye drops or washes. These conditions are often uncomfortable, and may affect vision, but are usually only temporary.

However, conditions which originate inside the eyeball, like glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy, or macular degeneration can potentially be more serious. If they are not detected and treated in good time, partial or complete blindness can result.

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Many care professionals are wary of restricting the independence of their patients by flagging up any problems they might be having. In actual fact, the reverse is true – by getting them the appropriate help in good time, they are helping them to retain their independence.

Our Managing Director and practicing Optometrist Nirinder Hunjan is fully trained in dealing with and testing individuals with communication difficulties. In addition, he is also able to educate carers and care home staff about key signs to look out for amongst their residents, including ways to reduce fall hazards and improve visual perception.