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Seniors and low vision

Caring For a Senior Parent With Low Vision

Have you ever thought to yourself, “Mom really needs glasses,” during a visit with your senior parent? But what if she has low vision, and glasses won’t help her struggles?

About four million Americans live with low vision, a rising condition that is one of the leading causes of disability in the United States. The likelihood of experiencing low vision increases progressively with age.

While low vision is a natural effect of getting older, your senior parent can learn to adapt with modifications to the home environment, which can be facilitated by a professional in-home care provider, such as Visiting Angels.

What is Low Vision in Seniors?

We all experience some form of change in our eyesight as we grow older. Sometimes, these changes can be corrected to help our vision. Low vision, however, is a visual impairment that may hamper a senior’s ability to function daily and can’t be fixed with glasses, medicine or surgery.

Signs of low vision may include:

  • Glare or haziness
  • Night blindness
  • Blurred vision
  • Difficulty with sight while driving
  • Reading struggles
  • Recognizing faces of people

Age-related low vision may be caused by a variety of eye diseases and health conditions such as:

  • Glaucoma
  • Retinal detachment
  • Cataracts
  • Macular degeneration
  • Diabetes
  • Cataracts

Your senior parent may need regular eye exams to check for early warning signs of low vision. If you notice any changes in your parent’s vision that may be causing problems, make sure to inform an eye care professional.

Personal Impact of Low Vision on Seniors

Similar to hearing loss, low vision can be difficult to bear and may be embarrassing for your senior parent. Older adults who suffer from low vision may argue that they have vision issues and may withdraw from family, friends and neighbors.

Research shows that elderly individuals who are visually impaired, including those with low vision, suffer from a general decline in emotional adjustment and have a greater susceptibility to depression, isolation, and loneliness. A social network of family members, care providers, and peers can be an effective buffer against vision loss because it may compensate for vision loss and provide emotional support.

Options for Low Vision in Older Adults

It’s vital to adapt the elderly’s environment to match their vision ability and fill in the gaps for any loss. Low vision is a home safety concern, and a house should be prepared to minimize dangers or risks for injuries or falls. An in-home caregiver can help take responsibility for installing and supervising the recommendations below:

  • Safeguard against accidents with high-contrast markers
    Reduce the possibility of dangerous falls by outlining the edges of steps and other obstructions with high-contrast tape. Consider changing light switches and outlets for higher-contrast colors (i.e. white against dark walls, black against light walls).

  • Add more light
    Brighter lights in the home make objects and words stand out and help reduce the possibility of accidents. Also, consider installing motion-activated lights in the home so that high-trafficked areas are well-lit when needed.

  • Make text larger
    Print and numbers that are used in daily living can usually be made larger and more distinct. Switch to large-print books, make fonts on phones and computers larger, and transition to telephones, clocks and remote controls with large, easy-to-read numbers. Writing with felt-tip markers instead of pens can be much easier to read and comprehend. Magnifying aids are available as a portable technology.
  • Find a driver
    It’s difficult to live without driving. However, some conditions make it unsafe for seniors to drive, and low vision is definitely one of them. If a friend or family member isn’t available to serve as a driver, consider hiring a home caregiver.
  • Switch from video to audio
    Voice recognition technology has come a long way in recent years. Computers, televisions, and smartphones can read text out loud to users and recognize voice commands.

Low vision can be inconvenient, isolating and even dangerous, and there’s no reason for your parent to struggle through it alone. Adapting the home environment with reading aids, high-contrast devices and other technological devices can go a long way toward making life easier for your senior parent.

If you're interested in more information about how in-home care can help your elderly loved ones, contact your nearest Visiting Angels office today or call 800-365-4189.
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