Managing Failing Eyesight in the Elderly

With a rapidly ageing population in the UK the number of older people developing problems with their eyesight is rising. Sight loss and failing eye health is a major issue in elderly people and is a factor in the development of depression and anxiety.

It is down to whoever is providing in-home care to spot the early signs that their charge may be struggling with their eyesight. A carer can be in the best position to ensure they get the appropriate help to manage their charge’s condition.

The Most Common Causes of Sight Loss in the Elderly

The top four causes of diagnosed sight loss in older people are macular degeneration, glaucoma, cataracts and diabetic retinopathy. These conditions can vary in severity, but all are treatable when caught early however in the most severe cases the person can be certified as sight-impaired, partially sighted or blind.

A sight loss issue may sometimes be a stand-alone condition but in older people is often associated with other health conditions such as stroke, diabetes, smoking, sleep apnoea or dementia, to name just some of the regular causes.

Failing eyesight can occur rapidly with some conditions but in many cases the issue develops slowly and gradually which can cause a certain amount of distress where the person perhaps doesn’t quite realise what’s happening.

Most Common Signs to Watch Out For

The first sign often comes when the elderly person reports that they are unable to read as well or for as long as they are used to. Small print becomes more difficult to see and it becomes harder to read in low light so they start to need lights full on when they read. Taking regular medication could be a worrying issue when they have difficulty reading dosage instructions and are at risk of serious harm. Everyday tasks like cooking or going out, or recognising faces and objects becomes harder and more confusing. Falls can occur more often due to poor eyesight. Some sight loss conditions can cause visual hallucinations which are distressing.

If you notice your elderly friend or relative struggling with simple tasks this is probably a good time to consider contacting a good home care services provider as having regular care in place can make all the difference when it comes to catching problems early and helping to access solutions.

How to Help Prevent Sight Loss Becoming a Problem

Where eyesight fails because through stroke or diabetes, doctors will always ask when the last eye test was and in the case of diabetes will facilitate regular eye screening. If falls are a regular issue an eye test will be recommended alongside other physical tests and investigations.

There are hidden causes of sight loss associated with dementia, depression, learning disabilities and hearing loss – dual sensory loss affects a percentage of over-75s. Hearing and sight tests are recommended for all elderly people and this is something that can be arranged by carers or family members through local health services. Heavy smoking is commonly associated with macular degeneration so enrolling on a smoking cessation programme can help reduce the risk.

Author: Robin Gupta