Low Vision Challenges in Older Adults
February is Low Vision Awareness Month to help foster support, proper treatment and vision rehabilitation for people living with low vision. Low vision is the eyesight condition when eyeglasses, contact lenses, medication and surgery cannot correct one’s vision. Because of a number of eye disorders and injuries, anyone of any age can be affected by low vision, but older adults are at highest risk for impaired vision.
The American Optometric Association Lists Common Causes of Low Vision, Including:
· Macular degeneration, the deterioration of the retina’s macula, which is responsible for sharp central vision. The retina is the back lining of the eye where images are focused.
· Diabetic retinopathy, damage to blood vessels in the light-sensitive retina tissue because of complications from diabetes.
· Glaucoma, increased internal pressure from blocked fluid in the eye that damages the optic nerve.
· Cataracts, a cloudy section of the eye lens that leads to murky or fuzzy vision and sensitivity to glare.
Other eye conditions that can cause low vision include retinal detachment, brain injury, eye cancer, albinism and inherited eye disorders such as retinitis pigmentosa.
A Person May Show Signs of Low Vision If They are Wearing Glasses or Contact Lenses and Still Find It Difficult To:
· See clearly in well-lit areas. (Or, the person may feel that lights are dimmer than normal.)
· Identify the correct color of clothes or other objects.
· Read the print on signs (traffic, building, directions, etc.).
· Do close-up work such as reading, turning dials, sewing, fixing household items, etc.
· Go up and down stairs.
· Walk on bumpy or uneven surfaces.
· Pick up objects without over-reaching or under-reaching.
· Get food onto a fork or keep food on a plate.
· Pour liquids without spilling.
Tips Designed to Assist a Senior With Eyesight Impairment Include the Following:
- Add non-glare lighting. Specialized lamps and bulbs reduce glare and improve contrast. A clip-on or small gooseneck lamp works well for direct tasks such as reading and crafting. Under-the-counter lighting is beneficial in kitchens and larger work areas. Add night lights in bedrooms, bathrooms and hallways to help prevent tripping and falling.
- Use large-print labels on medication bottles, pill dispensers and other frequently used objects.
- Simplify household organization. Place commonly used items in the same designated spot so the senior loved one can find them easily. Consider using a basket to store objects like electronics remotes, keys, etc.
- Juxtapose light and dark colors to see contrasts on household items easier. For example, use darker bath towels and washcloths to contrast with lighter tub/shower tiles and flooring. Or, add brightly colored tape to the edges of steps.
For more information about low vision and Low Vision Awareness Month, visit the National Eye Institute at nei.nih.gov/nehep/lvam or call 301-496-5248. Or, contact a local ophthalmologist or optometrist.