All five of our senses play a huge role in our day-to-day lives. They allow us to navigate and do activities smoothly and with as few mishaps as possible. Nevertheless, many people experience a decline in their senses as they age. Sensory receptors that detect smell and taste slowly atrophy, sounds become inaudible, and once-crisp 20/20 vision can turn distorted and blurry.
Many of these changes cannot be repaired permanently, but most elders deal by taking advantage of the latest technology or by adopting new habits like wearing a hearing aid or using reading glasses. No matter your age, clear and healthy eyesight is crucial to leading an active, safe, and stimulating life.
Unfortunately, more than 20 million Americans age 40 and above suffer from a potentially incapacitating disorder called cataracts, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The good news is that most patients may go for painless outpatient treatment to help them recover their eyesight and quality of life.
There may be different types of cataracts, but they all revolve around the same basic issue: the eye’s normally clear lens either becomes discolored or cloudy. This problem prevents light from traveling to the retina and generating a clear image.
Cataracts can lead to glare, blur, and yellow or brownish tint to vision. Patients may also see halos around lights and have trouble focusing, even while using their prescription glasses. Mild cataracts can have a fairly affect one’s ability to read, drive, watch television, and perceive certain colors. Severe cases, on the other hand, may limit a person’s independence and pose a safety hazard.
Monitoring Eye Health
Cataracts have a high chance of worsening over time, so an individual may not immediately notice vision loss as it happens gradually. Common signs of visual decline due to cataracts include:
- low night-vision
- periodic prescription changes for contact lenses or eyeglasses
- frequent blinking or squinting to refocus the eyes
- difficulty identifying colors like purple or blue.
If you experience any of these symptoms, make sure to book an appointment with an ophthalmologist to check for visual impairment, especially cataracts. Regardless of whether you or your loved one is having problems with vision, keep in mind that the National Eye Institute suggests a routine eye test at least once every two years for individuals ages 60 and above.
Eye care professionals can look for cataracts and advise on the potential need for treatment or surgery after a thorough evaluation. You may undergo a dilated eye exam and some painless measurements of the eye.
In some instances, certain medications and eye conditions can affect whether a person is a viable candidate for cataract treatment. As with any health professional, it is imperative that you give your eye doctor an honest and comprehensive picture of your health. This information is crucial to weigh the risks and benefits of any treatment option.
Finding A Clear Resolution
Treating the condition generally involves a minimally invasive procedure. The doctor creates a small incision where he or she will remove the cloudy lens and replace it with an artificial type made of plastic. Understandably, many people squirm at the idea of anything sharp going near their eyes, much more an incision. Convincing a loved one to undergo corrective surgery can be quite a challenge, especially if they have an underlying condition like cognitive impairment or dementia.
Doctor of Cornea Aaron Waite of the University of Tennessee Health Science Center has experienced first-hand how patients can be apprehensive when it comes to the procedure. However, he stresses that the surgery is safe and has a high success rate. He assures that cataract surgery today is safer and more advanced than ever before. Although it is normal to feel concerned about having eye surgery, the benefits of the procedure far outweigh the risks. Patients can experience substantial improvement in their eyesight later.
The operation is done one eye at a time, giving patients time to recover and decide whether to continue treatment for the second eye. Waite says that most patients observe that their vision is clearer and brighter, colors become more vivid, and they can finally read, drive, or and watch television with ease.
The Key To A Sharper Mind
If your loved one has both cataracts and dementia, they even have more to benefit from having their eyes treated. Some patients suffering from dementia may not have the ability to complain verbally about their deteriorating eyesight. Dr. Waite warns that since cataracts significantly impair vision and one’s day-to-day life, patients may start to develop depression.
Furthermore, studies suggest that a clearer vision could provide elders with improved sensory stimulation and potentially better cognitive function. Corrective treatment can make a huge difference in the life of elders with dementia. You might not hear them vocalize their appreciation, but this procedure can enhance their quality of life during a time when their surroundings are starting to fade.
Focusing On A Bright Future
Elders may encounter challenges following cataract surgery, such as administering their own medications, particularly eye drops prescribed to prevent infection. After the procedure, caregivers should expect to assist with drops several times a day for two to four weeks. If you are unavailable to help and your loved one is unable to follow this post-op protocol, consider basic, medical home care for at least a few weeks.
There are cases when a person cannot be a candidate for surgery. If it happens to be the case for your loved one, investigate low vision products and services available in your area. Visual aids can still help improve a person’s quality of life, such as magnifiers, glasses, closed-circuit televisions, telescopic lenses, and other devices.
Going through cataract treatment may look like a daunting process, but the simple procedure and high success rate seem to make it worth it. Apart from the clearer eyesight they can regain, your loved one can also enjoy more independence. Overall, it is for the benefit of the patient as well as the caregiver.