Vision changes shouldn’t be ignored at any age, but especially if you are an older adult. That’s because the risk for eye disease increases as we age. Identifying small changes before they become big ones is essential for early intervention and treatment. Here’s what seniors should know about eye health and aging.
Eye Conditions Common among Seniors
Your risk of developing a vision problem increases with age. A few common types of eye disease seniors experience include:
- Floaters: Seeing floaters in your line of vision can occur as you age. They don’t usually pose a serious threat to eye health, but can be a sign that a retina is detaching. If you notice particles floating in your vision, call the doctor or go to the emergency room.
- Cataracts: By the age of 80, your risk for developing cataracts climbs to 50%. Cloudy or double vision, seeing a yellow tint to colors, and sensitivity to light are all warning signs. Fortunately, cataracts can be removed through a routine outpatient procedure. Untreated, however, this common eye condition can lead to blindness.
- Age-related macular degeneration (AMD): There are two types of AMD: dry and wet. Dry AMD progresses slowly and gets worse over time. By contrast, the wet form of AMD is very aggressive. It can actually cause vision loss in a matter of weeks. The main symptom is the loss of central vision. While the progression of the disease can be slowed by laser treatments, there isn’t a cure. Early intervention is essential.
- Glaucoma: This is another eye disease for which risk increases as you age. Family history also plays a role. The catch is there are no early symptoms. The main method of detection is a yearly visit to the eye doctor. Unfortunately, if it isn’t diagnosed and treated early, glaucoma can result in blindness.
Vision Symptoms That Require Follow-Up
If you notice any of the following vision changes, you should discuss them with an eye doctor:
- Yellow cast to field of vision
- Sensitivity to light
- Cloudy vision
- Eye twitch
- Inability to produce tears
- Burning, itching, or gritty feeling
- Straining to read
- Teary eyes
- Eyelid pain
- Swollen eyelids
- Trouble distinguishing green from blue
Vision Changes That Are Red Flags
While the vision changes outlined above should be addressed with your physician, other symptoms can be signs of a serious or life-threatening medical issue. Call 911 or your primary care physician if you experience any of the following:
- Double or blurry vision
- Sudden pain in or behind the eye
- Uncontrolled eye movement
- Abrupt loss of vision in one or both eyes
Don’t wait to see if any of these red flags improve on their own. While it may be something minor, these symptoms are also linked to strokes and other neurological problems.
Assisted Living Provides a Safe Environment for Seniors with Vision Loss
If you or a senior family member have experienced vision loss, a move to an assisted living community might be a good solution. From step-free showers to good lighting, the environment is designed to support success. Call a Heritage Senior Community to learn more today!
Many people are coping with the COVID-19 pandemic by connecting with others on social media and spending more time online. While it’s a safe way to stay in touch with loved ones when you are trying to avoid large gatherings, there can be downsides. Social media platforms have become a leading source of misinformation and family disagreements. They can also lead to unrealistic expectations.
For a caregiver who might already be struggling with isolation and stress, it can be difficult to find a healthy balance for social media use. Let’s look at the pros and cons of social media and how to tell if you might be overdoing it.
The Benefits of Staying Active on Social Media
Some benefits of participating in Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and other social channels include:
- Staying informed: Social media makes it easy to keep up with your favorite organizations and groups. This is especially helpful if you are trying to limit the amount of time you spend in public or if you are a caregiver for a loved one who isn’t safe staying alone.
- Sharing with loved ones: You’ll also find platforms like Facebook to be a good avenue for connecting with and sharing news, photos, and videos with loved ones.
- Finding virtual events: The COVID-19 pandemic led to an increase in the number of virtual activities people can participate in. Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram are good places to find programs you can join.
These are just a few of the many advantages of social media. But it’s important to know about the disadvantages, too.
The Downside of Social Media
Unfortunately, the downside of social media platforms has become increasingly obvious and includes:
- Spreading misinformation on important topics, such as the safety of COVID-19 vaccines and how to protect yourself from the virus
- Arguing about politics and what is—or isn’t—credible news
- Creating unrealistic goals, from how you look to the type of house you live in
- Contributing to a sedentary lifestyle, the dangers of which are linked to as many health risks as smoking
How can you tell if your social media time is helping you feel less isolated or adding to your caregiver stress?
Here are a few tips to evaluate your social media use and see if it’s time to make adjustments.
Evaluating Social Media–Related Stress
If you are trying to assess whether your social media habits are helping you feel connected or having a negative impact on your well-being, here are a few factors to consider:
- Time involved: How much time do you spend on social media each day? Staring at your computer or device screen for too many hours can harm your eyes. Spending too much time sitting can also negatively impact your health. You might need to track your time so you can objectively evaluate the situation.
- Relationship changes: Are you fighting with friends and family you would never disagree with in person? Have your offline friendships been damaged by disagreements that started on a platform like Facebook? People often feel much freer to express their opinions online than they do in person. If you’ve seen your relationships suffer, it may be best to decrease your social media time.
- Increased anxiety: There’s no disputing that social media can be a source of anxiety and stress for many. Facebook is often the worst. Pay attention to how you feel before you log on and after you log off of social media. Is there a change? That can be key to determining if you need to take a social media break.
If you aren’t ready to give up your social media interactions but need to reduce the stress it causes, pay attention to what is making you feel uncomfortable. Are certain family members cyberbullies? Are some organizations you follow causing you stress? Choosing not to follow them on social media may help you enjoy yourself online.
Reduce Caregiver Stress by Joining an Online Support Group
Another online resource for caregivers to consider joining is an online support group. It’s a good way to connect when the person you are caring for needs constant supervision or if you are limiting the time you spend in group gatherings. How to Connect with an Online Caregiver Support Group has tips to help you get started.
The holidays are a hectic time of year for everyone, especially family caregivers. For some, the season’s festivities include traveling to a loved one’s house many miles away to celebrate. For others, it means hosting a gathering. When you are the primary caregiver for a senior loved one, however, the holiday season can be complicated. This is particularly true if the elder you are caregiving for can’t stay alone but isn’t up for traveling.
One solution to explore is respite care at a nearby assisted living community.
Short-Term Stays in Assisted Living Communities
Respite care is convenient when a caregiver needs a break. Health care professionals often recommend family caregivers use it regularly to protect their own health and well-being. But many also use it when they want to enjoy a getaway with their own family or travel for business.
Senior living communities welcome these short-term guests year-round. Some guests will come for a few days each month, while others might stay for a few weeks or longer. The community’s team members are experienced at helping respite visitors settle in and quickly feel comfortable.
Respite guests enjoy the same care, support services, and amenities as long-term residents. From well-balanced meals and healthy snacks to transportation services and medication assistance, it’s an environment designed to enhance quality of life for older adults.
Holiday Respite at an Assisted Living Community
While you might feel guilty at the idea of leaving a senior in an assisted living community during the holidays, take comfort in knowing they will still enjoy a festive atmosphere. Assisted living communities usually have an activities calendar filled with holiday events for residents to enjoy. They range from youth groups caroling on the lawn to cookie baking parties and family nights.
For family caregivers, knowing a loved one is relaxed and enjoying the festivities with peers brings peace of mind. It will allow you to make the most of the season, too.
Respite Guest Admission Criteria
Respite admission criteria varies widely by state and community. Some states have minimal admission criteria, while others require a complete physical, a chest X-ray, and more. Your senior loved one will likely have to show proof of vaccination for COVID-19 or a negative coronavirus test.
Make sure you ask each assisted living community you contact about their admission requirements for respite guests.
Holiday Respite Can Be a Trial Stay
Another huge benefit of respite care is older adults get to know the staff and other residents of an assisted living community in an unthreatening, welcoming way. If they’ve been on the fence about making a permanent move, this may help them decide.
Since respite care is often popular during the holidays, it is best to book your loved one’s stay as far in advance as you can. Call the Heritage Senior Community near you to learn more!
My dad passed away earlier this year and my mom is struggling. They were married almost 60 years, and she is having a difficult time coping with this loss. I don’t know what to do to help her. She is just lost without him.
I believe part of the challenge is that we lost him unexpectedly. He was diagnosed with lung cancer and passed away within two weeks. We had no time to prepare ourselves for what we were about to experience.
Do you have any suggestions? With the holidays upon us, I’m sure the situation is about to get worse.
Allyson in Holly, MI
Supporting a Grieving Parent
I’d like to begin by expressing my condolences on the loss of your dad. While I know your concern is for your mother, it’s important to honor your own feelings and grief, too. Losing a parent is difficult at any age.
Since you asked for ideas to support your mother, I’ve pulled together some suggestions. Here are a few ways to help your mother cope with her loss:
- Accept that grieving is essential for healing: The grieving process is hard work. Anger, sorrow, fear, guilt, and disbelief are common emotions those who are mourning experience. Watching someone you love work through this isn’t easy. But it’s important to remind yourself it is a necessary part of the healing process. Support your mother, but also realize how vital it is to give her time to work through these difficult emotions.
- Talk about your dad together: Even the closest family members struggle with what to say when someone has experienced such a significant loss. You might be hesitant to bring up your father’s name for fear of upsetting your mother. But if you talk about him, it will give her permission to do the same without worrying she’s upsetting you. Sharing favorite memories and photos can be healing for both of you.
- Refrain from setting unrealistic goals: Another mistake people make after losing a loved one is to set goals for processing grief. There is no set time frame for feeling “better” or packing up a lost family member’s belongings. Try to refrain from setting artificial and often unrealistic timelines. Unless you must make a decision or complete a task due to a firm deadline, do things when the two of you are ready. That includes cleaning out a loved one’s closet, canceling a cell phone, or selling a car. You’ll know when the time feels right.
- Connect with a support group: Surviving spouses and adult children often say it is helpful to discuss their feelings with people who have experienced a similar loss. An in-person or virtual bereavement support group may help the two of you feel comfortable and understood as you are grieving. Hospice agencies usually offer them at a variety of times and locations, including online. Most don’t require your loved one to have been a patient for you to join.
One final suggestion is to consider talking with a therapist if you feel like your own grief or your mom’s is becoming too much to bear. Sites like Grieving.com and Grief in Common are good ones to explore if you need to find an experienced therapist.
I hope this information is helpful, Allyson. I wish you and your mother the best.
Heritage Senior Communities
A family-owned senior living business for four generations, Heritage Senior Communities is experienced at helping older adults live their best quality of life. In our Michigan and Indiana communities, you will find experienced team members committed to the health and wellness of each resident we are privileged to serve. Call the community nearest you to schedule an in-person or virtual visit today!