As we grow older, it isn’t uncommon to experience minor vision problems. It might be dry, irritated eyes from staring at a computer too much or red, watery eyes that are the result of an allergy. But sudden changes in vision can be a warning signs of something more serious. From a detached retina to a stroke, there are vision issues older adults and caregivers shouldn’t ignore.
Vision Problems that Need Medical Intervention
Here are a few tips to help the Michigan caregivers who follow our blog identify the warning signs of potential problems:
- “Floaters” in Vision: A vision issue that requires immediate medical assistance often begins with what look like “floaters” in your eye sight. It is often a warning sign of a detached retina. A burst of light or color is another common symptom. It is important to get medical attention without delay to prevent blindness.
- Change in Vision: A sudden loss of vision or blurred vision in one or both eyes should never be ignored. Both can be warning signs of a stroke or a transient ischemic attack (TIA). It requires immediate medical intervention. People sometimes wait to see if the symptoms disappear before calling for help. When someone is having a stroke, time is a critical factor for receiving life-saving treatment. Call 911 without delay!
- Dark Spots in Vision: If a dark spot appears in the center of a senior’s vision, it can be a symptom of macular degeneration. Problems distinguishing one color from another or difficulty reading signs are other early signs. Call your physician if you or the older adults you care for experience any of these symptoms. Macular degeneration is the leading cause of blindness in seniors.
- Blind Spots in Vision: When a blind spot appears in a senior’s vision, it can be a warning sign of several different medical conditions. High blood pressure and diabetes are a few of the most common. Call your primary care physician to see if they want you to come to their office or go to the emergency room.
- Halos or Cloudy Vision: Both of these warning signs can be symptoms of cataracts. Many seniors don’t realize how serious the condition can be. Left untreated, cataracts can cause blindness. Ask your primary care physician for a referral to an Ophthalmologist if you don’t already have one you work with.
Medicare Coverage for Vision Problems
Many vision issues are preventable if caught early. Routine vision screenings are the best way to identify potential problems. To learn what eye exams and screenings your Medicare benefit will cover, visit Your Medicare Coverage.
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When you think about summer sun protection for your Michigan senior, don’t forget the sunglasses.
The sun’s ultraviolet rays can cause serious damage to the eyes of people of all ages. But the threat is even more serious for older adults. Years of unprotected sun exposure injures the eye and can cause cataracts, cancer and age-related macular degeneration (AMD). AMD is the leading cause of blindness in people over age 65.
Seniors who venture to Great Lakes State beaches or the pool face a greater risk of vison loss. Water and sand reflect the sun’s rays, doubling the exposure to ultraviolet light.
Sunglasses are the best defense against harmful solar radiation. The American Academy of Ophthalmology says wearing sunglasses year round, even on cloudy and hazy days, can help protect an older adult’s vision.
Advice for helping your senior loved one select the right sunglasses to shield their eyes and safeguard their sight:
Be a Savvy Eyewear Shopper
- Effective sunscreens block UV-A and UV-B light rays. Protective eyewear should be no different. Choose sunglasses that block 99 to 100 percent of UV-A and UV-B rays or that offer “400UV protection.” Don’t purchase a pair if they aren’t labeled.
- Buy from a reputable store or eye care center. Flea markets, street vendors and online auctions might offer incredible deals, but you cannot be sure that the UV protection ratings are accurate.
- If your senior wears eyeglasses, suggest that they invest in photochromic lenses, which block UV rays and automatically darken when exposed to sunlight. These can be helpful for older adults with Alzheimer’s or in dementia care, who may need to be reminded to use sunglasses.
- A set of prescription sunglasses is another option. Prescription lenses block 100% of the harmful ultraviolet light. Many eye care providers offer specials on multiple pairs.
Choose the Right Features for Your Senior’s Sunglasses
- Polarized lenses don’t block harmful UV light, but they do help to eliminate glare and reflection. This feature is a must for older adults who drive.
- Lens color doesn’t play a role in UV protection, but it can affect an older adult’s comfort level. Aging loved ones who have had cataract surgery may prefer amber lenses or “blue blockers.” These absorb HEV-rays that are more irritating to sensitive eyes.
- Dark lenses are no more protective than light tints, but they do reduce brightness and reduce squinting.
Select a Style: Bigger Is Better
- The US Food and Drug Administration recommends wraparound frames that fully shield the front, side and top of the eye from damaging UV rays. Wraparounds are available in a number of styles, including a goggle design that cups over and encloses the eyes.
- Over-lenses are another maximum coverage option. These larger frames slip over prescription frames.
- Flip-up and clip-on sunglasses attach to the top of prescription frames with a clip or magnet. Some clip-ons offer minimal side-coverage.
We hope these tips help you choose the right sunglasses for your senior loved one. Don’t forget to grab a pair for yourself! Protecting your younger eyes from intense sunlight helps to prevent age-related eye disease.
My mom just turned 80 years old. While she has always been active and independent, she was recently diagnosed with Macular Degeneration. Her physician explained to us that she will slowly lose her vision. We have talked about it and she knows she needs to change her living environment now. Her house is old and has a lot of stairs including to the basement where her laundry area is. She lives in Gaylord, Michigan and I am a few hours away in Holland. We’d like to move her to an assisted living community near me this summer so she has time to learn her way around while she still has some of her vision remaining. I’m wondering if assisted living communities can accommodate visually impaired residents?
Alan in Holland, Michigan
I’m sorry to hear about your mom’s diagnosis. I’m sure that has been difficult for her and for you. It is wise to be proactive in moving her closer to you and to a more supportive environment while she is still somewhat independent. The answer to your question is “Yes” we can accommodate visually impaired residents in our assisted living communities. A number of the older adults that call our communities home have vision problems ranging from Glaucoma to Macular Degeneration. Assisted living supports their independence in a variety of ways.
First, our safety features make it easier for residents with vision problems to find their way around. From handrails in the hallways to grab bars in the bathrooms the environment is designed to support older adults. Our caregivers can also provide assistance as necessary with bathing, grooming, dressing and escorting your mom around the community. Finally, the life enrichment activities each of our communities’ offer are designed to allow people with impairments of all types to participate. All of this support can help residents with Macular Degeneration enjoy a higher quality of life.
I hope this answers your question, Alan! Please let us know if you need help finding assisted living in the Holland, Michigan area. We have a variety of senior living options in western Michigan that might be a perfect fit for her needs including some new ones that are opening this year!
I have been my uncle’s guardian for over a year now. He has Alzheimer’s disease and was starting to make some serious financial missteps. His electricity was turned off for failure to pay, but he also had significant credit with the gas company for repeatedly paying the same bill. Worst of all, he was the victim of a door-to-door scam that cost him a big chunk of his savings.
We set up systems so I can help manage his finances without causing his dignity to suffer. However, he is no longer safe at home alone due to the progression of his disease. I’m his only remaining family and am struggling to figure out how to keep him safe and improve his quality of life.
My uncle’s primary care doctor suggested I consider a memory care program. While I’m sure he would be safer, the idea of him feeling abandoned is tough to bear. Why is memory care a good solution for a family member?
Steve in Grand Haven, MI
Ways Memory Care Programs Benefit Seniors with Alzheimer’s
It’s great to see that you are concerned not just about your uncle’s safety, but his quality of life, too. The unique challenges Alzheimer’s creates can make it more difficult for families to keep a loved one healthy and engaged with life. That’s where the support of experienced, professional caregivers can help.
A few benefits of memory care for adults with Alzheimer’s and other types of dementia include:
- Specialized caregivers: Seniors who have dementia have unique needs. That’s why caregivers who work with memory care residents undergo additional training. They learn best practices for communication, behavior modification, and early detection of potential problems. Team members in a memory care program also learn how to deescalate situations and manage tough behaviors, such as wandering and aggression.
- Care planning: While a senior can still maintain a relationship with their preferred physicians, memory care programs also have a physician who works in conjunction with staff to create care plans for each resident. These plans help ensure seniors live their best quality of life, despite their disease.
- Dedicated dining: Mealtimes can be a challenge when a senior has dementia. A loss of hand-eye coordination makes manipulating utensils tough for many. Vision changes create difficulty distinguishing food on the plate. A busy or cluttered dining space might cause restlessness and an inability to focus on eating. That might result in poor nutrition and weight loss. Memory care dining programs work around these challenges to create healthy meals.
- Quality of life: The daily life enrichment activities and recreation therapy programs offered in memory care allow residents to feel productive. Common activities include art classes, visits from pets, music therapy, and low-impact fitness activities. Many memory care programs also have secure outdoor spaces for residents to enjoy nature walks, bird watching, or gardening in raised beds.
- Family support: Alzheimer’s is often referred to as the “long goodbye” because the disease slowly robs a senior loved one of their abilities. Families watch helplessly as their loved one’s health declines. Memory care communities often host support group meetings and other activities to help families throughout this journey.
I hope this list gives you a better idea of the ways older adults benefit from a move to a memory care community. Wishing you and your uncle the best of luck. Please contact me or one of the Heritage Senior Communities near your home if have any additional questions!