Vision in Alzheimer’s Disease
After writing the article, Eye Care with Alzheimer’s Disease, I ran across this excellent short video that explains vision in Alzheimer’s. While you feel your loved one is seeing okay, I would suggest you maintain annual visits with an eye doctor.
Yet the video below seems to show that at some stage it is no longer useful. I think I would rely on a personal physician or care facility to advise you on when that might be. The goal is always quality of life.
Reaching into space
Have you ever been around seniors who reach out as though they are touching something? Reaching out for something that wasn’t there? Did you ever consider it might be because of their vision? I didn’t, and I’ve seen so many do that.
With Alzheimer’s they eventually lose their sense of space and distance. Their eyes may be telling them the window is within reach, or the television. I’ve seem them reach toward a light in the ceiling, but never knew that was the reason. They might think they are turning off a light that is too bright.
Here is the video. It’s a brief but very effective discussion on how the disease may affect the Alzheimer’s patient.
Four effects of Alzheimer’s Disease on Vision
Alzheimer’s patients seem to be affected four ways in vision besides depth perception. The majority will have narrowing vision, motion blindness, color perceptionand difficulty with contrast.
Patients with Alzheimer’s lose that depth perception. Besides giving them the impression that things like lights might be closer than they are, that lack perception might make something as ordinary as a dark rug appear to be a hole they could walk into. No wonder they can be very tentative when walking.
Vision narrows in Alzheimer’s as well. Gradually their field may narrow to binocular range, a fairly small circle they can see. Knowing that you may be more aware if they don’t seem to respond to you when speaking at their side. You can get in their field of vision to talk to them.
Unable to sense Motion
Motion blindness is another condition that affects a large number of people with Alzheimer’s. They become unable to sense movement. It’s hard to imagine what that might be like, seeing everything as still frames. Some medical professionals believe this could be the reason it is so easy for an Alzheimer’s patient to get lost even when somewhere familiar.
Color vision is affected, as well as seeing textures. in up to half of those with Alzheimer’s. This is true as anyone ages, but it considerably worse in many cases with the disease. Blues and violets are one of the more common color ranges lost. Interesting, the eye contains more receptors to see the color red than the blue range. So if you want something to be especially clear or stand out, consider adding red.
It’s also harder to see the contrast between colors. For that reason painting baseboards and doors frames a different color may make it easier to get around. In a bathroom you might consider a darker color. When you think how often a bath is all white, it must be much more difficult to see when the toilet or sink is in the room.
To make it easier for your loved one to distinguish, clearly delineate stairs with lighter color rugs. Actually any rug different in color from the stairs themselves will help, but after realizing how a dark rug might appear to them, I would probably go light. You should also be sure to have adequate wattage in their lamps, to lessen dark spots.
That reminds me of what a long and sad disease it can be. Thankfully, by that point the soul with Alzheimer’s doesn’t seem concerned over it. But how unfortunate that it might even take color from their perspective. As if they haven’t lost enough by then.
Why would that touch me so, I wonder? Perhaps because they often feel a little lost to begin with. To have forgotten so much, including language skills and familiar faces, vision difficulties must make that all the worse.
The 36-Hour Day
Probably the best known book on Alzheimer’s Disease, this book contains a wealth of information covering nearly every aspect, including financial considerations, the various stages, and how you can expect your loved one to act (or act out) I would highly recommend it. I reviewed it here.