The Solutions for dementia vision problems will vary depending on the “type” of visual mistakes a person is experiencing.
The types of “visual” mistakes would be :
Hallucinations – Once thought that hallucinations were common, new research has determined there are other ‘visual” mistakes that were often thought to be hallucinations. There are genuine hallucinations that can be caused in the elderly when they develop an infection – a urinary tract infection, pneumonia etc. An adverse reaction to a medication can also cause hallucinations.
Illusions – This is a perception problem that results in a “distortion of reality”. Simply put, there is a visual distortion of some physical object or characteristic. This could be a shiny floor, a reflection in a mirror, or problem with seeing contrasting colors.
An example may be, seeing a shiny floor and thinking it is wet or water.
Visual Misperceptions -This is an inaccurate or distorted process of visual information. Visual misperceptions can be influenced by factors such previous experiences and expectations.
An example: Taking a walk down a long, dark hallway with benches along the wall may be perceived by a person with dementia as she is at the train station she used to take to go to work.
Visual Misperceptions of illusions – This occurs when a person already is seeing things incorrectly, and experiences seeing things even more distorted . This is expected to be caused by an already damaged visual system.
An example: Entering in a room with several mirrors in it, a person with dementia may see themselves as a group of intruders, and cause fear.
Misidentifications (Also known as Agnosias) – This is the inability to correctly identify people and/or objects.
An example: A person with dementia sees a statue of a dog and thinks it is real, and insists on feeding it. Some have the inability to distinguish a wife, from a daughter or granddaughter.
The wife with severe confusion carries a baby doll around and believes she is caring for her young baby. She insists that everyone must be quiet, so as not to wake up the baby.
Solutions for Dementia Vision Problems
It is important to pay attention to eye care and visual health. This includes making sure glasses are worn and clean. To make sure that the prescription is correct, arrange for regular eye check ups.
Wearing glasses can improve the sharpness or visual acuity of what is being seen. Glasses will not correct some visual problems caused by damage to the area of the brain responsible for vision.
If cataracts are present, this can dramatically affect vision. Discuss with your physician if this should be addressed and treated.
There are environmental adaptations you can make to help the person with dementia.
Environmental Solutions for a person with dementia
Improved lighting has been found to be help in preventing falls, it also can decrease the occurrence of visual hallucinations
Deliberate use of color can also help a great deal. A research study with people in the advanced stages of Alzheimer’s dementia showed that changing the color of the dishes and cups to bright read actually resulted in a 25 % increase in food intake. It also resulted in an 84 % increase in fluid intake.
Painting the door to the bathroom in a bright color can help someone with dementia find the toilet independently.
A high contrast toilet seat, meaning one that stand out from the colors of the room and toilet fixtures can make it easier to locate them. A bathroom that has all the colors the same, blends in and causes some with dementia to not be able to see the individual fixtures.
When having handrails placed in the bathroom, choose extra longs ones, so the person with dementia , if a person needs handrails choose extra-long ones. This is so that they are as conspicuous as possible , so they are not expected to turn their head to look for the railing.
More Solutions for Dementia Vision Problems…
Make sure all rooms have good lighting. some with dementia may avoid dark areas in rooms.
Eliminate shadows, with good lighting.
Be aware that busy floor or wall coverings can cause confusion. When possible minimize those busy patterns.
If possible use non-shiny, light-colored flooring. It will reflect light upwards and enhance the overall ambient light levels in the room. If these floors become a problem, try to replace and/or remove mirrors and shiny surfaces.
Use signs to highlight important objects and to use as a visual cues, such as STOP signs, pictures on cabinets that show what is in the cupboard or drawers.
Camouflage objects, such as light switches or doors, that you do not want to the person with dementia shouldn’t use.
Making specific changes to help visual functions can improve the quality of life for the person with dementia.