February 11, 2020

senior man pondering

Alzheimer’s can have negative effects on vision, causing visual deficits and misperceptions.

The complexity of steps needed to enable us to see are mind-boggling. Within the blink of an eye, our brains can easily take transmitted details of the world around us, interpret that information based on input from other senses, memories, and thoughts, and then build a perception of the information to make us aware of what we’re seeing.

It is not a surprise that individuals with Alzheimer’s disease can encounter visual deficits and misperceptions, especially in the aspects of:

  • Depth and/or color perception
  • Contrast
  • Motion detection
  • Peripheral vision

Furthermore, individuals diagnosed with dementia can frequently suffer from a distorted perception of reality in the form of illusions. For instance, someone with Alzheimer’s disease may see a shadow on the ground, and mistake it for something harmless, such as the family dog, or perceive it as a hazard, such as an intruder – which could present quite a challenge for family members. Some other types of visual misperceptions in Alzheimer’s disease include:

  • Misinterpreting reflections of one’s self in glass or mirrors for another individual. This may cause distress in thinking some other person is there, or mistakenly thinking that a restroom mirror reflection means the restroom is already occupied by another individual.
  • Thinking that images on television are real and occurring in the room.
  • Difficulty with sitting in a chair or on the toilet, fearing a fall.
  • Distress in overstimulating surroundings that cause confusion.
  • Reaching for things that are not there, or missing the mark in attempting to grab an item.
  • Issues with self-feeding and drinking.

The following are some strategies to help:

  • Keep sufficient lighting through the entire residence, and remove any particular items that produce distress or visual confusion when possible.
  • Utilize contrasting colors whenever feasible, such as serving dark-colored soup in a light-colored bowl, or a fried egg on a brown plate. If possible, carry this concept through to home furnishings, with darker furniture on a light carpet, and different paint colors on trim vs. walls.
  • Close blinds or curtains at night and anytime the sunlight causes a glare.
  • Use adaptive tools, for example, remote controls and telephones with large buttons to provide the individual with ample opportunities for independence.
  • Confirm your loved one has ongoing access to eye care, and notify the ophthalmologist and optometrist about the individual’s dementia diagnosis.

The knowledgeable Alzheimer’s disease care team at Continuum can help implement these tips and more to minimize the effects of vision problems. Leaders among St. Louis senior home care providers, our caregivers are trained to enable independence for those living with the challenges of Alzheimer’s disease. Reach out to us by calling (314) 863-9912 and see our full service area.