The intricate steps necessary to enable us to see are mind-boggling. In the blink of an eye, our brains are able to take transmitted details of the world around us, interpret that information based on input from other senses, memories, and thoughts, and then create a perception of that information for making us aware of what we’re seeing.
It’s no surprise that those with Alzheimer’s disease can suffer from visual deficits and misperceptions, especially in the aspects of:
- Depth and/or color perception
- Motion recognition
- Peripheral vision
Furthermore, individuals diagnosed with dementia can often suffer from a distorted sense of reality in the form of illusions. As an example, an individual with dementia might see a shadow on the ground, and mistake it for something harmless, such as the family dog, or a threat, such as an intruder – which may pose quite a challenge for family members. Some other examples of visual misperceptions in dementia can consist of:
- Misjudging reflections in glass or mirrors for another person. This could easily lead to distress in thinking another person is present, or thinking that a bathroom mirror reflection means the bathroom is already Believing that images on television are real and taking place in the room.
- Difficulty with sitting in a chair or on the toilet, fearing a fall.
- Stress in overstimulating surroundings that cause confusion.
- Reaching for objects that are not there, or missing the mark in trying to grab an item.
- Issues with self-feeding and drinking.
Here are some ways to help:
- Maintain sufficient lighting through the entire residence, and take away any particular items which cause anxiety or visual confusion if possible.
- Use contrasting colors whenever feasible, for example, serving dark-colored soup in a light-colored bowl, or a fried egg on a brown plate. If at all possible, carry this notion through to home furnishings, with darker furniture on a light carpet, and different paint colors on trim vs. walls.
- Close blinds or curtains both in the evenings and anytime the sun causes a glare.
- Take advantage of adaptive tools such as remote controls and phones with large buttons to provide the senior loved one with sufficient opportunities for independence.
- Ensure your loved one has ongoing access to eye care, and notify the eye doctor about the older adult’s dementia diagnosis.