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How to Help when Dementia Affects Vision

Pondering manThe 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
  • Contrast
  • 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.

Our professional dementia care team in St. Petersburg, FL can help implement these strategies and so much more to reduce the effects of vision problems. Call us at 727-940-3414 for more information.

Common Medication Prescriptions Linked to Increased Risk of Alzheimer’s

Senior citizen female holding bottles of prescription medicine sitting in a wheelchair.

Generations at Home’s medication reminder services ensure seniors take the right medications at the right time.

They’re already known to cause a number of short-term side effects, such as memory loss and confusion, but new research links some of the stronger anticholinergic drugs (such as those prescribed for Parkinson’s disease, epilepsy, depression, and overactive bladder) to a markedly increased risk for dementia.

The study involved two groups of seniors: 59,000 patients with dementia, and 225,000 without. About 57% of those with dementia, and 51% without, were given at least one (and up to six) strong anticholinergic medication. Taking into account other known dementia risk factors, the results were an astonishing 50% increased risk of dementia in those who were taking strong anticholinergics daily for three or more years, with the greatest risk to those who received a dementia diagnosis before age 80.

It’s important to note that there was no correlation discovered between dementia and other forms of anticholinergics (such as antihistamines like Benadryl and GI medications).

While these findings do not prove anticholinergics as a cause for dementia, at the very least, “This study provides further evidence that doctors should be careful when prescribing certain drugs that have anticholinergic properties,” according to Tom Dening, study co-author and head of Nottingham’s Center for Dementia. Dening also stressed that those currently prescribed these medications should never cease taking them abruptly, which can cause even more harm.

If it’s determined that these medications do in fact lead to dementia, an estimated 10% of all seniors currently struggling with dementia may be able to attribute the condition to anticholinergics.

The recommendation is for anyone concerned about this potential link to talk with his or her physicians to weigh the benefits against any potential risks, and to explore alternative means of treatment when possible. For example, those taking medications for help with sleeping – something that has become increasingly common in older adults – can consider behavioral changes and a more therapeutic approach over insomnia medications.

And regardless of the medications a senior takes, proper medication management is key – something that’s easier said than done with many older adults taking multiple medications in various doses at varying times of the day. Generations at Home’s medication reminder services are perfect to ensure seniors take the right medications at the right time – every time.

Our specially trained and experienced dementia care team is also on hand to provide creative, compassionate, effective care strategies to help minimize the challenging aspects of the disease, leading to a higher quality of life for both seniors and their families. Contact us at 727-940-3414 any time to learn more.